Amazon hits back at Hammond’s digital tax with high street venture

Emily Nicolle
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The first store opens in Manchester today, with a space in central London set to follow later this year
The first store opens in Manchester today, with a space in central London set to follow later this year (Source: Amazon)

Amazon is launching a programme to help digital businesses find success on the high street, with a series of pop-up stores across the UK.

The move follows comments from chancellor Philip Hammond that the tech giant and other online behemoths hold a “near-monopoly” over physical stores, contributing to retail's economic downturn.

The e-commerce giant will open 10 shops in the UK as part of a year-long pilot, which will be monitored by an independent research firm.

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A report will then be compiled and submitted to the government, after which Amazon hopes MPs will support its initiative. If successful, the scheme could be expanded globally.

Hammond pledged in the October budget to apply a tax to digital services giants such as Amazon and Google, in order to “level the playing field” between physical and online retailers.

The stores will house products from over 100 small online businesses. A spokesperson told City A.M. Amazon will not make a profit from the scheme, and that it was designed to fill spaces on British high streets left empty by the retail crisis.

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Organised in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Amazon will also make available a £1m fund to train more than 150 full-time apprentices.

“UK shoppers like to shop both online and in high street stores, and our intention is to help small businesses succeed by combining the best elements of online and high street retail,” said Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation.

“This new concept will provide small businesses with the space, technology and support to experience physical retail for the first time, while enabling customers to discover new brands on their local high streets.”