Main Street Stores Should Not Become Online Retailers’ Showrooms

In the flooring industry, we understand that customers are eager to find the best deal because purchases are large commitments. Our sales representatives are happy to guide customers through the process of selecting an appropriate flooring product, developing a budget, and coordinating professional installation.  But there’s a growing phenomenon: customers using our stores as “showrooms” to touch, feel and preview items—only to buy online to avoid paying sales tax.  It’s devastating brick-and-mortar businesses and clearly demonstrates the inherent flaws in the current sales tax system.

Our highly-trained associates take pride in providing the best customer service possible.  Whether it’s in sharing the latest hardwood flooring trends, bringing your vision for the family breakfast nook to life, or building your “green”, eco-friendly home—we’re here to help.  It’s a rewarding experience that relies both on the expertise of our floor specialists and expectations that they’ll share in customer excitement over the finished product.  But unfair online competition deprives local retailers of the final purchase and weighs heavily on their ability to stay in business.

As a 3,000-strong membership of community-based stores, our view is that the problem lies not with the customer, but rather the sales tax system. The existing framework gives online retailers a price advantage of as much as 10 percent because they are not required to collect sales tax at the time of purchase.  We are not asking for a handout.  We simply want all retailers to have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.bounce houses

Some states have taken steps to try to close the sales tax loophole and level the playing field, but changes at the state level are not enough. Federal action is necessary to make sales fair no matter where they occur. We want Internet retailers to collect sales tax at the point of sale just like community-based stores are obligated to do.  That’s why the World Floor Covering Association has joined with other organizations and companies in supporting the Marketplace Fairness Act and the Marketplace Equity Act.  The bills are in no-way “anti-Internet”, but instead seek to address fundamental unfairness in the marketplace.  As e-commerce continues its rapid growth, so too will the problem.

I encourage everyone to write their representatives in Congress to support sales tax fairness legislation.   Without federal action to close the online sales tax loophole, remote retailers will continue to benefit while brick-and-mortar stores are driven out of business.  And how would consumers benefit from that?Mickey Park Combo C4

Chris Davis is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), responsible for the entire scope of operations for the organization including overseeing legislative, educational and membership programs and developing strategic initiatives to represent the industry.  The WFCA is the floor covering industry’s largest advocacy organization representing flooring retailers, contractors and allied service providers throughout North America. 

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