What to expect from your friends at Amazon

Posted: Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 4:04 pm

What to expect from your friends at Amazon Image

It’s looking like ski season is finally approaching here in the Missoula area.  Add to that the fact that shoppers in the Missoula area seem to have survived yet another Black Friday and cyber Monday, we are thankful to mostly get to avoid what I think is weak gift shopping.


By weak I mean that to me I want the gifts I give to mean as much to me as they do to the recipient.  All the products we sell can easily be purchased online somewhere and usually if you have the time to dig you generally can even save a few bucks.

Does the reward for saving a few bucks feel the same as the reward for having a face to face interaction with someone who is totally psyched to see you in the store buying something they totally believe in?  I can answer that question only for myself, so it is hard to project what makes me feel great to what I think makes my customers feel great.


After watching 60 minutes last night and listening to Jeff Bezos talk about his vision for Amazon made me think long and hard about this shift in how consumers and products find each other.  Is Amazon the future of what we want that relationship with our consumer products to look like?


Clearly for a huge number of folks it is.   If you listen to the “Amazon speak” they tell us that they are not changing the face of retail in America or the world, the internet did that.  While true, what they seem to not be telling us is that they are currently planning to sue many of the manufacturers of products we carry to eliminate the need for pricing policies that allow for different forms of retail distribution.


Currently a good portion of manufacturers we deal with have some guidelines for what and how we (and Amazon) can advertise the products they make and sell.  Amazon thinks this is unfair since they can sell things for less and are at a competitive disadvantage with retailers like me.  Really, that is what they are saying; the only way they can compete with The Trail Head is to sell the same product cheaper that I can.


I would love to tell you I am flattered, but the reality is for the end consumer in America Cheaper is almost always better.  The rub is for the manufacturer, doing business with large retailers that need to sell cheaper to be competitive, tends to cause long term problems for them, the manufacturer.


The power of businesses to effect change on consumers and suppliers is limited only by the number of retailers in the marketplace.  It is inversely related, more retailers have less power to effect change.   If the number of businesses selling a product or service declines, the table turns and the few large retailers left have all the power.  They can dictate to the consumers and suppliers the terms of the relationship.  In the end, it generally is not good for either consumers or manufacturers.


So to hear that Amazon is big enough to essentially have a class action lawsuit with them being the “class” who is being mistreated by the vendors is a pretty rich statement.


So when you buy from them because it is cheaper, easier, or just makes you feel good about the purchase, remember that as the consumer it is you who give them the power to control the relationship between the products you use and the manufacturers who create them.