Wal-Mart vs. Amazon

It’s hard to decide which of these two monopolies to dislike more. One wants to take over the retail universe, and the other strives to take over the retail universe. One is brick and mortar and treats employees less than admirably, the other is an online store and treats employees like a third world country. One sells various and sundries, the other sells various and sundries, and oh, yeah, books. One used to sell the Kindle pad, the other still sells the Kindle pad.

Wal-Mart has made the decision that Target made some time ago, to discontinue carrying Amazon’s hopeful i-pad, the next incarnation of Kindle, whatever it is called. Why? Because they finally figured out that to sell such a thing was undermining their own retail future. Seems that Amazon has designs on the brick and mortar world, and if that’s the case, may open stores to sell the Kindle which would be in direct competition with Walmart etc. As if they aren’t now. Considering how amazon discounts their products almost to the point of  a fiscal loss, some say they do lose money on certain products, Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy etc., have been at a disadvantage.


“Amazon’s margins on selling Kindle are believed to be thinner than those of other gadget makers, in particular Apple Inc. As a result, Amazon may not have much in the way of profits to share with retailers.”I think part of it could be margin, though the bigger point is that Wal-Mart and Target view Amazon as a competitor,”  Tilghman said. Amazon does not disclose the margins on the devices, nor has it said how many it sells versus how many retailers sell.”

From Forbes:

“The low margin products like Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets were deleted from future purchases as competition is getting sharper and retailers are unwilling to support the growth of an arch rival. ”

I’m trying to picture an Amazon store. Would the ‘greeter’ be one of the million dollar robots recently purchased to replace those pesky humans? Would humans work within a brick and mortar store at all? Maybe the sales assistants will be in the form of Kindles, you can order a version from the computer, that computer tells another computer to send out the product, the customer slides their plastic, the Kindle pops itself into a robotically held bag, and off you go.

I’m no fan of Wal-Mart. I understand how free enterprise works–someone came up with the idea of the five and dime, selling a variety of merchandise all under one roof–maybe Mr. Woolworth was the culprit. And that idea put individual stores out of business, the store that sold just a particular item, or product. I remember Woolworth’s actually used to sell fish! Fish from fish tanks. And buttons, cheap toys, picture frames, artificial flowers, hairnets, rubber bands, shoe laces, glasses, plates, and a plethora of other things. One stop shopping, but within reason. Wal-Mart wiped out the likes of Woolworth’s and its contemporaries, and it was good. Right? I see Wal-Mart as Woolworth’s on steroids. At first glance bigger and broader seems oh,  so wonderful. Then the long term effects of the steroids start to show–an inflated ego, bad behavior towards others, multiplying and multiplying until what we have is an all consuming monster, like in Japanese films, crushing the rest of society in its path.

A bit over the top? Maybe. But Teddy Roosevelt understood the dangers of monopolies, and stopped them. Recently we’ve allowed the robber baron mentality to return, with less regulations of who or what can own–who or what. So it has come down to this–Wal-Mart gunning for Amazon, and vice versa.

Forbes says:

“Competition is a way of life in the retail industry.   Old outdated ways of retailing are eventually replaced by new more modern formats.   The online retailer is now challenging the biggest brick-and-mortar discount retailers who replaced the variety stores and marginalized the traditional department store.  When retailers compete, the consumer wins.”

Do we?