Local retailers want level playing field

Local retailers want level playing field
Local retailers want level playing field

Local retailers say their online competitors have a competitive advantage because there is no city or state sales tax for many online purchases.

"Online retailers need to be paying the same sales tax that brick and mortar does because schools matter. Our roads matter. Our police and fire matter. We need that to be equal," said Cindy Dach, who owns the Valley's two Changing Hands bookstores.

Dach's opinion should matter because small retail businesses like Changing Hands are an economic powerhouse in Arizona. They are also shedding jobs because of online competition.

The retail sales sector employs 67,450 people in the Valley. That is second only to customer service jobs, which employ 69,170, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"We have a proliferation of operations centers, data centers and call centers," said Jonas McCormick, who is the managing partner of Arizona's Deloitte office.

McCormick says those jobs are good, but they are not necessarily careers. To attract more career jobs, he argues that the state needs to convince more big businesses to move their headquarters to Arizona.

"The problem is, as the fifth largest city in the U.S., we only have four Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Arizona," said McCormick.

In comparison, Ohio is home to 25 Fortune 500 companies. Minnesota has 18. Tennessee has 11. Even Oklahoma, with a relatively small population base, has five.

McCormick contends that the number of big companies that call a state home makes a big difference in the number of diverse career jobs in that state.

"You've got bankers, accountants, lawyers and consultants that serve those companies. If those companies aren't here, those service sectors, attorneys, accountants, consultants aren't here either," said McCormick.

The challenge is to balance the incentives needed to attract new business to Arizona, with the need to keep homegrown businesses competitive.

Dach says the government needs to innovate, but so do small businesses. She uses what is normally considered a "disadvantage" in retail as an "advantage."

"We have an advantage of being in a building," said Dach.

Her bookstores regularly hold community events, which bring in shoppers.

"I can bring award winning authors and famous rock musicians, who will come in and sign books and meet the community and you can't do that online," she said.

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