Amazon Australia is going to crush large Kiwi retailers

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The “Stone Store” Kerikeri. New Zealand’s first store, built in 1832. I bet it had quicker cross-town delivery times in 1832 than Farmers do now. Photo by Jennifer Whiting on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Mainstream New Zealand retailers suck at online service. Small specialty retailers have had to step up their game since the late 90s and in general they are awesome. I buy my fountain pen ink from a place call Inkt. They dispatch the same day I order and I receive it the very next day. I get Leuchtturm journals from locals Philatelic Distributors, and also get these the next day.

In contrast, on 16 April I ordered face cleanser online from Farmers Trading Company because it was 30% off. It should arrive some time this week. Maybe. With luck. Farmers – and why, yes, it did start its life as a mail order supplier for literal farmers, in 1906, how did you guess? – is a national mid range department store – the only national mid-range department store. They offer delivery for $7 in 4-7 working days. Seven working days? Over a week to ship goods by courier from a warehouse in Auckland to another part of Auckland?

It gets worse. I could choose to collect my purchase in store. Ok, more hassle, but at least it would be quicker and cheaper than waiting for that courier, right? Wrong. Click and collect costs $5 and still takes 4-7 working days. That’s insane. Why does it cost me five dollars to collect from the store? I’m saving you labor costs, Farmers! You’re practically begging me to find an alternative supplier.

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So as a consumer it’s great news that Amazon Australia announced this week they’re expanding to include retail services. They’ve been around since 2012, but you could only buy ebooks there. Now they’re going to offer everything, and it’s going to change the retail landscape not only in Australia, but also in New Zealand. Internet shopping already killed Kiwi legend Kirkaldie and Stains after 152 years of trading. South Island department store chain Arthur Barnett got bought out by competitor H &  J Smith in 2015. Auckland’s Smith and Caughey’s (est. 1808) hangs on for now – mainly because they own land and buildings in Auckland’s CBD.

Responsive companies will survive and thrive, but more than a couple of large Kiwi retailers will be pricking their ears for the hoofbeats of Death’s mount in 2018.

And if Amazon Australia means I won’t have to pay for the privilege of collecting products from a store I will be fucking cheering.

[Update: I finally received my Farmers parcel on 1 May. This is not an unusual experience.]

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