You have probably heard that Amazon has come under attack by folks who believe that the online
company is possibly harming the existing retailers and/or consumers. I would contend instead that, while Amazon may
not be the most saintly company on Earth, it does in fact provide many, many items that the existing retailers have chosen
to quit carrying.
I would further contend that if Amazon were broken, those of us who live in smaller towns, or who want decent, healthful food, or who need hard-to-get hardware items, would be severely impeded in conducting the daily business of our lives! So, I have been moved to write an essay in "defense" of Amazon.
It appears that Amazon is under attack by well-meaning regulators. One of the main assertions is that Amazon is "unfairly" taking away business from established retailers. I would like to show in this essay that Amazon is in many cases providing many items that the established stores have decided to discontinue, to improve their profit - their bottom line.
If you live in a big city, with access to many nearby big grocery chain stores, you may think that it's easy to get all the food and other items directly from these "Brick-and-Mortar" businesses. And you can, if you don't have a problem with typical name brand processed food, supplemented perhaps with easily accessible take-out goods.
If, on the other hand, you want more healthful and nutritious goods, that's going to be a lot harder! These items are fast becoming very hard to get in these big stores. Further, certain hard-to-get goods are lately becoming downright impossible to get in these stores.
And, in your big city, if you want less common hardware and electrical goods from the big box home improvement stores, you are likely finding these, too, have become very scarce.
And, if you live in a small town in a rural area, this problem is even worse. It's likely that the big chain grocery store is the only one in town. And there simply isn't a big box home improvement store. If you want health food, or less commonly purchased items, or specialty hardware, you have an even bigger supply problem.
So, why is that? It's because many of these chains have made business decisions over the past few years that have eliminated these items from their stock.
Some reasons for this phenomenon:
"Just in Time" Inventory
This is a big one. It started several years ago. The idea is that you have just a few of each item in stock, so you aren't tying up capital in inventory. This makes sense IF it is carefully tracked, AND good records are kept of items purchased, AND if each item is quickly restocked when it sells out. But in actuality, purchases are carelessly tracked, and the end result is the store is routinely out of stock of many items! Not so bad if you live in a big city and can go to another store a few miles away. But it's BIG problem if you live in a small town and there ISN'T another store to go to.
So we have to go to Amazon to get these items that are out of stock in our store.
Remember, nowadays it's all about metrics - not customer service. And "Inventory Turns" is one of the biggest metrics for retail. You want to have inventory turnover be larger numbers. 15 times a year makes your bottom line look much better than 5 times a year. You are selling more with smaller inventory. Of course you risk being out of stock more often and inconveniencing your customers, but, hey, that's collateral damage for bigger profits.
Reduced inventory of organic and natural products
Given that most people buy highly processed foods due to the efforts of the Food Industry to make it saltier and more flavorful, and given that such foods have more preservatives and longer shelf life, grocery stores carry more of such foods. It's more profitable to carry more of these foods and skip the organic and natural products.
When our local big chain grocery store "remodeled" a couple of years ago, we discovered that many organic and "natural" foods were no longer available. If we want to buy them, we would have to drive to stores in nearby cities to get them (65-75 miles away).
So we have to go to Amazon to get these health food items. Organic whole grain pasta, organic powders for smoothies (Acai, Goji Berry, and the like), toothpaste without SLS and other chemicals. Uncle Sam breakfast cereal - just about the only remaining breakfast cereal which has no added sugar (not available in grocery stores).
These are just some examples.
However, another example is clothing.
Lately, stores are carrying larger sizes because (unfortunately) that's what sells. Consistently, it's only "L", "XL", "XXL". Maybe a "Medium" once in a while. No "Small". It's the "Inventory Turns" thing yet again.
Stores typically carry only 1, maybe 2, of each pant size, and are quickly out of stock in my size. So, in the stores, I often see something I would really like to own, but cannot find my size.
If I want that particular article of clothing, my only choice is to buy it from Amazon.
Stores have become dependent on online presence.
For some years now, I have noticed that many less common items are no longer available in the store. "Oh, you can get it online", I am told. Here's another cost-cutting phenomenon by the "brick-and-mortar" stores. You don't have to tie up your capital in carrying infrequently purchased items.
And yet if I try the store's online site, it's no better. Only the common items are available on their online sites.
I can get all these items easily on - you guessed it - Amazon. I don't have to drive 65 miles to other stores, hoping I can find the oddball item, or at least a halfway suitable substitute.
And all the above applies to hardware as well as food.
