October 24, 2020

UK shoppers urged to shun Amazon Prime Day to support small businesses | Technology

Campaign groups and small business representatives have called on consumers to shun this week’s Amazon Prime extravaganza and support small retailers instead.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the tech giant will host its annual Prime Day event, with thousands of tempting bargains – many at up to half price.

However, campaigners are calling on consumers to consider the plight of local businesses that were already struggling to compete with Amazon ahead of lockdown.

Ethical Consumer, which has long campaigned to persuade shoppers to boycott Amazon on the basis that it aggressively avoids paying taxes, has urged online shoppers to stop, pause, and “think of the cost to vital public services before they click to checkout”.

Meanwhile the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has asked consumers to consider the small retailers who need their support “more than ever” if their local high street is not going to become a boarded-up wasteland.

Launched back in 2015, Amazon Prime Day started out as a flash sale of mostly technology products and normally happens in July.

It has grown rapidly, and last year’s Prime Day was the largest shopping event in the company’s history as it sold more than 100,000 laptops, 200,000 televisions and over 1m toys.

To take advantage of the offers, customers need to be Prime members, which costs £79 a year.

Tim Hunt, director at Ethical Consumer, said there were a host of reasons why consumers should take their business elsewhere.

“Aside from tax avoidance, Amazon has a dubious track record on many issues including workers’ rights and the environment. We urge consumers to think about whether they really need to make that purchase on Amazon Prime Day and instead how they can use their money in way that benefits society and the environment.

“There are a number of more ethical big name brands that pay a fairer rate of tax including Richer Sounds and Lush cosmetics (both of whom have been awarded the Fair Tax Mark), we call on those consumers who need to make purchases to seek out more ethical companies such as these.”

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s chief executive, said almost a quarter of independent retailers failed to reopen after the lockdown, with many others under severe strain.

“Despite the lure of the internet, nothing can beat the positive experience of buying from a local independent retailer knowing that money spent in a local shop will in turn be spent in the local economy. Independent retailers are part of the community and need the support of shoppers now more than ever,” he said.

High street closures in 2019

Thousands of high street jobs have been lost in the last 12 months as a result of high profile retail administrations, and thousands more are at risk as Mothercare, Debenhams and Forever 21 prepare for closures. Here are some of the key industry names that have been affected.

Mothercare: Has 79 stores and 2,500 UK retail staff as its British arm prepares to go into administration.

Regis/Supercuts: Had 220 salons and 1,200 staff when it went into administration in October 2019.

Bonmarché: Had 318 stores and 2,887 employees when it went into administration in October 2019. It is still trading as it seeks a buyer.

Watt Brothers: The Scottish department chain had 11 stores and 306 employees when it went into administration in October 2019. All the stores closed and the majority of jobs have gone.

Links of London: With 35 stores and 350 staff, the jewellery chain went into administration on 8 October 2019 but its sites are still trading.

Forever 21: Had three stores and about 290 employees in the UK when it went into administration in September 2019. Stores are staying open in order to clear stock.

Albemarle & Bond: Suddenly shut all its 116 stores in September 2019 with the loss of about 400 jobs, even though it did not call in administrators. It sold its pledge books to rival H&T in the same month.

Karen Millen and Coast: Had 32 stores and 177 concessions, employing 1,100 people, when it went into administration in August 2019. All sites were closed and the vast majority of staff made redundant after the brands were bought out by online specialist Boohoo.com.

Jack Wills: Had about 100 stores and 1,700 staff in the UK when went into administration in August 2019. Bought by Sports Direct and 98 stores are still trading in the UK and Ireland.

Spudulike: Closed all 37 stores with the loss of about 300 jobs when it went into administration in August.

Bathstore: Had 132 stores and 529 staff when it went into administration in June 2019. Homebase bought 44 stores saving 154 jobs and the brand now trades from 28 stores.

Select: Had 180 stores and 2,000 employees when the fashion retailer went into administration in May 2019. In June administrators at advisory firm Quantuma carried out a CVA closing 11 stores with the loss of about 200 jobs.

Debenhams: Had 166 department stores and more than 25,000 employees when went into administration in April 2019. No store closed immediately and the chain is now owned by its lenders but two closed before Christmas with another 20 due to shut in January when the group completes a rescue restructure expected to result in the loss of 1,200 jobs.

Pretty Green: Had 12 stores and about 170 employees when Liam Gallagher’s fashion outlet went into administration in March 2019. All but one store and 33 concessions closed with 100 jobs lost but 67 saved as the brand was bought by JD Sports in April.

Office Outlet: All 94 stores have closed with the loss of 1,170 jobs after the stationery retailer went into administration in March 2019.

LK Bennett: Had 41 stores and 500 employees when it went into administration in March 2019. The brand was bought by its Chinese franchise partner, Rebecca Feng, saving 21 stores, all the group’s concessions and 325 jobs. But more than 100 jobs lost with the closure of 15 stores.

Patisserie Valerie: Had 200 cafes employing nearly 3,000 people when an accounting scandal prompted the chain to call in administrators in January 2019. About 70 of the group’s 200 stores closed immediately with the loss of 900 jobs. About 2,000 jobs were saved when about 100 Patisserie Valerie cafes were rescued by Causeway Capital, more than 20 of which have since closed. 21 Philpotts sandwich shops were bought by AF Blakemore & Son. and four Baker & Spice cafes a were bought by the Department of Coffee & Social Affairs.

Sarah Butler

Meryl Halls, who runs the Bookseller Association, said the pandemic’s impact on high streets had been “catastrophic” for some, and was a continuing challenge for all retailers, including bookshops.

“It is crucial that consumers shop local to ensure the future of the retail sector this Christmas,” she said. “There are now even more ways to shop from local bookshops: booksellers have developed websites, and adapted to offer ordering by phone, email and online, with home delivery often an option. We are actively encouraging book lovers to start their Christmas shopping early to spread out demand. Shopping locally and early will help secure jobs and support a thriving community high street.”

During lockdown it emerged Amazon shoppers had been spending almost £9,000 a second on its products and services.

An Amazon spokesman said this year’s Prime day would see its “biggest small business promotion ever”.

“We are investing heavily in creating jobs and infrastructure across the UK – more than £23bn since 2010. The UK has now become one of Amazon’s largest global hubs for talent and this year we announced plans to create 10,000 new jobs in the country by the end of 2020, taking our total workforce to over 40,000. This continued investment helped contribute to a total tax contribution of £1.1bn during 2019 – £293m in direct taxes and £854m in indirect taxes.”

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