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 check out”.
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.
Amazon Prime Day started in 2015 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 more than 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.
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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