News

Customer Behaviour

First it battered Britain’s high street retailers with its convenience, low prices and huge range of products. Now the online shopping giant Amazon is moving in on their turf, with a chain of pop-up shops selling everything from food and drink to electronics, beauty products and homewares.

The first Clicks and Mortar shop will open in St Mary’s Gate in central Manchester on Monday and will also offer Amazon Lockers for customers to collect Amazon orders.

Amazon plans to open 10 shops in total. It did not reveal the locations of the other stores but said there would be openings in Wales, Scotland, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the south-east.

They are part of a year-long pilot, launched in conjunction with the small business support organisation Enterprise Nation.

Online-only sellers that will feature in-store for the first time include the adult kick-scooter maker Swifty Scooters, the leather electronic device case seller Torro Cases, and the men’s skincare brand Altr for Men.

Amazon will find plenty of space available for its new pop-up chain, as the high street has been hit by a wave of store closures in the past couple of years by retailers from Debenhams to Mothercare, Poundworld and Maplin.

Philip Green’s 570-store retail empire, taking in Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Burton, is fighting to avert collapse, and the high street chemist Boots could close up to 200 branches over the next two years. The British Retail Consortium said last month that one in 10 shops in town centres were lying empty.

Amazon has been widely criticised for paying relatively little tax in the UK and for poor pay and conditions at its warehouses. Many retailers argue that the rise of the group, which started selling books, has been a key factor contributing to the plight of high street businesses.

Tesco’s chief executive, Dave Lewis, has called for a 2% ‘Amazon tax’ on goods sold online to pay for a reduction of a fifth in the business rates paid by high street stores.

Spiralling business rates have hit the high street hard. This year Amazon confirmed that it pays UK business rates of only £63.4m, almost £40m less than Next, despite sales of more than double the £4bn reported by the UK fashion and home retailer.

The move from Amazon follows its fellow online retailer eBay, which last month opened a pop-up store in Wolverhampton, in which 40 small businesses displayed and sold their products.

In October, Amazon opened its first British fashion store, in the form of a pop-up in Baker Street, central London, to seek shoppers’ views on its clothing ranges, prices and store experience.

In the past two years the company has opened a physical space with a range of retail partners to promote deals related to its annual 10-day Black Friday sale.

There is still speculation about whether Amazon Go, a checkout-free grocery store concept, will be rolled out internationally. The first was opened in Seattle, Washington, last January and there are now 11 Amazon Go stores in the US.

In 2017, the company paid $13.7bn for the high-end supermarket chain Whole Foods Market, which has seven stores in London.

Doug Gurr, Amazon UK’s country manager, said: “Amazon is committed to supporting the growth of small businesses, helping them boost the economy and create jobs across the UK. Small businesses are one of our most important customer groups.”

Amazon said it was also helping to create more than 150 full-time apprenticeships at small online businesses through a new £1m apprenticeship fund “to help increase their productivity and boost online sales”.

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “UK shoppers like to shop both online and in high street stores [and this will] enable customers to discover new brands on their local high streets.

“Our intention is to help small businesses succeed by combining the best elements of online and high street retail. This new concept will provide small businesses with the space, technology and support to experience physical retail for the first time.”