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Ethics of cheap stuff

Having received the MSE newsletter for nearly two years, I wanted to ask Martin what he genuinely thinks about the situation on the High Street at the moment.

I notice that there are a lot of links to offers by Amazon on the website, and obviously Amazon are synonymous with cheap prices. But they have also engineered their tax arrangements so that despite taking £3.3bn in sales from the UK last year, they paid no tax on their profits (on a 3% profit margin). Even Tesco - everyone's favourite boogeyman for high street retailers - pays tax and employs hundreds of thousands of people in this country. Amazon employs about 2,000.

It may well be that this is the future and we'd better get used to it - and anyway Amazon are doing nothing 'illegal' in not paying tax. Also, their customers love them.

I had also better declare an interest - I'm a high street retailer. Maybe the High Street has had its day, and if everyone gets cheaper stuff, what's the problem? I'm just interested to know what you think just in case I should stop trying to innovate and struggle to keep my business going, if actually 'cheap' is king - and that's the message you are keen to give out via the newsletter.

I'm not trying to be facetious here - I genuinely think it's a debate. But from reading some of your recent posts on how we need to to think about people's mental health, about your campaign to educate people on financial matters, one thing from reading a lot of the forum posts is how many people are genuinely hard-up (as is the country in general, it seems).

So - should there be a slightly more ethical view about the businesses that offer us cheap? Should we take a simple view - cheap stuffs means we're all better off - or should we take a more sophisticated view, one that is more holistic and understands how everyone benefits in the medium term? Is it up to the tax authorities - and us mere mortals shouldn't worry too much about the long-term impacts on our towns and communities?

I'd certainly appreciate your thoughts on this. As I say, I may just be a dinosaur and should hurry up and go extinct... ;)
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