published Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Retail coalition launches anti-Amazon television ad

Katherine Braun sorts packages toward the right shipping area at an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Goodyear, Ariz., in this Associated Press file photo. Some Tennessee lawmakers object to Amazon not paying sales taxes on products that will be shipped from its Hamilton and Bradley fulfillment centers.
Katherine Braun sorts packages toward the right shipping area at an Amazon.com fulfillment center in Goodyear, Ariz., in this Associated Press file photo. Some Tennessee lawmakers object to Amazon not paying sales taxes on products that will be shipped from its Hamilton and Bradley fulfillment centers.

NASHVILLE — A coalition of “big-box” retail giants and mom-and-pop businesses took to the television airwaves today with a 30-second ad attacking a state sales-tax collection exemption for online retailer Amazon.com.

The move by Virginia-based Alliance for Main Street Fairness, members of which range from Wal-Mart to small businesses like Fish Mania in Chattanooga, comes as the group seeks to build public support for legislation against what an agreement struck by Tennessee last year to persuade Amazon to build two distribution centers in Chattanooga and Bradley County.

“Who gets hurt when out-of-state companies get special deals to come to Tennessee, and get a competitive advantage over local businesses?” the ad asks. “Tennessee small businesses, that’s who. Every retailer on every Main Street pays the price. The price is lost jobs. Let’s protect those jobs. Call your legislators.Tell them to stand with Main Street, and vote yes to stop the special deal for Amazon.com.”

Mike Cohen, a spokesman for the group, had no immediate information on where the ad is airing and how much the Alliance is spending. He said some 500 businesses have joined the Alliance for Main Street Fairness. The group recently ran ads in major newspapers outside Chattanooga.

Earlier in the day, executives with Alliance members with Best Buy and AutoZone as a Knoxville book store owner and Nashville jeweler testified for a bill that seeks to require Amazon and other online-only retailers with warehouse facilities in Tennessee to collect the sales tax.

The state charges a 7 percent sales tax on most items and local governments can levy up to 2.75 percent on top of that. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers say that gives online-only merchants a nearly ten percent price advantage over them.

No action was taken on the bill, which has been deferred until next week. The House Finance Subcommittee could take up the measure on Wednesday.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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joeguy said...

Mr Cohen and the Alliance members that claim local business will lose jobs because of this tax deal are simply ignorant. They want you to think that this is a bad deal for us so that we tell the legislators to support them. It is a lie as I see it. Amazon will create THOUSANDS of jobs and broaden the local tax base — especially sales tax — thus increasing the success of our community and the small businesses here. Local business will not lose. The big brick and mortar stores like Best Buy and Autozone are going to lose sales to Amazon regardless of where they put their distribution centers. Do not be fooled into thinking that those big companies care one bit about your small business. Walmart, Best Buy, Autozone, etc all care about their sales and have done more to hurt small business owners in our communities than they ever have helped. How many mom and pop pharmacies, car parts stores, electronic shops, book stores, etc, still exist around here? It is my opinion that Mr Cohen and his Alliance members want you to believe bogus information about the real facts in this debate. The fact is you or I can NOT buy from Amazon without using the internet and we can not walk into the distribution center to shop. It is NOT a store. Best buy, Autozone, have stores. That is a huge difference.

Mr Cohen/Alliance members, if Best Buy or Autozone wants my support on this issue, then they need to create the same number of permanent jobs in our region that Amazon will. If your concerns are so genuine and honestly about protecting jobs, then create them with your member businesses.

May 10, 2011 at 6:23 p.m.
midnitewatchman said...

Shopping is changing its face. Rather than get in my vehicle and pay outragous gas prices to go wait in line at a retail store, I can order online from the comfort of my home and wait a couple of days. There will always be a need for grocery stores, pharmacies, etc, but the retail and their bait and switch days are coming to end. Virtual Malls will be a reality.

May 10, 2011 at 11:09 p.m.
kirton said...

I think that this issue contention is moot. Previous articles in the paper have clearly shown the Superior Court's decision that these distribution centers do not constitute retail. This meant to the justices that sales tax does not apply and therefore the agreement with Amazon is valid and justified. It has been said that the agreement was done "behind closed doors" and w/o public comment. This is often how businesses are courted. These centers represent warehouses, not stores. I pay tax like everyone else when I buy from Amazon. There is no reason to institute tax on the mechanism of getting the product to buyers. This issue should not even be on the table--those who support the 30-second ad are courting not 'tax fairness' but the same result as our neighbor state got. They brought up the tax issue, Amazon left. This would be folly to not learn from the clear lesson learned by that state.

May 11, 2011 at 7:07 a.m.
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