If we don't watch out , all of our small businesses will disappear swallowed up by Amazon. Like the name implies, Amazon is bigger and stronger than its competition and offers goods faster and cheaper than any one else; but like the Trojan horse beware of what these free gifts will bring.Once Amazon has the monopoly they can charge or offer what they want and not worry about any one challenging their place in the market..
Ecommerce players, led by the industry giant Amazon have made it so inexpensive and easy to shop on line at discounts and free shipping that traditional retailers selling in stores that have rent expenses and small ecommerce sites that cater to customers and offer one of a kind products are struggling to compete. Online sales have risen from $30 billon four years ago to $40 billion annually. This change has hollowed out our shopping malls, bankrupting long time brands and leading to staggering job losses.
Since our inception fourteen years ago, many of the small companies that providing us with unique baby gifts to personalize and sell to our customers have closed. They could not afford to stay in business with the cost of real estate and shipping. It became very hard for us to find small factories producing high quality products not made in China. In order to keep the quality of merchandise high we had to start manufacturing our own line of baby blankets and search for crafters working on small looms and knitting machines in their homes.
We are able to do this because we are not interested in making a huge profit. As creative career women who are now grandmothers , we enjoy producing a unique quality personalzied product and we donate 25% of our profits to children's charities. So if we make a few dollars more or less , it doesn't make us any more satisfied. Our satisfaction comes from what we accomplish and the creative process. We are blessed to be in a financial position to do what we love.
Since 2003 when www.namelynewborns.com began we have seen our competition on google search dwindle to just the big stores. Many of the small unique sites have disappeared and we have received calls from their former customers saying that they can't find personalized baby blankets anymore from their old sources. Others complain that the larger companies that provide personalization will not take phone orders or customize their requests for different colors and fonts. Some even report that beside charging astronomical prices for embroidery; many sites will only embroider one name. We embroider all three names, birth dates, weight, height and even special messages and are always available to offer personal service. There are many grandmothers out there; who have trouble placing orders on line and we are happy to assist them.
But just because we can survive; doesn't mean that other small ecommerce sites will be able to survive also. There are many ramifications of the closing of small businesses. the job losses in retail have unexpected social and political consequences. About one in ten Americans work in retail. What will happen to these workers as more and more stores close?
"There is a sea change happening in the retail industry," says Mark Cohen, a former executive at Sears who now runs the retail studies program at Columbia Business School." And that is bringing a sea change in employment." Store closures are on a pace this year to outnumber the stores that closed in the depths of the Great Recession of 2008. Modern day retailing is on the decline. Many of the celebrated mega malls are closing and being turned into community colleges and trampoline parks. What will happen to these employees? What will happen to the businesses that serviced these retail establishments or the companies that provided goods to these small stores?
People have discovered the ease and joy of of line shopping. Customers have enjoyed the immediate gratification of receiving a book or garden hose with 24 hours of ordering or the ability to enjoy free shipping and free return if they don't like a product. But no one is thinking about what happens next. Shipping is never really free. Someone has to pay for it . How long are these big companies going to be willing to absorb the cost for free shipping and returns?
Once they big guys have knocked out all of the competition, they will be mega sites that can monopolize the market and charge what they want and sell what is easiest to find. Where will the consumer find anything original? Where will the consumer find personal service to help navigate the complicated web of on line ordering.
If you are going to be content to read the same books as your neighbors, decorate your home with beige and white sofas , wear only black and white in size small, medium and large, then this new world of shopping will work for you. But if you don't fit into the average size or want something creative and unique, you had better think about supporting the small retail businesses in towns and on line that cannot afford to offer you free shipping but can offer personal service and unique products tailored to fit your needs.