Clash Of The Titans: Walmart, Simon Property Group Funding 'Grassroots' Anti-Amazon Campaign
A nonprofit organization that has been highly critical of retail giant Amazon has reportedly been bankrolled by some of the company's biggest commercial rivals.
Claims by the 18-month-old Free and Fair Markets Initiative of "grassroots" support for its positions have also allegedly turned out to be exaggerated at best.
The entities that provided funding for the nonprofit include retailer and Amazon competitor Walmart, shopping mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. and software giant Oracle Corp., the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people involved with and briefed on the project.
Free and Fair Markets didn't comment for this article, but the organization did tell the WSJ that it is "focusing on the substantive issues and putting a spotlight on the way companies like Amazon undermine the public good," adding that other groups, including the media, activists and politicians, are also doing so.
Free and Fair Markets said it isn't obliged to disclose its funding sources, and thus would not. The WSJ did not report a dollar figure of how much the Amazon rivals may have put into the organization, though it did say that the communications firm that runs Free and Fair Markets initially asked for $250K from each supporting rival of Amazon.
Simon's interest in weakening Amazon is presumably that of a landlord looking to maintain the value of its physical retail space, while Oracle is competing against Amazon for a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract with the Pentagon.
Free and Fair Markets has asserted that Amazon's workers are mistreated, that Amazon is spying on people — especially children— through the Alexa device, and that the American people support breaking up behemoth tech companies like Amazon. It has also maintained that the retailer stifles consumer choice through monopolies, engages in deceptive lending practices and siphons off public funds for its own uses.
The organization has also set up, with the help of former Amazon workers, a hotline for Amazon workers to report unsafe working conditions.
The existence of this kind of "astroturf" organization highlights the fierce struggle between Amazon and its rivals, particularly Walmart.
Both companies are growing online, but Amazon is still king of that realm, Forbes reports. Walmart’s online sales grew 40% in 2018, making it the third-largest online retailer in the country. But it still trails Amazon, with the latter accounting for nearly half of all purchases made online.
On the other hand, Walmart is still dominant in the physical space. Last year, the retail giant earned $270B in grocery sales alone, making it the world's largest grocer. Amazon earned $20B last year from high-end grocer Whole Foods and its delivery services.