When Quebec PM Legault talked about a ‘Quebec Amazon’, I brushed it off as just another remark to please the Quebec nationalists listening. Most of these remarks are politician hyperbole that can easily be disregarded. Then the news became headline in the ROC (Rest of Canada) and then I realized they are serious. Premier Legault is open to the creation of a Quebec version of Amazon, which his economy minister Fitzgibbon described as a way to serve nationalist customers. Fitzgibbon went further than the premier, saying the province could “absolutely” invest in a Quebec platform, as long as it was sustainable. So they definitely discuss it. It’s interesting to note that the announcement comes only a couple days after Amazon announced a new $1 billion investment in Montreal.
What does a Quebec Amazon even mean? Whatever they are thinking it kind of sort of exists and it’s absolutely brutal: it’s called shooopping.ca and it’s really bad. I will spare you the link and your time. Shoooping.ca was founded by tech columnists François Charron, his version of David taking on Goliath. I can’t help to notice that it’s full of made in China goods.
I don’t know where to start on how ridiculous the idea of Amazon Quebec is. I get it; you want to help Quebec retailers against the online threat. Wrapping yourself in a flag might be a noble thing to do, but if the widget you are selling is $50 more than on Amazon, you are not helping yourself or anybody. What will help Quebec retailers is reviewing their business model, their brandings, marketing, their performance and strategy. Online shopping shouldn’t be a threat but a tool to thrive. Maybe the government can offer assistance on helping them make the transition online. There are things the government can do but creating a Quebec Amazon is ludicrous.
Amazon is a behemoth. It’s the global leader in online retail. It has infinite amount of things to sell at great prices and they deliver really fast. All of this cost billions to create and Amazon is not that profitable. You can’t just create a new “Amazon”. How do you create a nationalist website for a few million people? Retail is extremely tough, competitive, and the margins are low. If you end up with good margins, a competitor will take them from you. Amazon spends billions each year in new warehouses, enhancing delivery and customer experience. It’s very difficult. The Canadian retail landscape hasn’t adapted well to online shopping. To play the “Canadian nationalist” card, we have the Canadian Tire stores. Canadian Tire only recently started shipping at home but with a catch. It will cost you a lot in shipping and it will take a while to get your stuff. As a test, buying a snow blower on Canadian Tire would have cost me $100 in shipping while Amazon ships for me with Prime. The reality is that the cost in distributing, IT, and logistics is massive for such a small population to serve. Amazon can scale.
The premier told reporters he is concerned about the lack of Quebec-made products available on Amazon and wants to make sure the company isn’t just selling American products to Quebecers. Amazon is also a platform that invites third-party brands to sell their own products on its website. Quebec retailers can participate on Amazon “marketplace” and have access to the millions of Amazon clients. Walmart also operate marketplaces including third-party sellers. In Canada Loblaw is launching its own third-party marketplace which is an indication of the growing competition.
If it was that that easy everybody would just have their own Amazon, iPhone, and Google search engine.