Sears Outlet store - Portland OR 2017
Image: © Steve Morgan via Wikimedia Commons

More high-street shops are closing: let’s all blame Amazon

Sears, a big American department store, is the latest high-street shop to vanish. Jobs and pensions might go with them.

What it means: The news that Sears is closing might not tug on the heartstrings of our inner child the same way that ToysRUs’ bankruptcy did (yeah, we’re still not over that) but for some it’s a sad end for a store that was once the biggest retailer in America.

There’s plenty of reasons that Sears has gone down the pan, not least because apparently its CEO didn’t quite twig how much online shopping was going to become a Big Thing. But lots of people are pointing the fingers of blame in one direction: Amazon. Amazon’s popularity makes it hard for other businesses to do well: last year, 4 percent of all US retail sales and 44 percent of US online sales took place on its platform.

 

Technically, Amazon’s not really done anything wrong. Nobody forces us to buy more stuff from Amazon than from its rivals - we probably just think Amazon has better products or is cheaper or more convenient (who hasn’t turned to Prime for a forgotten birthday present?). Doing business better so you win more customers is how many economists think the world is suppose to work - and that this sort of competition means we consumers end up with the best deal possible.

But some people are worried that this is just a devious tactic, and once Amazon has outcompeted all its competitors - i.e. once it has a monopoly - it’ll raise its prices and we’ll all have no choice but to pay them because there’s no-one else to buy from.

 

 

Or: read our explainers on consumer choice theory and monopolies.

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?