Amazon Pop-Up Shops Moving Into Abandoned UK High Streets
Amazon has both driven and dominated the trend towards online shopping that is in large part being held responsible for the demise of the once vibrant UK high streets. Bricks and mortar shops have struggled to compete with the convenience, low prices and huge range of products available via Amazon and other online retailers.
Those that haven’t managed to successfully build their own online offerings to compliment physical stores, or are managing to eke out a viable business in some other creative way, are disappearing. And they are leaving the retail units they once occupied abandoned and empty the length and breadth of the country.
Against that backdrop, news that Amazon is now itself starting to snap up those units at rock-bottom prices, might understandably be interpreted as kicking someone who’s already down by vanquished retailers. And that’s exactly what’s now happening with news that the technology and ecommerce giant is set to open an initial 10 ‘pop up’ stores under its ‘Clicks and Mortar’ brand.
The move is part of a one-year pilot that Amazon is rolling out with the support of UK small business support organisation Enterprise Nation. The U.S. tech giant says the stores, which will also host Amazon lockers that local consumers can use to pick up online orders they have made, will offer bricks and mortar exposure for the products of 100 small British online businesses.
Reaction to the news can be expected to represent mixed feelings. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as a great way for local ecommerce start-ups to better present their products to potential buyers. On the other, Amazon’s stores will be occupying cheap high street space abandoned by previous tenants the goliath’s own ‘winner-takes-all’ domination of the retail market quite possibly did for. Or whose demise it at least contributed to among other factors.
Traditional high street brands such as Debenhams, Mothercare, Poundworld and Maplin have all gone into administration over the past couple of years. Philip Green’s 570 stores across his group’s Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Burton brands are desperately trying to stave off collapse and Boots is expected to close up to 200 locations over the next couple of years. Last month The British Retail Consortium published data showing 10% of bricks and mortar retail units are currently sitting empty.
Amazon will argue that these retail chains failed to change with the times and become more efficient. And that they themselves were large corporates while it is providing a platform which enables small, independent businesses to flourish. There is of course some merit to both sides of the argument, though Amazon’s position is undermined by the low level of taxes it contributes to the UK government’s coffers. The Guardian reports that this year Amazon paid business rates of just £63.4 million – almost £40m less than Next. That’s despite the fact its sales in the UK were more than double those of the British fast fashion retailer.
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