Retailers War on Christmas

Time for a discussion about a real battleground on Christmas: the store.

It does not matter where that store is — online or offline, it is the same. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking retailers of today or retailers a century ago. Past or present, the only real war that has been waged relative to Christmas has been the one for the dollars.

The cry this year stems from retailers who have forgotten that Black Friday falls on a Friday or that a day-after-Thanksgiving sale can’t be called that if it takes place on Thanksgiving.

When some protest evolved last year, culminating with a threatened strike that fizzled at Walmart, retailers took the cue that there’s really nothing about Thanksgiving as a holiday that is sacred: except that it is a great time to hold a sale, all in the name of Christmas.

Kmart used to own the Thanksgiving day shopping business. Opening early in the morning, closing for afternoon “Turkey time” and re-opening during the evening hours had been a Kmart tradition for several years. Now they have to compete with Walmart, Target, JCPenney and even Macy’s, who are approaching the 100 year anniversary of hosting the annual Thanksgiving Day parade, and all of which now tout Thanksgiving day and evening as the start of their Black Friday sales.

It used to be folks would line up for 4am sales at these stores. If they wait until then this year, they will miss it.

Retailers say two things about these trends: first, this is what the customer wants. Indeed, the protests this year are smaller and we’re betting the media will cover the elbow-throwing of Thanksgiving night better than they have of Black Friday morning over the years.

But retailers also claim they have no choice but to do this because the computer, tablet and smart phone never stop selling. The “e-Tailers” of the world (Amazon, Apple, etc) can sell on Thanksgiving without controversy and have done so now for years. Old fashioned stores say they have to do this to compete.

But it goes oh so deeper than that.

Winding its way through Congress right now is a bill called the Marketplace Fairness Act.

We have to be careful with how they name these new laws. Does anyone ever call Obamacare by the “Affordable” Care Act anymore? It’s the same thing with the innocent sounding Marketplace Fairness Act — a wolf in sheep’s clothing if there ever was one.

The bill would require any business, large or small, selling product at retail online to collect taxes for all 50 states.

Think about that for a minute. You go to Amazon on Thanksgiving Day to get one of their big deals and depending upon where you say you live — or, rather, where your credit card reveals where you live — you will pay more for an item than it is listed.

Big deal, right? Sales taxes are a part of life, correct?

Not if you’re living in Newport Beach where you’ll pay about 10 percent more for that great deal than say, anyone in Delaware — which doesn’t have sales tax at all.

What are sales taxes used for? Well, any city or state will tell you that sales taxes go to support the infrastructure where that business is located.

This, says retail groups, is fair.

What they don’t say is that an Internet based retailer working from the middle of nowhere in low-cost Nevada will have to hire expensive attorneys and accountants to defend itself from auditors from…oh, all fifty states. Those doing business online will have to report sales from each zip code and prove to auditors they are being truthful about the taxes they collect. What is that going to cost and who is going to pay for it?

And what about those big boys — such as Walmart, Kmart, Target, JCPenney, Sears, etc — who have both online and offline operations? Won’t they, in fact, just get stronger?

Yes, there is a real battle going on here and at the very center of it is the tiny little holiday they claim makes all this necessary.

And until consumers learn the simple lessons of Dr. Seuss the madness only deepens.

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