Independents hope for Amazon backlash

Independents hope for Amazon backlash

Independent booksellers are hoping customers will turn to the high street after a "Panorama" documentary last night (25th November) revealed working practices inside an Amazon warehouse.

However an analyst has said the revelations are unlikely to affect consumer behaviour.

The BBC1 programme showed an undercover reporter working a 10 and a half hour night shift, where he was required to walk almost 11 miles and collect an order every 33 seconds. Adam Littler’s performance was monitored by a scanner, with stress at work expert Professor Michael Marmot saying conditions could lead to “physical and mental illness”.

Amazon has denied any wrongdoing, saying the safety of its workers is its “number one priority” and that no concerns had been raised during official safety inspections.

Booksellers including Peter Donaldson of The Red Lion Bookshop in Colchester said he thought some people could turn away from Amazon, in the way they did after information was released about the online retailer’s tax practices.

Donaldson said: “I think a proportion of people will certainly think twice before clicking the buy button on Amazon’s website.

“It was about this time last year when revelations about tax came through, and we noticed a number of people who made a point of telling us they came to us because they were disappointed about the corporate tax policies of Amazon. A number of those customers have become regular customers on the back of that."

Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath agreed, saying: “We are employing people and treating them well and people do genuinely care about that.”

Keith Smith of Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books said: “I think the public’s perceptions already are changing. We certainly noticed a big difference as the result of our petition to get Amazon to pay tax and the subsequent debate in Parliament. We have lots and lots of people saying ‘I am not going to buy anything on Amazon any more and we should all support our local shops’, and I have had people writing to me literally from all over saying can we supply them with books so that they don’t have to use Amazon.

"I just think they are a reprehensible company all round, and the 'Panorama' findings bear out that they are totally unreasonable in their demands on their workers.”

But Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis predicted the programme would not have an effect on Amazon. He said: “Retailers always have to monitor public sentiment very carefully as their service is an emotional experience as well as a convenience and value experience.

“My assumption is Amazon warehousing stories will have no impact on sales volumes this Christmas, but management will be acutely aware of the longer-term risks if a shift in consumer perception did start to gather traction.

"All the issues raised look addressable though.”