Wish, persistent purveyor of oddities, fetish fuel, and a seemingly endless collection of mostly made-in-China cheapie junk, is moving their inventory into small, local businesses near you.
Wish built its empire by having suppliers in China ship directly to their customers, avoiding the need to receive, store, and deliver inventory stateside. It’s a slick, sneaky move that helped them keep their shipping costs down, thanks to a shipping subsidy. However, the Universal Postal Union, a branch of the United Nations responsible for international shipping rates, has recently done away with this subsidy, and now those shipping costs have doubled.
While Wish has been utilizing small businesses to sell their goods since January 2019, they now plan to expand their on-the-ground sales by pushing out their goods into small boutiques around the country. In doing so, they can bundle sales from China to circumvent the shipping laws and still not need to invest in warehouses or pay employees like Amazon.
So, does this help or hurt small businesses?
It’s an undeniable fact that small stores in the U.S. are hurting due to the pandemic. Perhaps they need this saving grace – this low-hanging fruit of inventory to stay afloat.
People aren’t out and about as much as they have been for obvious reasons. And when they are, they aren’t spending hours browsing in stores, either; most have a list or an idea of what they need and are in and out as quickly as possible. By acting as a Wish pickup location, small businesses will be able to attract people into their stores. Odds are, many of these people will splurge on an impulse buy or two since they’re already there.
Retail is already hard enough with the proliferation of online shopping. Maybe this is a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Amazon partnered with bigger chains to serve as pickup spots; at least Wish is offering the same opportunity to smaller stores.
This may also be beneficial for consumers as Wish is also known for its bargain prices. It is not merely cheaply made goods they’re selling; they are also selling them for cheap. With more people unemployed and underemployed than ever before, many customers are seeking those deals. According to Forbes, Wish has traditionally catered to those in the bottom 25% of household incomes, making it a good alternative to Amazon and other online retailers.
On the flip side, while I want our charming small stores to survive, my concern is that with Wish merch flooding the shelves of our local businesses that are in survival mode, there will be less room for the handmade, local, unique goods that these stores have built their name and reputations on.
Instead of bailing out these original stores with charm and personality, Wish may be turning them into thousands of tiny clones. Sure, I mean, if I needed loose, pink plastic panties that look like an upside-down shower cap, affordable “diamond” ring, or body part enlarging cream, Wish would have definitely have those. But if I want dollar store stuff, I will go to the dollar store. I’m not ready to see my charming local businesses carry that many cheap goods made in who-knows-where and under what conditions.
Many of us make the effort to shop at local stores because we want to support unique artists and makers. I want to feel good about buying my artisanal whatnots and take pride in paying a little more, knowing my purchase goes back to an individual who made it with passion.
Lest you think I’m picking on them, Wish is the 4th largest digital marketplace in the U.S., moving around 3 million items a day. They’re an $11 billion business, so I’m pretty sure they are too busy counting their money to have their feelings hurt. According to Forbes, it was the most downloaded shopping app in 2019. So, they’re laughing all the way to the bank, if you will. Wish is already utilizing 36k stores in the U.S. this way, with a goal of 100k by the end of 2020. Fingers crossed that this move actually provides a temporary lifeline for our favorite small businesses.