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Photos: Inside Amazon.co.uk

Enter the e-tailer...
By Will Sturgeon, Contributor on
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1 of 5 Will Sturgeon/ZDNET

Enter the e-tailer...

Amazon's latest venture sees the company offering rental DVDs. The service was launched in December 2004 and the company remains confident it is gathering momentum in a crowded marketplace - aided by some competitive price cutting around its offer.

If you think it sounds odd that the company should have launched the service in December, when it was at its busiest, then you'd be right. Chris Bateman, senior operations manager at Amazon.co.uk, admitted to silicon.com that it had originally been planned for September.

"But you know how it works," he said. "September became October, became November, became December."

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2 of 5 Will Sturgeon/ZDNET

Rack after rack of DVDs occupies one corner of the huge Marston Gate warehouse. The supply chain management systems at work notify staff as to which returned DVDs need to go back on the shelves and which are simply going to be sent straight out again to another customer, rendering a return to the shelves a waste of effort.

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3 of 5 Will Sturgeon/ZDNET

Racks as far as the eye can see. The shelves of DVDs are nothing compared to the racks of other goods - stocking everything from books and CDs to kettles, games and children's toys. Hundreds of metres of conveyor belts are also at hand to ferry crates of goods around the warehouse.

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Empty crates and empty shelves show the aftermath of what Amazon staff refer to as the ordeal of "HP6". This whole area of the warehouse was until recently crammed with thousands of copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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All that remains of the 200,000-plus copies of the sixth Harry Potter novel. The balancing act Amazon must manage is ensuring no customer's order goes unfulfilled but it is not left with an unsold stock of thousands which take up valuable warehouse space and threaten to derail an otherwise smooth just-in-time supply chain. These boxes each contain around 500 copies of the novel.

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