Monday, 01 April 2019 15:43

Let Us Compete
By Lary Sinewitz | BrandsMart USA

Over the past 38 years, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the internet has changed the retail ecosystem. We’ve adapted to an industry which has transformed significantly, forcing us to contend with brick-and-mortar and online retailers around this country and the world. In terms of competition, I ask nothing more than the ability to do so on a level playing field. However, as e-commerce boomed, a glaring disparity positioned my business and other Florida retailers at a significant disadvantage to online and out-of-state competitors. Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition and support Florida-based businesses, jobs and communities.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decades-old decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales tax when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence. Upon this reversal, most states immediately amended their sales tax rules which subsequently forced out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes. Florida is now the largest state that has failed to make this modification.

We believe BrandsMart USA offers the lowest prices possible, but currently we are burdened with 6 to 8 percent tax that out-of-state retailers do not collect. We have thus far been hindered by a loss in profit dollars which affects all areas of our company, from expansion to employee compensation. Even more devastating, these out-of-state retailers offer nothing by way of support towards our state infrastructure.

The U.S. Supreme Court passed the responsibility directly on states to enact laws ending this disparity and our leaders in the state Capitol should waste no time in ending this unfair and unwise practice. More than 30 states have already adopted legislation requiring remote sellers to pay sales taxes, including many of our southern neighbors. We must do the same.

Florida law already addresses remote sales, so adopting comprehensive sales tax legislation would not result in a new state tax or tax increase. In fact, these taxes have always been due, but the duty falls on the consumer, who rarely reports it. This is about modernizing our tax code which has already designed the basic structure. This would streamline our system and bolster our position as one of the most business-friendly states in the country.

The importance of closing this loophole cannot be underemphasized. Its presence negatively impacts in-state businesses as well as our communities. The retail environment has evolved and so must the laws that govern it. Florida should be a place where free markets reign and businesses thrive. Implementing e-fairness should be the first step in creating that reality.

Lary Sinewitz is the Executive Vice President of BrandsMart USA.

Monday, 01 April 2019 15:19

Over the past several years, Florida’s retailers have faced remarkable challenges as they navigate through a fast-changing world.

Through it all, the retail industry has shown great resiliency and has asked for little more than a level playing field.

Unfortunately, as e-commerce boomed, a glaring disparity positioned our members and other Florida retailers at a significant disadvantage to online and out-of-state competitors.

Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition and support Florida-based businesses, jobs and communities.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decades-old decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales taxes when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence.

Upon this reversal, most states immediately amended their sales tax rules which subsequently forced out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes. Florida is now the largest state that has failed to make this modification.

As a result, our members are burdened with a 6-8 percent tax that out-of-state retailers do not collect and have thus far been hindered by a loss in sales which affects all areas of their company, from expansion to employee compensation.

Even more disturbing, these out-of-state retailers offer nothing by way of support toward our state infrastructure.

The U.S. Supreme Court passed the responsibility directly on states to enact laws correcting this disparity and our leaders in the state Capitol should waste no time in ending this unfair and unwise practice.

More than 40 states have already adopted legislation or regulations requiring remote sellers to collect and pay sales taxes, including all our southern neighbors. We must do the same.

Florida law already addresses remote sales … this is not a new tax. These taxes have always been due, but the duty falls on the consumer, who is largely unaware of the obligation and rarely reports it.

This is about modernizing our tax code, streamlining our system, and bolstering our position as one of the most business-friendly states in the country.

The importance of closing this loophole cannot be underemphasized. The retail environment has evolved and so must the laws that govern it.

Florida should be a place where free markets reign and businesses thrive. Implementing e-fairness would be a giant step toward creating that reality.

R. Scott Shalley is the President & CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019 10:57

Justice Reform and the High Price of Organized Retail Crime
by R. Scott Shalley

Organized Retail Crime (ORC) is a term that retailers are very familiar with, but consumers may not be. It refers to coordinated attempts by professional thieves to steal merchandise and resell it on the black market. There are hundreds of ORC rings throughout Florida, and the people involved in these groups are knowledgeable about what items promise the highest return. They also familiarize themselves with the financial threshold that elevates these crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony. This year the Florida legislature will consider increasing the felony threshold by as much as 400 percent.

Professional shoplifting and ORC rings cost Florida’s retail industry more than $2 billion annually while state and local governments nationally lose an estimated $1.6 billion in annual sales tax revenue. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), three top ten cities for ORC are in Florida: Miami (#3), Orlando (#8) and Ft. Lauderdale (#10). Compounding the problem is that, according to shopliftingprevention.org, shoplifters are caught an average of once every 48 times they steal. The impact of these crimes are higher prices, diminished tax revenues and lost jobs. What’s more concerning is proceeds from retail theft are used to supplement gang activity, crime, drugs and human trafficking.

The Florida Retail Federation’s opposition to increases have been painted as Draconian; however, our concerns relate to the plague of ORC and repeat offenders. Throughout FRF’s 80 years of retail advocacy, we’ve supported justice reform initiatives including diversion programs and initiatives designed to keep one-time offenders out of jail. First-time offenders or youth should not be branded as felons for one indiscretion. However, laws should deter retail theft and prosecutors should have discretion to punish those who exploit the law.

Supporters of increasing the threshold cite statistics from a Pew Charitable Trusts Report which states that increasing the felony threshold does not impact the frequency of thefts that occur in stores. However, the experience of our members contradicts the Pew Report’s findings. The 2018 NRF Organized Retail Crime Survey showed that retailers in states where the felony threshold increased are experiencing increases in ORC case value. Apparently, ORC criminals understand the new threshold and have increased thefts to meet it. Keeping the value of a single “haul” under that limit means they are quickly back on the street. Make no mistake, those who partake in organized retail crime understand the ramifications of these thresholds.

During this legislative session, we are eager for our members to discuss the impact of ORC with legislative leaders. It is our priority to ensure that reform efforts do not adversely affect our efforts to fight ORC.

The Florida Retail Federation understands the challenges of our judicial system and the impetus for reform. However, at some point the rule of law matters and the label of felon fits the crime. We look forward to working with the bill sponsors Legislature to find fair solutions while providing Florida’s 270,000 retailers the protection they deserve.

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R. Scott Shalley is President/CEO of the Florida Retail Federation and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..