- Amazon is a sponsor of San Francisco’s small business week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
- Small businesses in the city say they view Amazon as a competitor, not a supporter.
- Amazon relies on small sellers for sales, but its marketplace poses problems for businesses.
Bookstores, hardware stores, and other small businesses in San Francisco got a surprise during the city’s small business week: Amazon, perhaps their biggest competitor, is sponsoring the event.
That status has upset many small business owners, the Chronicle reported. Amazon has spent decades building its retail business, which has posed a serious threat to smaller businesses that sell everything from books to electronics.
Amazon has become a one-stop-shop for almost anything consumers need to buy, Vanessa Martini, a buyer at Green Apple Books, told the Chronicle.
“It’s a learned helplessness in a lot of customers,” Martini said. “Amazon has taught them that this is how you shop and buy, but it’s not. There are so many other options.”
San Francisco’s small business week events included a panel titled “How to Start Selling in Amazon’s Store,” according to the Chronicle.
“It’s in incredibly poor taste,” Eileen McCormick, the store manager at Green Apple, told the Chronicle. “It’s insulting. It’s ridiculous.”
“Amazon is proud to have nearly 500,000 small and medium-sized business sellers across the US growing their businesses with us. About 60% of products sold in Amazon’s store are from independent selling partners, most of which are small and medium-sized businesses,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. Sponsorships with local business groups are “just one of the ways we help create new opportunities for the small business community.”
San Francisco’s small businesses face other challenges specific to the city. Foot traffic downtown has remained lower than pre-pandemic levels, with fewer workers and tourists coming to the area. And some businesses have cited crime, such as shoplifting, as challenges to remaining in operation.
Amazon has a complicated relationship with small businesses. They have become a key part of the company’s retail business, accounting for more than half of gross merchandise sales on the website. Selling on Amazon is also a relatively simple way to set up a presence online and grow sales, experts previously told Insider.
But Amazon, which has expanded into new categories such as prescription medicine and groceries, remains a competitor to many mom-and-pop businesses. Even those that sell through Amazon face risks, such as having their products copied by Amazon.
Even who gets labeled a “small business” on Amazon is up for debate, with the designation going to local retailers as well as multinational consumer goods makers like Johnson & Johnson, The Information reported in April.
Update May 15, 2023: This article was updated to include a comment from Amazon.
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