COSTA MESA, CA (BRAIN)—A group of independent retail organizations and small business owners gathered to discuss common challenges including Internet sales at the first ever AIR (Advocates for Independent Retail) National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.
The National Bicycle Dealers Association helped organize the inaugural event, along with the American Booksellers Association and the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association.
NBDA executive director Fred Clements said that while the 60 or so attendees represented a variety of retail industries—from booksellers to toy/hobby stores to pharmacies to sporting goods stores—they all shared common interests and problems, one of the biggest being the impact of online competition in light of unfair taxation laws.
“A business with a physical store is required to collect sales tax where an Internet seller is not, so it’s not a level playing field,” said Clements, who attended the Jan. 18 event along with NBDA president Dan Thornton. “No one is arguing that the Internet is a bad thing….but there is an unfair loophole.”
While federal legislation requiring that Internet retailers collect sales tax has stalled, Clements said the ABA has made inroads into pushing legislation at the state level.
“Several states have enacted legislation to require Internet sales taxation in the absence of national legislation,” Clements said, adding that the American Booksellers Association has invested a lot of time and money to head up the effort. About a dozen states are considering Internet sales tax legislation this year.
Clements said NBDA members are alerted of any action taken on the issue and support efforts locally through letters to officials or by attending public hearings.
The other topic highlighted at the summit was the economic benefit of buying locally including results from a survey of 2,800 independent businesses that showed how money spent through a local retailer is more likely to stay in the community than dollars spent through a national or Internet retailer. A local business outsources work to other local businesses such as accounting; often buys supplies locally; advertises and markets locally; or supports local youth sports—all of which contributes to the economic growth of its surrounding community.
“It was very interesting to spend a day with organizations representing businesses with a lot of common interests to bicycle retailers,” Clements said. “This was framed as a communication forum to talk through and find common ground between different independent groups.”