After a two-year investigation, the European Union has filed antitrust charges against Amazon for “distorting competition in online retail markets”, said Alexander Martin on Sky. com. The move could well result in a hefty fine and further calls for a corporate break-up, but that will do little to assuage the fury of British high street retailers, who are “up in arms about the lockdown advantage gifted to the tech giant this Christmas”, said Sam Chambers in The Sunday Times. As one retail consultant put it: “Jeff Bezos has just had this season handed to him on a silver platter.”
Amazon’s soaring numbers during the pandemic (profits in Q3 tripled to $6.3bn) are an affront to a sector that is hurting badly. Last week, Marks & Spencer, which is cutting 7,000 jobs, posted the first half-year loss “in its 94 years as a public company”. Meanwhile, 1,500 more jobs are being slashed at John Lewis,and 3,500 at Sainsbury’s-owned Argos, said Luke O’Reilly in the London Evening Standard. Thousands more are at stake following the fall into administration of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, whose parent company, EWM Group, also owns the Peacocks and Jaeger brands.
Retailers are riled by the Government’s “muddled guidelines”, said Ben Marlow in The Daily Telegraph – particularly those on so-called “mixed retail”, which allow supermarkets to sell “non-essential” items while rival independents have been forced to shut. The big supermarkets have enjoyed a Covid “boom” – making their pleas for business rate relief “in the age of Amazon” seem particularly tin-eared, said Nils Pratley in The Guardian. The industry will benefit from rates relief of about £1.5bn this year. “There is roughly zero chance of Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Morrisons returning a few quid to the Treasury – but they should.”