Sir Charlie Mayfield, the managing director of John Lewis has rejected the idea of an ‘Amazon tax’ urging struggling high street businesses to ‘adapt’ rather than call for a levy on online sales. Writing in the Daily Mail he argues that the idea isn’t attractive or workable and won’t solve the problems experienced by some businesses on the high street.
Rather, struggling business should adapt to new trends and develop their own online offering to take advantage of the effectiveness of a ‘bricks and clicks’ approach, he argues.
The so-called Amazon tax first made headlines last month when it was mooted by the Chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond. But since then no details have emerged. Mayfield is one of the few retail bosses who has spoken up on the proposal. Obviously John Lewis is a highly successful offline retailer and includes Waitrose amongst its familiar brands. But it has also been a trailblazer with online retail too and has successfully adapted to ecommerce, making a particular success of click & collect.
There are two particular problems with the idea of an ‘Amazon tax’. The first is how such a tax would be levied and assessed. Would it apply to items bought online and then collected in store, for instance? And, perhaps most worryingly, it would hit small businesses very hard. No firm should be calling on the playing field to be levelled by levying a tax on competitors.
Whilst ‘Amazon bashing’ is currently a popular pastime as the ecommerce behemoth grows and is, seemingly, unstoppable in its growth, marketplace merchants are usually over-looked. It strikes Tamebay as perverse to essentially penalise thriving small business who have made a success of online retail. And a tax on online sales, in any case, is unlikely to hurt Amazon much either. With any luck, the idea will fade and never come to pass.