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Amazon has ‘destroyed’ retail and should be scrutinized, Steven Mnuchin says

Richard Vogel | AP
Richard Vogel | AP
An Amazon logo is seen atop the Amazon Treasure Truck The Park DTLA office complex in downtown Los Angeles, Oct. 23, 2018.

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that he supported the Justice Department’s efforts to look into Amazon because the tech giant has “destroyed the retail industry.”

“I think if you look at Amazon, although there are certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States, so there’s no question they’ve limited competition,” Mnuchin said during an interview on CNBC. “There’s areas where they’ve really hurt small businesses.” (Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

Mnuchin made the comments one day after the Justice Department announced it was opening a wide-ranging antitrust review of “market-leading online platforms,” an unprecedented inquiry that could heighten calls for Amazon, Facebook and Google to be broken up.

Mnuchin is one of several former board members being sued by Sears Holding for allegedly stripping the retailer of billions of dollars as it spiraled into bankruptcy.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company’s retail revenue makes up less than 4 percent of domestic sales, and less than 1 percent globally.

“Small- and medium-sized businesses are thriving with Amazon,” she said in an email. “Today, independent sellers make up more than 58 percent of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totaling $160 billion in 2018.”

The company added that “the vast majority of retail sales — 90 percent — still occur in brick-and-mortar stores, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Asked if Amazon’s market dominance could be likened to Walmart’s a decade ago, Mnuchin said the cases were different.

“In a way it’s the same and in a way it’s different,” he said. “People had those concerns about Walmart. As you see, Walmart developed a business where small businesses could continue to compete with them. And look, Walmart ceded a lot of the retail business to Amazon.”

 



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