Disloyalty Program

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

(Cartoonist - Matt Davies)

In other news, Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow says Trump will propose making more of his tax cuts permanent and call for more tax cuts, but he won't release the proposal until September. How convenient is that?

Meanwhile, European Union officials are reportedly planning to use the upcoming G-20 Summit to promote the same tax on digital services that Trump is threatening to expand his trade war over.

“We need to give the highest priority to finding global solutions to address the taxation of the digital economy and the remaining Base Erosion and Profit Shifting issues,” said a document outlining the stance of all European Union members of the G20, plus Britain, which left the EU last month.

Finally, retail sales and industrial production took a big hit in January. Sales at retail clothing stores dropped by the largest amount since the Great Recession in 2009. Some holiday sales numbers were also revised downward.

Data for December was revised down to show the so-called core retail sales rising 0.2% instead of jumping 0.5% as previously reported. Core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. [...]

In January, overall retail sales rose 0.3%, but data for December was revised down to show sales gaining 0.2% instead of climbing 0.3% as previously reported.

Receipts at clothing stores dropped 3.1% last month, the most since March 2009. Clothing retailers have been struggling with plummeting mall traffic as consumers opt for online shopping. Macy’s announced this month plans to close 125 of its least productive stores over the next three years and cut more than 2,000 corporate jobs.

As a personal anecdote -- the last three times I went to Kohl's to look for clothes, I came home with nothing. Their selection is not great, but more importantly their prices are usually too high and they're cheaper than most other clothing stores. I buy almost everything from Amazon now and while I know some people find shopping on Amazon to be ethically dubious, I really can't afford to pay more for inferior goods just for vanity's sake.

I know I'm very far from alone in that and it's slowly killing the brick-and-mortar retail industry, but I don't necessarily blame Amazon for that either. They were just the first to the big game and if it wasn't Amazon, some other company (probably Wal-Mart) would have filled the same void in the market. I am old enough to remember when Wal-Mart was blamed for killing mom-and-pop stores, but in the 21st century, Amazon is blamed for killing big-box stores like Wal-Mart. And in hindsight, I don't think either sentiment tells the whole story.

All of this including the delivery drivers will eventually be automated and it will be a moot discussion. Wal-Mart is currently testing a grocery delivery service that uses robots in an automated warehouse that will eventually use automated delivery vehicles, too.

  • Draxiar

    As a small retail business owner (my wife and I make everything) I implore anyone that can, please support local businesses. Your local crafters put their heart and soul into what they do and your dollars mean so much more to them than Amazon. Go to your farmers markets and local craft shows and festivals. Talk to those people about what they do and how they make it. The human interaction with neighbors is sorely needed these days. You’re likely to find items that you didn’t know you wanted to have or give as gifts. Also, I can pretty much guarantee that most of them have an online shop too if you wanted to buy from them again.

    • mnpollio

      I actually do those things. Nothing beats a good farmer’s market – barring the fact that so many farmers seem to be inserted up Trump’s ass. But I still get some things from Amazon. Like books. Am I incorrect in thinking that Amazon offers the options of getting second hand books from small booksellers and charities that I otherwise would not be aware of? At least that is my understanding from the options they offer. That said, I think we are making a mammoth mistake in getting rid of so many brick and mortar stores. You can browse online, but it simply is not the same thing as going and perusing a store and trying things out while there.

      • Draxiar

        On their behalf, thank you.

        I don’t know if Amazon sells secondhand books though it wouldn’t surprise me if they do. I think people sell them *through* Amazon. Speaking of which, Amazon does have a handcrafted section available. Again, it’s better to try and get those items from the source.

  • katanahamon

    I’m wondering when the Amazon bubble will burst. How can it generate such profits when there is the overhead of the first, large storage facilities, ppl to fetch, package and deliver, (fleet maintenance) and the cost to repackage every single item in fifty yards of air pack, Brown paper and bubble wrap, then a huge, brand new box? We must really be killing the environment now. At least when we went to the store, we avoided all the repackaging. Yeah, it’s damned convenient, but at what real cost? I think it’s only profitable because they’re not being taxed..or providing a decent living for employees..

    • muselet

      I don’t know that the Amazon bubble will burst, at least until someone makes e-commerce easier/cheaper/more convenient/whatever. Brick-and-mortar retailers got blindsided by Amazon and even now have no effective response. For the foreseeable future at least, retail will continue to migrate online.

      And e-commerce is now such a small part of Amazon’s overall operations that if it went away tomorrow, the company wouldn’t notice (customers and affiliate vendors sure would, though). Amazon Web Services is the company’s real revenue generator.

      Having a large retail operation means a lot of overhead and a lot of wasted materials, and a lot of underemployed and/or under-compensated employees, and that’s true of brick-and-mortar retail, too (we end consumers don’t see the night crews or the mountains of boxes and packing peanuts, and reams of paperwork needed to stock a store). I doubt Amazon is more than a couple of percent more wasteful than Target or WalMart.

      I hasten to add, your concerns aren’t unreasonable, but they’re more universal than you might think.


  • muselet

    • More tax cuts for those who are have the most. Quelle surprise.

    • Digital services taxes, as I’ve said before, make sense. No wonder the Trump administration hates the very idea.

    • It doesn’t surprise me that retail sales are down, but I think it has less to do with online shopping than with low-level economic anxiety. I have no real evidence for that, it’s just a wild-arse guess.

    • I came across this a few days ago. It’s a Scots-Irish traditional that’s often sung at the end of a gathering of friends (or so says Wikipedia).

    Have a good weekend, all.