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Monday, January 16, 2012

Shopping Local—Online?

Posted by Alison Hallett on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 at 9:59 AM

The New York Times had a story over the weekend that explores small online retailers' attempts to compete with Amazon's prices—citing customers whose desire to "shop local" extends to avoiding big-box retailers online as well as in their communities:

Giant e-commerce companies like Amazon are acting increasingly like their big-box brethren as they extinguish small competitors with discounted prices, free shipping and easy-to-use apps. Big online retailers had a 19 percent jump in revenue over the holidays versus 2010, while at smaller online retailers growth was just 7 percent.

The little sites are fighting back with some tactics of their own, like preventing price comparisons or offering freebies that an anonymous large site can’t. And in a new twist, they are also exploiting the sympathies of shoppers like Dr. Pollack by encouraging customers to think of them as the digital version of a mom-and-pop shop facing off against Walmart: If you can’t shop close to home, at least shop small.

The piece goes on to quote Powells' Emily Powell, who rightly observes that “People come because they want to support an independent and feel good about it, [but] you can only guilt people into coming to you for so long.” Read the whole thing.

Related: Last week Paul Constant wrote about the outcry that ensued when beloved Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl partnered with Amazon for a line of reprints. There's a great discussion of bookstore profit margins in the comments, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

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