Half a million shopkeepers in France have united against online retail giant Amazon, calling for “fiscal equity”, claiming the US firm is destroying jobs, and causing the desertion of town centres.
The shopkeepers – all of whom have physical shops rather than selling solely online – today (May 27) launched their anti-Amazon campaign, under the collective banner “Sauvons nos commerçants (Let’s save our shopkeepers)”.
They include owners of small boutiques, independent brands, commercial centres and even representatives from major global chains.
#Sauvonsnoscommerçants✊— Sauvons nos commerçants ! (@Collectif_SNC) May 21, 2021
Si vous aussi, vous souhaitez défendre vos commerces, la revitalisation des centres villes, si vous aussi vous souhaitez que l’équité et la justice soient enfin rétablies, rejoignez notre collectif !
️ https://t.co/83OJKVrxev pic.twitter.com/FN2rl4lsJV
The collective said: “[Physical shops] are essential for the vitality of our towns.”
It argued that they should be able to have a “level playing field” with online-only companies, and denounced the “exorbitant privileges that [online giants] benefit from” due to the “state’s support”.
Francis Palombi, from shopkeeper group la Confédération des commerçants de France, told FranceInfo: “This is blatant abuse of [the online retailer’s] dominant position.”
He said that the group was calling for “the rules of the game to apply to everyone”.
He said: “When a hypermarket opens, it is subject to very strict authorisation demands. When an Amazon warehouse is created, covering 50,000 to 150,000 square metres, it does not [have to] conform to the criteria of a commercial sales building.”
This “lack of fairness” creates “serious consequences, especially when it comes to jobs and the destruction of shops”, the collective said.
The collective is calling for “total financial equality” for online retailers and physical shops, as well as sanctions for “dishonest competition”, a ban on new warehouses, and a plan to support physical retailers.
It is also calling for mandatory taxes on online-only retailers, based on the ‘pollutant-payer’ principle that the major pollutant should pay the most, saying that online-only companies “have a disastrous environmental impact”.
It also pointed to a “lack of fairness” when it comes to VAT, and the fact that large retail giants may pay less or no corporation tax as their companies are not based in France. Amazon is registered in Luxembourg for sales throughout EU countries.
It said: “Thanks to this fiscal rule, Amazon - which increased its business by 57% [in 2020] - paid zero corporation tax in 2020.”
The firm claimed it made a loss of €1.2bn in 2020 despite a record turnover of €44bn in Europe, according to The Guardian.
The collective said that “one job created by Amazon destroys two jobs in a physical shop in France”.
Deserted town centres
The collective is especially concerned that town centres will become ‘ghost towns’ due to the growth of online retail giants.
It said: “The building of logistics warehouses scar our landscape...and the flow of uninterrupted deliveries wreaks havoc on our towns.”
‘Love-hate’ relationship in France
France has a ‘love-hate’ relationship with Amazon.
It has been in the country for 20 years, and now makes up 30% of the e-commerce market – the largest share of any one company – with this estimated to have risen by 40-50% due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
It is set to double its presence in France in the next three years; with a large warehouse, and up to ten new distribution centres set to open each year.
The firm now employs more than 10,000 people in the country.
However, a poll found that 70% of the public in France agreed with a petition calling for an ‘Amazon-free Christmas’, whose signatories included vocal Amazon critic, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Ms Hidalgo has been among many high-profile politicians to criticise the company; but local politicians have been known to support the opening of warehouses, due to their bringing local jobs and taxes.
In December 2020, Vincent Drezet, a tax expert with Attac, an association which acts as a left-wing think-tank while also taking part in direct, non-violent action, told The Connexion: “[Amazon] is a symbol of many things in our evolving society, with points about the economy, environment, society and fiscal policy.
“Do we really need to be pushed to consume things we do not need which come from the other side of the world? [And] while Amazon is not solely responsible for the problems of town centres, it does not help when people buy books from it rather than the local bookshop.”