Thursday, December 24, 2009

Published Herald Scotland on 22 Dec 2009
Up the Amazon without a paddle if we all shop online
It used to sell Potter, now it has been selling pottery.

Yesterday was the last day of trading for Borders across the UK. Having shifted most of the remaining books in this month’s closing down sale, it has been filling up the gaps with all manner of tat, including naff jewellery and cheap lines of pottery. Some shops have even been selling off the fixtures and fittings.

It’s a sad, tawdry end to a chain that may not have been as crucial to the cultural life of the nation as Waterstone’s, but which nonetheless had a breezy, young approach, an appealing contemporary offer and a busy events programme, particularly in its children’s departments.

Still, don’t worry – there’s always Amazon. And therein lies the problem. While the US behemoth may not be responsible entirely for Borders’ demise, it has played a significant part. The rise of online shopping and the difficulties facing some bricks-and-mortar retailers are related. You can see how it affects bookshops when you walk past people’s recycling bins and note the familiar packaging and lettering rising like ocean liners (the SS Amazon) amid the flattened boxes of Cheerios. Or when you stand in the post office with your “sorry you were out” card and see person after person in front of you collecting their Amazon boxes (indeed, there are times when it seems that Amazon should buy the Post Office, such is the dominance of its sorting offices). Or when you simply listen to people talk and note how often the word comes up.

Amazon has now become almost synonymous with online shopping. The company is the Hoover of the world wide web, its fame and success responsible for the explosion in online shopping.

We’re all at it now, and not just for books. According to the British Retail Consortium, the internet, mail order and phone sales (of which the bulk must surely be online) were 16.9% higher in November than in the same month last year. “This is more strong growth … and shows online sales growing four times faster than sales overall,” it said.
The rest at Herald Scotland.

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