It wasn’t that long ago that Amazon was threatening to take over nearly completely. Both independent and chain bookstores were closing rapidly and Main Street businesses were starting to feel the effects. Everything from books to DVDs to appliances to clothing and more were being purchased and shipped from Amazon warehouses.
But something seems to be shifting. There are reports of new, independent bookstores popping up and a revival among those that have survived. Some have even bonded together to provide online sales through a common website. Other stores are seeing people show—either in-person (even in the pandemic) or virtually—to shop for goods. A notable example is kitchen goods stores. So why the shift?
It’s not just nostalgia for small businesses or community-mindedness. A big reason must surely be how Amazon has been flooded by cheap knockoffs that are often marketed deceptively with brand names and with a ton of fake reviews to hype them. I’ve run into this a number of times myself. I bought the America’s Test Kitchen recommended Kuhn Rikon garlic press from Amazon a few years ago. Or at least I assumed it was such because the Amazon listing said was Kuhn Rikon and it looked just like it. But when the press broke soon after, I contacted the manufacturer and they told me that many of the presses sold under the name on Amazon are in fact fakes.1
This is not an isolated case and I hear similar stories from people all the time. And Amazon has so far been unable to do anything about apparently. They also contribute to the problem by making their own cheap knockoffs under their in-house brand of Amazon Basics.
Camera bag maker Peak Design recently called out Amazon on this in a humorous video they created. While it makes the point in a funny way, this is a real danger to smaller companies. (Maybe something that anti-trust regulators in DC should be looking at?)
There is an undeniable convenience in buying stuff online via an app or web page as you’re thinking about it, instead of venturing out to a store or mall. But maybe we’d all be better off if we did more of that.
- To their credit, they did replace the defective press with the genuine article. No problems since. ↩