28 February 2013, 19:49

Retail stores losing to Amazon

Retail stores losing to Amazon

Retail stores are running the risk of being put out of business by low-price online sellers like Amazon, a survey has revealed.

According to the study by a Seattle research firm Placed, people who wander into big stores prefer to only get a look at something they can buy cheaper on Amazon.

This practice is called “show-rooming” and has been a big problem for retail chains, such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and most notably Bed, Bath & Beyond, who can’t compete with Amazon’s low prices due to fixed rental costs.

Amazon has even made this easier by launching a smart phone app that lets customers scan bar codes of products at a store, which they can then buy online.

The top three "endangered" retailers, according to the report, are Bed Bath & Beyond, PetSmart and Toys R Us. Electronics chain Best Buy has also admitted a drop in sales.


Amazon scandal over German neo-Nazi guards

Brendan Cole

Claims that subcontractors working for the online shopping giant Amazon in Germany used security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate foreign workers have sparked outrage. The German TV channel ARD made the allegations in a documentary about the treatment of 5,000 temporary staff who work at Amazon's German distribution centres. VoR correspondent spoke to Hannah Cleaver, who is deputy editor of the local de, an online news website based in Berlin. She explained how the story was going down among the German public.

To be fair, one does have to come away from the headlines of Amazon using neo-Nazi guards to keep foreign workers in check and look at the fact that these secrecy guards have not been directly employed by Amazon. I think you do have the kind of a situation much like with Apple and Foxconn. We have an enormous company that have subcontracted and subcontracted to the end of degree and has completely lost sight of how their workers were being treated. And it does seem that a number of foreign workers who have been brought to Germany to help Amazon specifically with the Christmas rush were treated very badly indeed. And this is something that Amazon is rightly getting the flag for and has said, “We’ll investigate.”

So this is presumably a disastrous PR situation for Amazon. And is that how it’s being reported in the German press?

Yes. Amazon is trying to come out of this with some sense of dignity, but it doesn’t look very good for Amazon in Germany. It’s also the principle of using Spanish workers who at least – Deutsche Zeitung reported yesterday – had been working for Amazon in Spain in their warehouses and had been so disgusted at the conditions there that they wouldn’t work there again, and yet had been tempted to come and work in Germany, because everything was better here.

And is this something that the German authorities will be investigating?

The authorities, perhaps, not so much. Amazon – definitely. It doesn’t seem that there was anything specifically illegal about how these people were treated. They were treated badly, but there’s no suggestion that there was any huge law-breaking going on. But it just looks terrible for Amazon. And this is a real illustration of the differences that are emerging within the European Union, as the euro crisis continues.

This doesn’t quite square with what we would perceive to be Germany’s working regulations.

No, it doesn’t at all. And it exposes what in Germany is common – which is if you don’t have solid contract, you don’t have all those wonderful rights, all those wonderful privileges that one imagines are part of the course in Germany. That’s become a really outmoded image that people from outside the Germany still have. In Germany itself – if you don’t have one of these amazing contracts which companies are increasingly reluctant to give, you don’t these rights, there’s isn’t a minimum wage in Germany and people like these poor Spanish workers can very easily be exploited here.

And so if there’s a fear that Germany is moving along that globalize road of a race towards the bottom potentially with fewer and fewer rights for workers?

There’s a fear within Germany of that, that there’s an increasing gap between those who have the rights and those who are earning the money and those who have all these privileges of healthcare, retirement plan and all that, that there’s an increasing gap between these people and others who don’t have that contract and therefore don’t have protection and therefore don’t have all the things that one associates with post-war German prosperity which for many-many people is absolutely a dream.

Voice of Russia, CNN

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