Amazon’s business was on fire before Covid-19 but its sales surged again in lockdown and the company continues to grow at an extraordinary pace. Amazon has 22 warehouses in the UK, two more are set to open and the company is expanding its workforce by a third. Most of the new jobs will be “pickers” and “packers” at its warehouses. In the past the company has been criticised by unions for the way it treats staff but Amazon is promising private medical insurance, subsidised meals and hourly pay well above the national minimum wage. Amazon began life 26 years ago selling books and CDs, there’s now very little it doesn’t sell. Global Data calculates that £1 in every £3 that is spent online is spent on Amazon, and counting.
Spending was moving online before coronavirus but the pandemic has turned a migration into a stampede. Shopping habits changed during lockdown and look to have changed permanently, to the great advantage of tech companies and to the enormous disadvantage of many traditional retailers.
On Thursday, Costa Coffee became the latest high street name to announce plans to lay off staff. Most of Costa’s shops have reopened but sales have not recovered to pre-crisis levels - up to 1,650 jobs will go. It’s a reminder that we still face the prospect of a significant rise in unemployment in the months ahead.