Amazon v the high street

First Observer column of 2012.

Now’s the time of year when columnists are expected to peer into crystal balls. Not being able to find such a device in his local Apple shop, all this columnist can do is to speculate on the implications of some developments that are already highly visible.

Online shopping, for example. A glance down any high street confirms that Amazon & Co is beginning to make inroads into the urban landscape. The costs of running a bricks and mortar shop – in rent, rates, inventory, theft and wages – together with the wafer-thin margins of most retailers (excluding Apple and other purveyors of luxury goods) meant that it was a knife-edge business at the best of times. But the combination of recession and intensified competition from online is proving too much for some retailers, which is why high streets are beginning to have a gap-toothed look…