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File image of Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Baldonnel Business Park, Dublin Alamy Stock Photo
Kenny's Bookshop

‘Swallows up competition’: Galway bookshop ‘fearful’ for sector’s future ahead of Amazon.ie launch

Online retail giant Amazon is set to launch an Irish website and online store in 2025.

LAST UPDATE | 10 May

 

A LEADING IRISH bookshop has warned that Amazon will “swallow up the competition” when it launches an Irish website and online store next year.

Amazon made the announcement yesterday and said it will mean faster delivery and return times for customers and do away with additional customs fees and currency conversion charges.

In 2022, Amazon launched a “fulfilment centre” in Dublin, which is a warehouse where incoming orders are received, stored, packed and shipped out to customers.

This sped up delivery times within Ireland.

“We view it as very serious competition,” said Tom Kenny, director of Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway.

While Kenny remarked that “competition is not a bad thing”, he added that Amazon.ie is “certainly going to have a major impact on Irish bookshops”.

GI8GtdXW8AAb4lg File image of Kenny's Bookshop in Galway

“Amazon is a behemoth, an absolute monster that kind of swallows up a lot of competition,” Kenny told The Journal.

“Even if you’re working with them, they keep changing the rules as you’re going along.”

‘Fear for the book business’

Yesterday, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Peter Burke said he was “delighted to see Amazon continuing to grow its presence in Ireland”.

“The launch of an Irish store will provide a significant platform for Irish SMEs to expand their online presence and grow their business,” Burke added.

However, Kenny claimed that “Burke doesn’t seem to know much about small businesses in this country” and voiced concern for those who will join the platform.

“If you’re joining Amazon, you have to work by their rules,” said Kenny, “and they take a big percentage of whatever you sell through them.

“It’s a big platform and it has its uses, we’ve been working with them as well for a very long time, but they keep changing the rules.

“We’ve been working for, and against, Amazon for a long time and we know the kind of power they will have and that’s why I fear for small, independent bookshops in this country.”

As of 2020 in the United States, Amazon controlled more than 50% of the print book market and over 80% of the e-book market.

Kenny also remarked that when Amazon launched as an online book retailer in 1995, there were close to 6,000 independent bookshops in the US, but fewer than 2,000 remain today.

“The figures in the UK are not quite as stark,” said Kenny, “but they’re not good since Amazon’s UK domain was set up.”

‘We’re passionate about books’

Kenny added that places like his are “interested in books” and doubted that Amazon has “any interest in authors or individual titles”.

“We host authors all the time and we had three here yesterday signing their books.

“Books are not just commodities for us, we’re passionate about them.”

Kenny added that he hopes the “patriotic movement” of the pandemic can be maintained amid the launch of Amazon.ie

“When the lockdown came with COVID, a lot of bookshops simply had to close,” said Kenny.

“But a lot of them went online and stayed in business as a result.

“At the same time, there was this huge kind of patriotic movement that we must buy Irish, buy local, we should support our local traders and that worked very much to the advantage of bookshops.

“Competition is not a bad thing, but this is certainly going to have a major impact on Irish bookshops, some of whom live and work on very fine margins a lot of the time.”

‘It’s called the internet’

Kenny’s Bookshop claims to be the first Irish company to set up a website, and the second bookshop in the world to have an online presence.

The website launched in 1994, a year before Amazon made its debut as an online bookseller.

Recalling how they got online so early, Kenny said he was approached by a man who was setting up websites and wanted to start with a Galway business that was “camera friendly and looks decorative”.

“I told him ‘what are you talking about?’ And he replied, ‘it’s called the internet’.”

In a statement to The Journal, an Amazon spokesperson said small and medium-sized businesses account for more than half of all physical product sales on Amazon, which include books.

The spokesperson added: “The launch of a dedicated store in Ireland will provide great opportunities for small and medium sized Irish businesses to reach customers both at home and abroad.

“Over 1,000 small and medium sized Irish businesses already sell on Amazon, and generated over €150 million in export sales in 2022 alone.”

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