Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The local retail industry is

complaining about the "unfairness" of on-line competition. They are complaining about the Goods & Services Tax (GST - VAT to those of you in the UK).
There has also been the inevitable inquiry about this - by the Productivity Commission. I doubt I will read it. Most things from the PC are, quite frankly, pretty dull reading.
The on-line shopping issue however is another thing. I do very little on-line shopping. I do not own a credit card so many sites would be closed to me. My father simply refuses to use his credit card on line - or over the phone. I keep a very small sum of money in a PayPal account linked to a separate bank account with another small sum of money in it. I buy books for our knitting guild in this way but it was not always the case.
Our guild once bought all their knitting books - there were never very many - from the same source. This was a woman who ran a small business from home, importing craft books and then selling them on. She did the, for most people, hard work of sourcing and paying for books overseas. They were not available in local bookshops. Local bookshops did not do business with suppliers who worked with the often very small publishing companies that specialise in craft books in general and knitting books in particular. It was the only way to get the books.
Now we have Fishpond and the Book Depository instead. There is also Amazon if you want to use a credit card. There is a vast array of books available from these sort of places. I know it is not doing local independent bookshops any good but even my local bookshop has suggested I try such places when their suppliers cannot supply what I am looking for.
And that is where the problem lies. Australia is geographically large and population small. The demand for things we sometimes need or want is small. A local shop is not going to supply everything, or even alternatives to everything - and those who supply local shops are not interested in supplying one of this book or that book from a remote source.
It has been suggested to me that, if the books we want are not available locally then we should simply go without. We should just accept it as part of life. We should just acknowledge that this is part of living where we live. I disagree.
It is even more important to have access to information if you live in a remote part of the world.
Even now Australians lack ready access to professional conferences which are often held in the northern hemisphere. It is simply too expensive to pay for an airfare and accommodation and the often high conference fees. On-line support is essential and, for some of us, the only way we communicate with professional colleagues.
But, I really think much of the local retail industry has little to complain about. They have a captive audience. They have little competition. You cannot just dash across the Channel for a day or hop into Italy from France or Switzerland. Go shopping here and you will see identical items in many shops, all sourced from the same place - and imported largely from somewhere in Asia. People buy these items because this is what is available and comes at a price they believe they can afford - because that is what they are being told. Retail gets away with it.
On-line competition may actually be good for local retail - if they start to do some work.


Nicole MacDonald said...

A similar situtation here in NZ, I can buy a book for $40 in a book store or $25-30 on Amazon.. I use a debit card on-line and only put money into it when I'm going to buy something, works well for me :)

The Arrival, on Amazon now!

catdownunder said...

I want to support my indie bookshop and I will when I can but they actually suggest I go online when they cannot provide what I want. I once waited almost three years for a book I was supposed to have as a textbook. We had ordered it and, in the final year, the order came through! Any wonder people shop online? Sigh