Loss of Speed at Christmas
According to a study by Bonial, a company specializing in digital marketing, 47% of French people planned to do their Christmas shopping through Amazon, six points less than a year ago; the dolphin, Leclerc, advances four points. “Whenever there are strong tensions of purchasing power, people go back to what they already knew for a long time, that is, the stores”, analyzes Laurent Landel, president of Bonial.
The giant with 9 billion euros in revenues in France can be proud of the creation of 3,000 permanent contracts and a historic Black Friday Week in 2022, the pitfalls in its path were numerous this year. In Rouen and Belfort, it had to give up two gigantic warehouses, pushed to the limit by environmental NGOs and angry residents.
“Fewer and fewer communities are willing to host an Amazon warehouse”
The systematic contestation of these organizations forces the giant to adapt. “The local authorities are less and less in favor, for fear of mobilizations that delay the establishment”, notes Nicolas Raimbault, a geographer at the University of Nantes specializing in logistics.
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“Their strategy is to develop delivery agencies, which are smaller and therefore more complicated to legally challenge,” explains Etienne Coubard, mobilization officer for Friends of the Earth, one of the protestant NGOs. This limits your legal costs and improves your services to deliver faster.”
A new giant warehouse built discreetly
But even there, Amazon appears to be pulling back: The e-commerce leader opened just eight delivery locations in France in 2022, up from an average of 11 in recent years. At the same time, the giant is preparing to open a new giant warehouse near Beauvais from 2024. Built “blank” by a developer, it managed to escape the surveillance of environmental activists.
This year, the external protest of the militants was added to the internal protest of the employees. The strongest shock came in the spring of 2022 during the Annual Binding Negotiations (NAO).
“Looks like nothing is going to make them back down”
All unions called a strike to demand a 5% wage increase. “It was a bit surprising, we’re not used to having so many people”, acknowledges Alain Jeault, CGT’s central delegate. Ultimately, Amazon stood its ground and raised wages by 3.5%. Rates of increase above the average observed this year in France, hammers the company. The minimum wage at Amazon barely exceeds 11 euros an hour. “We have the impression that nothing is going to make them back down”, sighs Laurent Cretin, central delegate of the CFE-CGC.
Victim of this troubled period, the brand new director of human resources Grégoire Ast, coming from Valeo, is then called to pack his bags. “He thought he was revolutionizing the industry, but realized he had no way of influencing company policy,” says Laurent Cretin. He is replaced by Jon Scott, an Amazon executive.
Fine of 3.3 million euros
Brandishing an internal audit, the company recalls that 8 out of 10 employees say they are satisfied with their work at Amazon. The multinational haphazardly cites the attribution of bonuses, the development of training programs and the 11 million euros invested for the well-being of its employees in 2021. “There is no perspective. I went back to a position and I’m still there”, replies Alain Jeault, from the CGT. Of the giant’s 16,000 employees in France, only 500 have been there for over 10 years.
In December, legal disputes further clouded the picture. The DGCCRF (Directorate-General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Control), the State service responsible for defending consumer rights, fined Amazon €3.3 million for violating the right of its third-party sellers (inability to contact the your customer after purchase, unbalanced terms for terminating your contract with Amazon, etc.) between late 2021 and April 2022.
“We remain in disagreement with the DGCCRF on its conclusions, its decisions and the sanction. We are contesting each one of them in court”, warns Amazon. Rémy Slove, spokesperson for the DGCCRF, responds: “Compared to what they were accused of, they complied, but that doesn’t prejudge what might happen in the future. We remain very attentive.” The storm of 2022 is not over yet, but the clouds – black? – from 2023 are already approaching.