Amazon’s “Clicks and Mortar” Shops


Back in early June, Amazon announced the launch of Clicks and Mortar – “a new programme to help small businesses grow, both in-store and online.” (Amazon’s own words!) Despite this positive spin, there has been some backlash in the national press, with The Guardian commenting “First it battered Britain’s high street retailers with its convenience, low prices and huge range of products. Now the online shopping giant Amazon is moving in on their turf”…

In this article, Alice gives you the good, the bad and the ugly to help you to decide, (ahead of the independent consultant who will produce an analysis of the pilot which will be submitted to the Government, of course!)

Here’s what you need to know, courtesy of iNews:

Clicks and Mortar provides Amazon with a prime opportunity to gain a foothold in the offline market, or as one business expert has predicted, to “test a department-store style model” that it could roll out nationwide.

Developed by Amazon in partnership with a small business network, Enterprise Nation, Direct Line and a US card payment website, the stores could lay the groundwork for the eCommerce titan in establishing a fixed position on the UK high street, allowing it to compete with major brands and shops physically as well as digitally.

Amazon plans to open 10 “Clicks and Mortar” stores, starting with one in St. Mary’s Gate in Manchester, as part of year-long pilot to help give 100 small online businesses their first taste of physical retail. Some of the online-only brands available include the adult scooter makes Swifty Scooters, the leather gadget case seller Torro Cases, and Altr for Men, a male skincare brand.

So, let’s start with ‘the good’ –  

According to Amazon, the “Clicks and Mortar” initiative will:

  • Enable more than 100 small online businesses to sell on the high street for the first time in 10 Clicks and Mortar shops across the UK. The year-long pilot programme will explore a new model to help up-and-coming online brands grow their high street presence. Independent research on the success of the pilot will be submitted to the Government, following the call for new ideas to develop the Future High Streets strategy;
  • Help small businesses upskill their workforce through a new £1m fund to train over 150 full-time apprentices to help SMEs increase their productivity and boost their online sales; and
  • Provide free digital training at Amazon Academy events across the UK to help small businesses succeed online, in particular by boosting export sales.

Now, here’s ‘the bad’

This excerpt from The Guardian highlights the frustration that some are feeling due to Amazon paying relatively little tax in the UK despite contributing to the tougher conditions of the country’s high streets:

“Philip Green’s 570-store retail empire, taking in Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Burton, is fighting to avert collapse, and the high street chemist Boots could close up to 200 branches over the next two years. The British Retail Consortium said last month that one in 10 shops in town centres were lying empty.

Amazon has been widely criticised for paying relatively little tax in the UK and for poor pay and conditions at its warehouses. Many retailers argue that the rise of the group, which started selling books, has been a key factor contributing to the plight of high street businesses.

Tesco’s chief executive, Dave Lewis, has called for a 2% “Amazon tax” on goods sold online to pay for a reduction of a fifth in the business rates paid by high street stores.

Spiralling business rates have hit the high street hard. This year Amazon confirmed that it pays UK business rates of only £63.4m – almost £40m less than Next, despite sales of more than double the £4bn reported by the UK fashion and home retailer.”

Finally ‘the ugly’ (or not so ugly?) truth –

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Retail isn’t dead – but boring retail certainly is! Amazon pop-ups or no Amazon pop-ups, the best way to ensure your retail business thrives is by focusing on the unique experience and service that you offer your customers.

At our recent MIA forum, it was clear that the industry are keen to look to the future and actively experiment with the ways that our businesses can keep up with the next generation of buyers.

Onwards and upwards!