Will the Amazon marketplace replace the local economy?

This morning I ran out of coffee, Illy Espresso to be exact. Weekend espresso is my wee treat to myself – so in the car and off to Tesco, a couple of miles down the road.

I drove by the dozen or so shops that are well within walking distance but that don’t seem to sell anything I want. At 9:30am I didn’t really want to place a bet on a horse (two off), book out a DVD (two off), buy a headstone (thank goodneess), get a haircut (have you seen my fringe?), pay for a “1p off” (only while stock lasts) tank of petrol, buy fish & chips, buy a pizza, buy baby clothes, get ointment for my piles, or wander round the oddly stocked and solitary mini market.  I did want an FT – but the local paper shop doesn’t have much call for that round here. So Tesco then.  

That’s a pity. We’re loosing a lot by not having the local shops and facilities that were common not so long ago. Tesco are clearly irresistible (other large all embracing stores are available). But it’s not just the local retailer that is disappearing. I still miss Borders  on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street and now see that Waterstones is up for sale – I hope it goes to a good home and I hope it can find a way of surviving the onslaught that the online world is delivering to the high street book trade.

But I’m conflicted – we sell ecommerce and online solutions – and we’re working on some rather clever marketplace stuff. We’re even encouraging folk who are selling online to use the services of Amazon – if your an etailer you can find out here how to sell on Amazon. So I’m conflicted – I know that the future of retail is online and that the trend for some time to come is undoubtedly driven by the bulk buying power of Tesco et al, but I still want my local independent stores.

Not only am I conflicted, I’m also a hypocrite. The Parcel Force chap has just delivered a new toy for me – a nice fancy camera. I’d researched on line – asked a few friends (cheers Murray and Adam) – but shamefully I’d also had a play with the thing in a local store before buying it online. I’d had every intention of buying it online from the online version of the camera store I’d been in, but then a cheaper website was pointed out (all Adam’s fault).  Deal done and a big saving to be honest – but at the cost of undermining the local (and expert) retailer. I’m ashamed of myself, though not enough to have paid an extra £70 in store.

But Tesco shouldn’t be complacent. On returning with a tin of my highly cherished Illy coffee I felt obliged to check out the Amazon price (yes they are also selling groceries). Ignoring the postage the price point compared to Tesco was slightly cheaper – imagine that, Amazon cheaper than Tesco (every little helps?). Not only that but there were 11 reviews of the Illy Coffee I had just bought. 11 reviews for a tin of coffee, I nearly joined in! 11 folk discussing my favourite coffee – that’s 11 people more than I know locally that would want to chat about my preferred caffeine based drink.

So how long before a significant minority of us are doing the weekly shop from our iPads and Android enabled telly’s – and doing that shop with little in the way of loyalty to the local economy. Not long I suspect. That’s a pity – but at the moment inevitable.

There is more stats on the size and growth of Amazon on the Web Wise Business site – Multi Channel E-commerce. A quite staggering growth rate.


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