Nice try, Amazon. Trying to make us think you’re here to support small businesses. We see you with your glossy new “Storefronts” webpage on Amazon.com.
In case you weren’t aware, Amazon has put a ton of pressure on brick-and-mortar businesses by undercutting them on price, sometimes with its own Amazon-branded products. Plus the company (currently worth more than $900 billion) has the power to charge business owners whatever it wants to have products listed on Amazon, because, really, what other option do they have?
But don’t mind that. Storefronts is all about highlighting products “exclusively from U.S. small and medium-sized businesses.” Amazon will air national TV commercials featuring some of those very sellers. The new online store will sell items from 20,000 small businesses, spanning 25 categories from back-to-school supplies to kitchen utensils.
While highlighting local businesses is great (each week there’ll be a “Storefront of the Week” and profiles of business owners), it might not be enough to make up for the damage Amazon has done.
The nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that most small businesses blame Amazon for fewer sales. On top of that, many businesses feel forced to join the e-commerce platform. The Institute cites U.S. census data showing that 85,000 small businesses closed between 2005 and 2015.
To counter that perception, Amazon released its own report earlier this year, which found Amazon is good for small businesses — creating 900,000 jobs and helping 20,000 small businesses earn at least $1 million in sales in 2017.
Still, it seems egregious to have a “books” section on the Storefronts page when Amazon single-handedly decimated the brick-and-mortar book industry. And it wasn’t just the independent stores — no, we’re talking about the Barnes & Nobles and Borders of the world.
As if that wasn’t enough, now Amazon is replacing physical businesses in cities with its very own brick-and-mortar stores.
On Monday, Amazon opened its fourth physical convenience store, Amazon Go. The cashier-less business opened in Chicago after the concept took off earlier this year in Seattle. The location — which sells prepared meals and snacks, along with meal kits — is the first Go store outside of Seattle.
Open Monday through Friday, the Chicago location is targeting workers strapped for time during the work week. Another Amazon Go is supposed to open in San Francisco and eventually in New York City. That’s probably not a great sign for small- and medium-sized convenience stores in those cities.