During the Dust Bowl days, jalopies leaving the drought-ravaged plains would often carry a sign saying “California or Bust” as promises greener pastures out west lured dirt-poor farmers.
Now, the sign just needs a simple rewrite – “California IS bust.”
In the latest effort to drag the state out of the red, California will impose sales tax on internet purchases. Taxed now will be companies that do a $1 million in online business per year or more, whether they have a physical “bricks and mortar” store in the state or not.
Internet giant Amazon fought the tax tooth and nail. Small, “mom and pop” businesses in California fought for it, saying the lack of sales tax gave the mega retailers an unfair advantage.
Small online business will not be impacted, yet.
This all brings up an interesting point and poses the question “what is a mom and pop business?”
In the early days of the big box stores, small, locally owned shops wailed at the prospect of competing with the big boys. The little guys who were successful adapted to the new retail landscape and played to their strengths. Those that only complained shriveled up and died.
Then came the Internet. Again, main street America faced a challenger. Again, the landscaped changed. Again the herd was culled.
How does this relate to the situation in California? Well, we’re seeing the virtual retail landscape undergo the same shift seen earlier in our downtowns. The big box stores of the Internet like Amazon squaring off against the smaller “mom and pop” web businesses.
This all hits close to home and the lesson here is for our local retailers to see must continue to evolve. Superior customer service, flexible hours, unique merchandise, quality products, aggressive marketing and a web presence will go a long ways to assuring prosperity.
No effort to revitalize our downtown will succeed unless businesses are willing to set themselves apart from the crowded online and big box store marketplace.