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amazon bribes customers away from small businesses

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

i posted this article on my fb page and had written this along with the post.
"ok i know you are going to hate me for saying this but if you are selling the same crap that amazon does then it probably wasn't made in the US. and, if you did make it i doubt that amazon is selling it unless you are the manufacturer and are getting a large % of sales and traffic from amazon....just saying and although it does throw a huge wrench into small physical retailers that sell the same products as amazon and it is enormous competition, maybe physical retailers should be looking at selling locally crafted goods rather than made in china name brand corporate stuff that amazon sells. whoa...what a concept. and then, if physical retailers picked up more locally made goods the entire landscape of retail/wholesale would or can i say IS changing. change hurts."
I got slammed pretty quickly by a small retailer. i deserved it. my post was a bit offensive. but what i wanted to say was perhaps even more offensive so i didn't post it on my facebook page. 
*note before reading this know that i have never and will never own a retail store so i have no experience in this arena. this is just me opining away and has no basis in reality. my thoughts. little to validate them with. just so you know, i claim no expertise in brick and mortar or retail in general.
but, i really do think there are huge changes happening in how people interact with one another. for me personally what the internet alters the most is that it allows direct connections between people who previously had layers between them. it removes the curtain, layers of curtains. a fan can interact with a star, a politician directly with his constituents, it allows groups to form internationally and chat with one another directly, it allows the musician to connect with his audience, an author to connect with her readers, it removes the middle man. 
the US is a land filled with middle men and tons of corporate opaque curtains, thick black out fabric blocking out loads of light.
the internet is a beautiful thing in wiring individuals TO individuals. 
she accused me of supporting a morally bankrupt corporation with ethically unsound business practices. i am not supporting amazon's way of practicing business but i do amazon's site and the way they sell things is indeed the direction things are moving. and if it was not amazon it would be some other site that allowed manufacturers to directly sell to their customers, small stores to sell their goods online, people to sell their used books, etc etc.
she said that amazon was putting her and all other small businesses out of business. this is pretty much true. that i was supporting a corporation that was destroying our communities. amazon is putting all retailers out of business but not all small businesses.
and after talking with her i had to really and am still thinking whether or not i should be selling my manufactured goods through amazon. because i don't support their price cutting and competitive practices and in selling my line to their customers i am supporting them. plus what amazon is doing with the publishing industry freaks me out!
but i do believe that it isn't amazon but rather the internet that is leading to retailers demise...amazon is just making it happen at the speed of light...along with an economic downturn.
what i really wanted to say on fb and to this retailer but i did not was that i kind of thought that there was much less purpose or function to having so many physical retailers anymore and not just because of amazon. she would have the same struggle even if amazon did not exist. amazon was just a shadow of what i imagine is to come. that yes, i agreed with her. that there is no way that she can compete with etailers. she has overhead, a real store to run etc. 
she argued that she offers far more to her local economy than me an etailer, employing people, renting space paying taxes. i disagreed. etailers pay the same into their local economies as brick and mortar. their employees salary is paid directly from our local community was the only real difference i could see. at least here in oregon where there is no local sales tax. in states that tax, yes the physical retailer does contribute a sales tax but this is currently under discussion and will probably change.
what i wanted to say is that i thought brick and mortar resellers should perhaps go out of business if they could not find a way to compete with etailers.
retailers had a purpose when there was no internet. they would travel far and wide gathering a collection of unusual goods that could not be found elsewhere. people would enter their doors finding treasures and willingly pay the prices required to keep the retailer in business.
but now there is the internet. everyone can see what everyone else is selling and they can sell it for less.
plus, everyone is selling the same stuff in their stores because they all go to the same damn shows and buy the same shit. their mix may be a bit different but for the most part you find the same stores in pdx that you find in sf.
so what i am saying is that maybe amazon (albeit in a nasty big corporate kill all competition sort of way) is moving us closer to what we could be because in my mind if her store can't compete with etailers then that would indicate to me that her store doesn't really serve a purpose to the community anymore.
sure she keeps a few people employed and purchases from local manufacturers but what she is really doing is purchasing goods, doubling the price and from these sales supporting a store front that sells basically the same stuff that is in a gift store in sf or in nyc or somewhere else in pdx and paying sales people to sell this mix and rent for a place to store this stuff.
what i didn't say on fb is it seems like a bit of a waste of resources for so many physical stores to be offering the exact same products as competing etailers because all the store owners go to the same wholesale shows and see the same manufacturers season after season. 
so instead of these shops selling the same sorts of mixes that one sees in other stores in other cities and in webstores, these same spaces could be filled with manufacturers, clothing designers, small publishers, printers, growers, bakers/chefs, manufacturers, artisans, crafters creating these goods locally, having their own showrooms, employing people to make these items and then selling these items at a bit above what they would to retailers (20% above wholesale or a bit more to cover showroom costs). then locally manufactured goods would be set at a price that was competitive with overseas pricing and the internet connects the manufacturer directly to their customer rather than having to go through storefronts. Win Win. 
I am not saying that there is no use for retailers because there is. lots of manufacturers don't want a showroom or to sell directly. they are going to have to hire someone to build them an online store or to run their online channels and to interact with their customers. lots of people want to see objects,  feel the weight in their hands, touch the goods, test them out, last minute gift shoppers. people who love to pop in and out of shops spending their days off work shopping. retailers aren't going to die. but the reality is that the internet does mean retailers are going to have to change their mix to more local and away from what everyone else has. i love what this shop is doing. crafty wonderland took it's favorite crafters and put them in a showroom. i don't see them being undersold on the internet. perhaps the biggest issue facing these sorts of shops is it costs more to manufacture small and these stores are having to mark up enough to support their overhead. this makes these sorts of products pretty pricey. also getting people away from shopping on the internet and interested in goods that don't come wrapped in corporate packaging is a challenge. i don't really know the answer but maybe it lies somewhere in retailers instead of opening their own shops partner with manufacturers.
etsy, ebay, and amazon are the first of these channels but others are moving in this direction. google with their checkout, paypal with a community of stores,  zappos moving into clothing, yahoo stores, shoot maybe even some sort of craigslist not for profit shopping site could start in and take over. the landscape changes so swiftly. 
but what doesn't change is that the middle man is much less necessary than ever before. 
the woman who makes beautiful corsets will be in her shop making her goods while customers come by to try them on and buy one, or perhaps pull out a scanner to try and find it cheaper somewhere else only to discover it is the same price on amazon and across the web because the seamstress is the one selling them through all the other channels and she is not a gigantic corporation who produces overseas so she does not give enormous volume discounts.
just my thoughts. my opinion. don't rake me over the coals for them. i am easily swayed. my opinion might change in a snap if amazon decided to crush my business model. 
ps amazon offers some of the same items i do in my store for far less. i tend to drop those products as soon as that happens because i can't sell them for the same price and make $.
pss i sell loads of other cool baby clothes and unique baby gifts for new moms from many manufacturers. that was for google...
 pss i read a lot of sci fi and was a star trek fan. i don't imagine anyone in star trek spent a lot of time shopping.


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