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Nov 28, 2019

Indigo CEO slams Amazon's 'anti-competitive' practices

There's no competing head-to-head with Amazon: Indigo CEO

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The chief executive officer of Canada’s largest book retailer says there’s no competing with Amazon.com, a company she says is “anti-competitive on so many levels.”  

“The extent of the non-competitive practices practiced by Amazon [is] outrageous,” Heather Reisman, CEO and chair of Indigo Books & Music Inc., told BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang Thursday.

“I think [Amazon] is anti-competitive on so many levels. They knock off products directly.”

“There is [also] the price they are willing to pay to market – it is not competitive,” Reisman added. “You cannot deal in world against Amazon.”

While Reisman looks to expand and transform her business, she says Indigo isn’t trying to compete with the e-commerce giant.

“We are making such fundamental shifts in how we play, what we do, what we deliver. Of course we’re going to have books and ideas at the core, but we are imagining Indigo as a balance to Amazon, not a competitor to Amazon.”

“There is no competing head-to-head on commodity product [against] Amazon,” she said.

In response to Reisman’s comments, Amazon downplayed concerns about retailers being unable to compete against the e-commerce giant.

“Our competitors include all the other online and brick and mortar stores that people shop at every day,” a company spokesperson said in an email to BNN Bloomberg. “The retail market we operate in is almost 25 trillion dollars, and Amazon represents less than one per cent of global retail. The vast majority of retail sales still occur in physical stores.”



Toronto-based Indigo, which operates more than 200 stores under various banners across Canada and one location in the U.S., has no doubt felt the impact of an increasingly competitive retail landscape.

Same-store sales, a key retail metric, fell eight per cent for the company’s second quarter ended Sept. 28. Indigo also reported lower revenue for the same period due to competitive pressures and its decision to avoid promotions in an attempt to boost profits.

“As many people know, we started a big transformation a few years ago,” Reisman said. “We had really good success with it and then we ran pretty much into what I call a brick wall, meaning our anticipation of the change was not big enough for how fundamentally the environment has changed for retail.”

As part of its ongoing effort to stay competitive, Indigo enlisted a new chief creative officer earlier this year to help reinvigorate the Indigo brand with new products, which are expected roll out next year.

The change came amid criticism that the retailer’s merchandise was starting to feel stale.

But Reisman said the company has only done “five per cent” of the change necessary to transform the business. She said Indigo’s focus is to offer items that customers won’t find on Amazon and noted its expansion in the U.S. is on hold as the company focuses on its core business.

“Indigo is under huge pressure, as are all retailers who do not depend on 100 per cent proprietary product that cannot find itself on Amazon,” Reisman said.