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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Small businesses say online shopping endangers livelihood

A resident received an Amazon package outside their door.

Amazon’s various conveniences makes it difficult for small businesses to compete, according to a UNC Asheville economics professor.

“Anything you order on Amazon will be delivered to your door so it’s convenient. It’s a convenient way to make a transaction and a convenient way to buy a commodity in the market. Sometimes the delivery is delivered in 24 hours. If I go to a small business I can get the commodity but there’s a cost to go there, a cost in terms of time, and a cost in terms of traveling,” Assistant Professor of Economics Muhammad Nawaz said. 

According to Nawaz, Amazon’s significant presence in the stock market generates tons of money. Shareholders fund Amazon, giving Amazon access to things small businesses don’t have.

“This is not true for small businesses. As a small business owner, if you want to create money, it’s difficult to find a partner sometimes. And you are responsible for your debt,” Nawaz said.

Products are cheaper on Amazon because of the multiple renders and multiple producers of the same product, according to Nawaz.  

“Sometimes small businesses charge high prices. If you go to the gas station you have observed the prices for every item within the gas station are more than you see at Walmart. They charge a little higher prices because they are trying to generate a profit, they are trying to survive. It’s costly to pay rent for small businesses. On the Amazon side, there is no cost,” Nawaz said.

Small businesses have less stability than larger corporations because they are responsible for various different costs, according to Norit Elliott, owner of Spare Chayng, a retail store.

“I worry every day. You know, do I have enough money to pay rent? Do I have enough money to pay my staff?” Elliott said.

According to Elliott, it takes at least about $20,000 a month to properly run a small business, including labor and the cost of goods. Small businesses must strategize to compete. 

“I want to make sure what I buy for my store is not on Amazon, and I try to focus on artists who are not on Amazon,” Elliott said. “Amazon also doesn’t pay for its own product. Amazon doesn’t have actual retail inventory. It’s just a holding center. But I’ve bought all my retail.” 

At Spare Chayng, Elliott said they try to ensure customers feel good about what they’re buying and want to return. 

“It always says on my receipts that we’re vegan, local and women-owned. And then whatever you buy, it’ll have the information for you. So if it’s a handmade sterling silver ring by a women-owned co-op in Bali, it’ll say it,” Elliott said. “And then the people can feel good about spending their money. And I think because of that, I have a lot of returning customers who know it’s a safe, happy place where the money goes back to good causes.” 

Small businesses have an advantage on Amazon because some of the products they have cannot be found on Amazon, according to Kiersten Lankford, a junior psychology student at UNCA. 

“It depends on what the product is, if the product itself is mass-produced and I know it’s less expensive somewhere else, I would be more apt to buy it on Amazon than I would at an in-store business. If it’s something unique and I know I couldn’t find as good of a quality on Amazon, then I would buy it from a small business,” Lankford said. 

Small businesses support their employees in ways large corporations do not by listening to their ideas and allowing them to make their own decisions.

“I always swore I would have an environment where not just my freedom of expression is accepted, but my employees too,” Elliott said. “The girls I have working for me now know when they come to work, no one’s going to mistreat them. I listen to their ideas, I may not agree with them, I may not always take their ideas, but I listen to them.”

It is important to support small businesses for the sake of community, to support local artists, to avoid mass-produced low quality items and to support local economies, according to Elliott. 

“If the whole world starts buying only from big corporations, we will turn into those old cartoons where you see people sitting with robots in their living rooms,” Elliott said. “If we want to say we support independent people, then we have to be willing to spend a little more.”

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