Pandemic Gives Amazon an Increased Foothold in Italy

The lockdown led many to shop online

Amazon logo on a logistic center building
Italians are increasingly turning to Amazon instead of their local shops.
Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Reading about Amazon’s increasing presence in the world of retail can sometimes feel like the story of a giant who’s only getting bigger. For people skeptical of the company’s effects on the larger retail landscape — and of its tendencies towards monopoly — the ways in which European countries regulated Amazon have served as a bright spot. The idea that Jeff Bezos’s empire could exist without threatening the existence of smaller retailers is a welcome one.

Unfortunately, the pandemic may have changed all of that, at least in one country which had previously kept the retail giant’s influence to a minimum. A new article at The New York Times by Adam Satariano and Emma Bubola explores how Amazon’s business in Italy grew as a result of the quarantines put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Italians have traditionally preferred to shop in stores and pay cash,” the Times writes. “But after the government imposed Europe’s first nationwide virus lockdown, Italians began buying items online in record numbers.”

Even after the lockdown ended, many Italians are continuing to buy via Amazon rather than going back to the shops they previously patronized.

Amazon has only had a presence in Italy since 2010, but the pandemic provided an opportunity for huge growth for e-commerce companies — what retailer Netcomm dubbed a “10-year evolutionary leap.” But the implications of Amazon gaining a steadily-growing foothold in the Italian economy are worrisome to many; according to the Times article, small- and medium-sized businesses comprise 67% of the Italian economy.

The article describes Amazon’s plans to expand its presence within Italy. Will its growth be a temporary occasion or a sign of something more to come? It’s a worryingly familiar narrative.

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