It is “the biggest social plan in France”. Still, it would go almost unnoticed. The NGO Friends of the Earth condemns, in a report released Wednesday, the wave of job destruction caused by the development of e-commerce in France over the past ten years. According to his estimates, the net balance of jobs destroyed in France between 2009 and 2019 due to the impact of non-food e-commerce is nearly 85,000 jobs lost, including 3,800 in 2019, the last year for which data is available.
The NGO actually updated the figures it revealed in a previous report from 2020, which covered the period 2009-2018. At the time, 81,000 job losses had already been mentioned, with 114,000 net losses in non-food retail and 33,000 creations in wholesale.
According to Friends of the Earth, very small retail businesses (lost 7,600 jobs) and the clothing sector (4,800) pay the highest price. “For every job created in an online sales company with 50 or more employees, almost two were destroyed in the smallest companies in 2019,” the NGO laments.
This highlights new digitalization strategies implemented by brands, under pressure from e-commerce giants such as Amazon or Alibaba. “Now it is the international giants who are closing stores en masse in order to go online,” she explains in her report. She cites clothing experts as examples, such as Zara, which announced the closure of 1,200 stores worldwide to become digital, Gap, which closes all its stores in Europe and France, and H&M, which announced the closure of 170 stores.
“Until then, the digitalisation of large physical retail chains has created new jobs as new online activity has been added to existing in-store activity. Now that their online business has developed, these brands are closing their stores and laying off their employees in order to face the competition of the main players in online sales “, deciphers Etienne Coubard, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth.
Call for a moratorium
The sequel promises to be even worse, according to the non-governmental organization. Under the influence of Covid and restrictions, e-commerce accelerated in France. In 2020, online sales exceeded 10% of total retail sales. The E-Commerce Federation (Fevad) now estimates that 15%, or every sixth purchase, is achievable in the short term. Food cannot be surpassed, with the rise of “dark shops” and other online grocery stores.
This phenomenon was accompanied by the proliferation of warehouses throughout France. Important in the debate, the American giant Amazon stands out. The group already has 28 warehouses in France and, as Ronan Bolé, president of Amazon France logistics, recently told Echos, “we are opening a rate of five to ten new centers a year.”
Support for local businesses
The non-governmental organization points out that setting up these warehouses in agricultural, natural or semi-natural areas is detrimental to both employment and the environment, and requires the establishment of a moratorium. Otherwise, “e-commerce will continue to concrete the fields for building warehouses larger than the largest shopping centers in France,” she warns.
According to her, the only model that enables the coexistence of preserving employment and the environment and online trade is the digitalization of local stores. The latter “do not need new logistics warehouses for warehousing and delivery, because they already have a logistics network and will not significantly increase sales,” Friends of the Earth explains.