When Amazon mysteriously shifted its long-held strategy and agreed to start paying sales taxes to several states earlier this year, people wondered if the company was simply sick of fighting a constant battle against legislators. As it turns out, the shift in policy means the company can attempt to achieve the holy grail of online retail — same day shipping.
To be fair, Amazon has had “Local Express Delivery” available in several major cities for a couple of years now, but the Financial Times (registration required) reports that the company is taking advantage of its recent tax deals to expand its distribution presence, opening warehouses in new locations that will enable the company to bring the service to more customers. The publication claims that Amazon is spending hundreds of millions to open several warehouses in New York, New Jersey, California, Texas and Virginia, which would increase its same-day reach by tens of millions of possible customers.
Amazon wouldn’t comment on its plans, but critics — such as Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, who posted a lengthy, excellent essay on the topic — worry that same day delivery by Amazon could drive a nail into the coffin of small businesses in affected cities. Aside from the “Buy Local” marketing concept, one of the major advantages physical retailers have over online sellers is instant gratification. Amazon’s same-day delivery cuts into that; what’s easier, loading the kids into the car and heading downtown for diapers or ordering them on Amazon and having them appear on your doorstep hours later?
Of course, buying online isn’t quite instant gratification — looking at Amazon’s Local Express Delivery guidelines shows that you need to request same-day delivery fairly early in the morning in many cities — but it’s close. Do you think you’d tap into same-day delivery if Amazon brings it to your town?