On July 11, Amazon trumpeted a retail event: Prime Day. We must all pause for a moment and marvel at the ability of this Seattle monolith to change the way that, 4,777 miles away, all of us now think about shopping.
But, having paused, we who drive an industry that creates millions of jobs for people of all sorts and all over the country must also think hard about our own place in the world.
In some ways – and I know that this is me thinking as a shopkeeper – Amazon has appeared to all of us like a dark shadow racing across the Earth.
But there is a reason it is successful; to customers, Amazon is not a grim force sending the rays of its all-seeing eye from the towers of Mordor.
On the contrary, to customers Amazon represents something much simpler and less maleficent: low pricing, rapid delivery, and ease of use.
“In some ways, we in the electricals business, in common with our brothers in arms in books and entertainment, have been the lucky ones. We were the first to catch this virus – and many died”
In the end, for retailers like us, it is our own fault if we allow Amazon to have the monopoly on price, service and delivery.
In some ways, we in the electricals business, in common with our brothers in arms in books and entertainment, have been the lucky ones. We were the first to catch this virus – and many died.
But for the survivors – tattered and bruised, yes, but very much alive – we have, it is to be hoped, found a way to inoculate ourselves and to build a business that can not only survive but flourish in the post-Amazon world.
How to compete with Amazon
As this same shadow now casts itself across new sectors – food, fashion – retailers in all categories must ensure that they think very hard about two things.
First, and we must all be really honest with ourselves here, are we as good as Amazon at the basic hygiene factors that customers now demand and expect?
Second, what advantages do long-standing brands, deep specialist expertise, millions of customers walking through our doors every year, and a profound passion and love for our businesses, give all of us as weapons in our armoury to fight this new battle?
I am optimistic. While I have enormous respect for Amazon and all that it has achieved, I do not think that it is invulnerable to excellence from its competitors.
On the contrary, I believe that the relentless pursuit of the kinds of service levels that it offers, coupled with the real advantages that we have in our respective markets, will, in the end, succeed.
In the meantime, let us embrace and enjoy Prime Day, Black Friday and so on.
As far as we at Dixons Carphone are concerned, the more events that bring customers out, either virtually or physically, to browse and enjoy technology products, the better.
For many years now, Black Friday has been one of the most fun days to be an electricals retailer, and we were both surprised and delighted by how excited our customers were by what we were able to give them this Prime Day.
Maybe we should try Pancake Day as a retail event…