Germany’s Anti-Amazon Startup

For all its indisputable convenience and cost-saving Amazon’s business model has contributed to the shuttering of small businesses and a massive carbon footprint via its vast delivery network. One would think that this is the price we pay for hyper-efficiency, but one German company is hoping to challenge that formula.

As reports, a startup company is offering the same sort of online shop as Amazon, only instead its wares come from local stores, and are delivered the same day by bike, usually ridden by senior citizens (a large demographic in fast-aging Germany that can benefit from the extra income and exercise).

In the design firm’s new model, dubbed “Kizekaufhaus,” (roughly translated as “mall of the hood”) local stores join in a cooperative, each owning equal shares of the new online platform. The agency—which created the project on the side as a way to contribute to the community—also earns 10% of sales. With only 40 orders a day, they say the platform can break even.

For consumers, it’s a chance to keep the small businesses that they love afloat, and keep proceeds from sales tax in the community. “We all know the feeling of frustration if another of our beloved shops closes down,” Beyer says. “Our cities more and more look the same, plastered with the same stores of the same brands. A single store cannot afford to join the digital age and set up city logistics to compete. But a network of stores can. That’s what Kiezkaufhaus is.”

The site is “closed” on weekends to encourage people to shop at local stores in person when they have the time. It offers books, gifts, coffee, wine, and other groceries, and plans to add clothing, shoes, and other products in the future. The prices, the designers say, can stay competitive. “If we get the logistics right, we believe there’s even more variety and fair prices in local online shopping than in ‘big retail’,” says Beyer.

Pretty cool stuff. While I am not sure how sustainable the project is in the long-term, or whether it can work on a larger scale like Amazon, it is definitely a neat idea worth trying wherever feasible. Plus, both Google and Amazon are trying similar things with Google Express and Amazon Fresh, respectively, and a U.S. company called Postmates takes a similar approach, though known of these initiatives stick to bikes like Kiezhaufhaus does.

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