FINANCE

RILA applauds introduction of streamline sales tax bill

BY CSA STAFF

Arlington, Va. New legislation introduced in the House by Representative William Delahunt (D-MA) could provide an infusion of revenue for states struggling to balance their books without raising taxes, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

The bill, the Main Street Fairness Act of 2010, will also address the nearly two decades of disparity between traditional “brick- and-mortar” retail stores and online-only retailers that in most cases are not required to collect sales taxes from their customers.

Rep. Delahunt’s federal legislation plans to address this by giving Congress’ consent to the simplified sales-tax collection system adopted currently by 23 states to ensure the fair and equitable collection of sales taxes across the board, RILA said.

“This legislation is an important step forward for both our economy and retail industry, which employs nearly 15 million workers across the country,” said Joe Rinzel, VP for state government relations. “Leveling the playing field ensures that all Main Street businesses do not continue to face a significant competitive disadvantage by having to collect taxes on their sales, while Internet-only businesses escape that responsibility. This is an issue of fairness for both businesses and consumers.”

Antiquated rules currently allow online retailers without a “physical presence” in a state to skirt the obligation of collecting state sales taxes. However, online transactions are still subject to each state’s respective sales tax. This loophole puts the burden on the consumer to report the sales tax owed from an online transaction on their state income tax return–a confusing burden largely unknown or overlooked by most consumers come tax season, RILA said.

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NCR expands Blockbuster Express kiosks in the South

BY CSA STAFF

DULUTH, Ga. NCR Corp. announced the expansion of its Blockbuster Express-branded DVD kiosks in Tennessee and the mid-South with a deployment at Mapco Express convenience stores.

Mapco Express currently operates more than 400 locations in nine states across the Southeast.

 

“Mapco Express customers throughout the southern United States will now have quality entertainment choices available to them at any hour of the day,” said Alex Camara, Vp and general manager, NCR Entertainment. “Convenience stores across the country are recognizing that conveniently-located Blockbuster Express kiosks improve the everyday shopping experience of customers.”

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Cautiously, Lowe’s chief looks ahead

BY CSA STAFF

What’s it going to take for a robust recovery in the home improvement industry? According to Lowe’s CEO Robert Nibllock, two things — home prices must bottom and the job market must improve. When is that likely to happen? Next year, “in all likelihood,” he said.

Niblock made his remarks at the recent Jefferies & Co. Global Consumer Conference in Nantucket, Mass., where he told investors that the company is beginning to see some encouraging signs. Not only did the first quarter present the first positive comp-store number in 15 quarters, he also pointed out that 21 of the company’s 23 regions had positive comps. Gulf coast regions facing difficult comparisons with quarters bolstered by hurricane-related spending were the only exceptions, he said.

The second quarter of 2010, however, won’t have the twin benefits of Cash for Appliances program or the Homebuyer Tax Credit, which expired April 30. And one other thing: the first quarter had ideal weather for home improvement retailing.

 

“We still think that there’s some headwinds out there that make us cautiously optimistic as we look over the balance of the year. Particularly, we think consumers are closely monitoring housing value trends, as well as the employment landscape,” Niblock said.

 

Niblock and his team have studying consumer patterns very carefully in this year of transition, and the overall picture looks better than last year.  “We think overall, as we look out into the future, consumers are less cautious than they were previously for the U.S. economic outlook,” he said. “I think they believe that the worst of the financial crisis and the impact of the recession that we’ve been through is behind them, but they still know that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

 

Cost containment will play a major role in the success of the company during the transition year — and the company’s new (rolled out in the third quarter) Facilities Servie Associate (FSA) positions are designed to provide an in-house alternative to outsourced facility management. “We decided that by hiring our own dedicated person, doing ti in-house versus outsourcing it on a contract basis, we could get better executing, quicker response to issues that take place and ultimately a lower cost.”

Next year, the company intends to reap benefits from what it calls its Integrated Planning and Execution (IP&E) — enhanced product assortment and replenishment systems — “to make sure that we improve our local assortments and make very sure that we have the right product in the right market at the right time.”

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