I went to Amazon to get some black electrical GFCI outlets, because the big box home improvement store (65 miles away!) didn't carry the ones I needed.
I purchased 6 plumbing cutoff valves on Amazon because the local hardware store had only one.
i bought 8 motion detecting bright night lights (to be used as stair lights) because the local grocery/hard goods store had only 2. The store's lights were $12. Amazon's were $5.50.
I purchased all my interior light bulbs from Amazon because the big box hardware store didn't have true "cool white" LED light bulbs.
I purchased some specialty electrical connectors for a project from Amazon because the big box store now carries only boxes of 100.
I bought felt and rubber pads for cabinet doors (and even regular doors) from Amazon - no such item at local hardware store.
I was able to buy my favorite leather/vinyl cleaner/conditioner on Amazon. The local auto parts store quit carrying it.
The list includes electronics as well
I was able to repair my own LG range by purchasing a factory replacement burner switch on Amazon! This saved me several hundred dollars.
I was able to buy a replacement Dell keyboard and a Logitech mouse from Amazon, because we're 70 miles from an electronics store.
I purchased the speakers for my home entertaintment system from Amazon for the same reason - 70 miles from the store.
I actually purchased my big screen TV from Amazon. I looked at the TV in the
electronics store 70 miles away - while in the big city for other errands. When I got home, my wife and I decided
to buy from that store. I called them, expecting to reward the sales person with the purchase, but the call was intercepted
by a "national call center" - I was told that "individual stores" in the chain were not taking calls! Further,
the shipping/setup was $300.
I located the set on Amazon and received it flawlessly in a few days - with free shipping. (I did not need any setup service).
You can't buy what the "professionals" do in stores.
Sometime ago I needed a bandage at work and got one in the employee's First Aid cabinet. I noticed that their bandages were Mckesson 1 x 3 inch in a box of 100. "I want this", I told myself, thinking about all those pitiful assortments I've had to buy over the years, when all I wanted was to get just one size. And they all would have 10 or so of that oddball double-U configuration which I have never found useful.
I went to Amazon and bought the McKesson 1x3, box of 100, along with 3/4 x 3, box of 100, and an oval shaped 3/4 by 1 size - perfect for timy cuts (unlike the tiny 1/2 by 1 size which is hard to get and whose sides don't overlap the pad.) Further, all these bandages were fabric - not latex.
I found a mechanical pencil with 0.7 mm lead and wanted to get a a decent quantity of them without buying the 2-pencil blister packs. Found a box of 12 on Amazon.
Rather than buying the blister pack of the plastic dispensers of the replacement leads, I bought a pack of 12 of the dispensers, each holding 12 leads, for a total of 144 leads from Amazon.
I even found a pack of 12 erasers, each 3 inches long! I can simply cut them to size.
I found Post-It stickers on Amazon, which had full adhesive on the back rather than only on the top part, and even included some larger 3 x 3 inch Post-it stickers.
I wanted some felt dividers for dinner and salad plates, and soup bowls. Could not find in the local stores (or even in the various venues in the bigger town 65 miles away). Found an assortment of 72 dividers on Amazon.
Extra thick sewing thread. All I have ever been able to find in stores is thread that, while labeled "button and carpet", were only slightly thicker than normal thread. Amazon provided a truly "heavy duty" and substantial thread.
P.S. Want links to purchase some of the above, along with several other highly useful,
money-saving items? I saved all the links.
Just click back to my Home page, and select the "Assorted Useful Items" link.
If you think about it, Amazon has devised the ideal solution to the inventory problem:
They can maintain huge inventories, since their customer base isn't confined to a local area. No "Just in Time" silliness.
They can stock organic and other short shelf life foods for the same reason. No "Inventory turns" protocol.
They can stock all the hard-to-get items for the same reason.
Shopping on Amazon is actually green, certainly for those in rural areas. You're not spending
significant amounts of fuel searching for organic items, items in useful quantities, or hard-to-get items, including
The assertion is made that Amazon is using their size to increase prices. My experience lately is that it's the individual stores that are charging higher prices. - particularly in small towns, since they're the only store in town. I consistently find almost all items cheaper on Amazon. Example: 4 oz Organic Acai Powder: $32 in the local big-chain grocery store. $16.40 on Amazon.
My statement to the (perhaps well-meaning) regulators:
If you break Amazon, you will really hurt many of us consumers, especially those of us who have escaped the big cities to savor the small-town life.
Copyright © 2023 J.A.