Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attends the Amazon Prime Video's Golden Globe Awards After Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 6, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Emma McIntyre—Getty Images
By Alan Murray and David Meyer
March 1, 2019

Good morning.

Is Amazon killing the retail business?

Gap yesterday announced it was closing 230 retail stores, just a few hours after J.C. Penney said it was closing 27 stores, and a day after Victoria’s Secret said it was closing 53. These announcements bring total store closings this year to 4,500.

But here’s the thing: some of the biggest big boxes—Walmart, Target, Best Buy—had stellar fourth quarters. And I’d be willing to bet a $50 gift card that CEOs McMillon, Cornell and Joly would tell you that Amazon made them better. Those companies have become super-focused on their customers, understanding when and what they want to do online, and why they still might want to use a store. And they have profited as a result.

There is a budding school of thought out there, known as the “New Brandeisians” and led by a 29-year-old legal scholar named Lina Khan, that argues that Amazon’s bigness is, in and of itself, bad. I’m no Amazon groupie, and I share fears that a winner-take-most dynamic pervades the technology business. But in Amazon’s case, it’s hard to find the harm. Consumers clearly benefit from the Seattle company’s low prices, its transparency, and its convenience. And the best retailers are now learning how to use its data-obsessed methods to create their own competitive edge.

To be sure, as yesterday’s announcements shows, there will be people who lose jobs, and real estate that will go vacant. That’s creative disruption at work. But it’s not (yet) an argument for shackling the online giant. The case against Microsoft in the 1990s, or for that matter, Google today, is much stronger.

By the way, the Daily Beast reported earlier this week that Khan is being courted for a job by House Democrats—another sign of the Democratic retreat from market economics. A political era that dawned a half century ago, when Sen. Ted Kennedy teamed with now Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to push for airline deregulation, may be coming to an end.

More news below.

Alan Murray


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