Can small merchants really compete with Amazon?

HASwill Mazon swallow small traders raw? Fears of the exponential growth of the American giant, France’s leading e-commerce player, have increased since the lockdown forced merchants to close their doors again. Angry, many point to the unfair competition afforded to them by online sales platforms, which can persist.

“This year we celebrate #NoelSansAmazon. “This Tuesday, November 17, public figures, trade associations and elected officials such as the Deputy (EDS) Matthieu Orphelin and the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo signed a petition calling for no order on the platform before Christmas. In particular, they accuse the company of being a “predator of jobs”, “predator of land”, of “exempting itself[r] of its taxes in France”, but above all to be a “predator of commerce”. Are traders therefore doomed to be devoured by the big bad wolf Amazon, or do they still have enough to reverse the balance of power?

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Amazon temptation operation for small merchants

Unsurprisingly, the petition did not please the American giant, which laments having become “a target for certain organizations seeking better media coverage of the causes they represent” and which “often voluntarily rely on misleading information” . “Our turnover in France in 2019 was not EUR 7.7 billion but EUR 5.7 billion, as we said,” corrects an Amazon spokesperson nearby, for example. Pointwhich, in addition to the 9,300 direct permanent contracts, also refers to the “110,000 additional jobs within” [sa] supply chain”.

The company also highlights its marketplace – or marketplace – that allows third-party players to sell their products on Amazon. “If you tap Amazon, you tap the 11,000 French entrepreneurs who use it. The American giant also offers small merchants to join its platform by offering membership for the first three months, as well as e-commerce training and advertising credit to promote its products. An offer that Francis Palombi, president of the Confederation of Traders of France (CDF), invites to decline, pointing to the 15% commissions the platform takes. “When they no longer need these small businesses, they will send them to hell. The fall will probably be very cruel. †

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The CDF has also signed the petition. “With the Covid-19 crisis, Amazon has revealed its hegemony and arrogant dominance,” explains Francis Palombi, who “does not want to see them as scapegoats” and puts his competitors such as China’s Alibaba or France’s CDiscount in the same boat. bag. “We don’t want to prevent Amazon from doing its job, but from establishing it without planning or tax rules,” which could mean its aggressive and accelerated implementation at the expense of small businesses.

Less than 10% of purchases are made online

In the e-commerce market, Amazon leads the way with 28% of the market share, a slight drop in the first week of re-inclusion. But despite significant democratization in recent years, online commerce still represented just 9.8% of retail in 2019, according to the Federation of E-Commerce and Distance Selling (Fevad). “Amazon is ultimately only 2% of the retail trade in France,” a company spokesperson puts into perspective.

Of all sectors, tourism is the most digitized: 46% of the market share is occupied by online sales. For cultural products or clothing, for example, this figure drops to 19% and 14.7% respectively. And even if these ecommerce giants didn’t exist, it’s not necessarily the local businesses that would have benefited from them. According to Fevad, 42% of consumers who bought a product online would have bought it in a shopping center, if not, 32% in a supermarket and only 16% in a convenience store.

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“A trader cannot fight alone,” said Christian Perbet, chairman of AchetezÀ. His company provides a local marketplace solution, such as a small Amazon to be developed in a specific area, where merchants can sell their products, click-and-collect or delivery. The first was launched in 2012 in Puy-en-Velay. “Back then we had the success of local rides. It was proof that you could buy on the internet what’s in the store next to your house. Since then, 70 areas have taken up this marketplace, including major cities such as Nancy.

On the Internet, “Many Traders Are Not Efficient”

Christian Perbet believes that pooling is “stronger” and can stand up to the digital giants. “If every business has its own site and personal communications, it’s either going all out and the customer gets lost, or it’s bad because they don’t have the resources they need. And the CEO points out that of the only 30% of small digital businesses, “many are not efficient”.

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Instead of imposing the costs of this digitization on companies, he believes that it is up to the local authorities to organize the digital marketplace and ensure the commercial animation of their territory. They are the ones who finance the implementation of the platform and then pay for the license, support promotions, organize communication… “In the past, to attract customers, we reconstructed the street or built parking garages, emphasizes Christian Perbet. Now it has to be done on the internet. And it costs less than refurbishing the town square! †

While arguing that the lack of regulation from e-commerce giants allows for barrier-free expansion and unfair competition, Francis Palombi also acknowledges that “small businesses haven’t gone digital fast enough.” “We have been delayed, but the State, in its recovery plan, the regions, the local authorities and the federations, we have all set in motion. The kick in the back, we have received that well! »

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