Downtown Minneapolis Retail News

Downtown - North Loop - Mill District - Elliot Park - Loring Park
min-chi-cbus
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby min-chi-cbus » December 6th, 2013, 10:12 am

Supporting a company like Amazon though is second-handedly destroying America as we know it, in my not so humble opinion. So be careful what you pay for (and where you pay for it)! Save now, pay [up the wazoo] later!!

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby mulad » December 6th, 2013, 11:05 am

Channel 4 (UK)'s "Gadget Man" series really reminded me of how wacky the electronics/gadget industry can be. A lot of the fun of it seems to have dissipated over the years -- I'm getting a bit frustrated that everything seems to be an iOS accessory these days (nevermind the fact that Android is outselling Apple, but the market is more fragmented and less organized).


I'm not sure what the right direction for Best Buy would be in the future, though I've always felt a bit confused about what the store was anyway. Does a downtown Best Buy need an appliance section, for instance? Probably a few things make sense (microwaves, vacuums, and other smaller items), but is that where you'd buy a stove? They could probably do a good business gearing something toward the architects and designers in and near downtown, but I'm not sure regular consumer sales should be their main target. Maybe a greater focus on office furniture and organization. Similarly, I'm not sure a downtown store would be the right place to buy your new 52" TV, since that wouldn't fit on a bus, though they wouldn't be too hard to move through the skyways.

They probably should have a visible Geek Squad presence downtown, for all the gadgets of the office workers. Certainly a lot of hardware gets supported by IT departments, but companies seem to be transitioning toward a "bring your own device" model where employees buy their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and it's hard to say who should support that hardware/software. Expert assistance might be provided for the IT departments too -- I've always wished the Twin Cities could get a Fry's Electronics, where it's possible to buy much more high-end computer hardware than what I've typically found at local shops. Consumer-grade computer equipment is pretty low-margin, but an urban store might be able to succeed with the higher-margin enterprise-class hardware often found in back-office situations (I'm not sure how many server rooms exist downtown, though -- a lot of that stuff is obviously shoved out to suburbs or even distant metro areas).

Anyway, I've mostly bought CDs and TV/movie DVDs/Blu-rays from Best Buy over the years, but they seem to be killing that off as purchases shift more and more online. I think that's generally been a loss-leader for them, though. A downtown store should probably focus on stuff that truly helps with productivity and organization -- how do you make people's offices and apartments less cluttered, for instance?

One part Ikea, one part Fry's, one part traditional Best Buy, one part Office Max... Something like that mixed with a place that provides really excellent purchasing guidance and support for existing stuff.

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mister.shoes
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby mister.shoes » December 6th, 2013, 11:16 am

mulad wrote:Something like that mixed with a place that provides really excellent purchasing guidance and support for existing stuff.
So, not a Best Buy then :twisted:
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FISHMANPET
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 11:24 am

min-chi-cbus wrote:Supporting a company like Amazon though is second-handedly destroying America as we know it, in my not so humble opinion. So be careful what you pay for (and where you pay for it)! Save now, pay [up the wazoo] later!!
The age of stores existing purely to get products in the hands of people is over. You can't compete with Amazon on price or selection. You can maybe compete on convenience, depending on what you mean by convenience.

But Amazon can't really compete on the human touch. You can't walk into an Amazon and hold a product and try it out and have someone knowledgeable tell you about it. And that's where brick & mortar can thrive. While Barnes & Noble is shutting down stores and basically is in a controlled dive, independent bookstores are doing well, partly because of what they can offer the community beyond just physically shoving product out the door.

So maybe supporting Amazon is destroying the America as we know it, but I don't think that particular part of our national ethos is all that great, so I'm OK with it going away and being replaced by something a bit more customer service focused.

mnmike
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby mnmike » December 6th, 2013, 12:03 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:But Amazon can't really compete on the human touch. You can't walk into an Amazon and hold a product and try it out and have someone knowledgeable tell you about it. And that's where brick & mortar can thrive.
Yes...Problem is, people do this, and then go buy the product online from somewhere else(Amazon). If they continue to do that, they won't have these brick and mortar stores to use for their "test drives" and questions anymore.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 12:08 pm

Some people do, though not all. I wonder if there are any numbers about it anywhere?

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby mnmike » December 6th, 2013, 12:12 pm

I wonder too...been mentioned in the news quite a bit the past couple years as a growing challenge.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby David Greene » December 6th, 2013, 12:14 pm

I only buy online as a last resort. I use Amazon to get reviews on a product and then see if I can find it locally.

The fact that Amazon doesn't collect sales tax means our transit system, among other things, is losing money it should be getting. I have paid use taxes in the past but I don't know if those go to the state exclusively or if they're divided up amongst the local jurisdictions.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 12:20 pm

Well NewEgg ran an entire advertising campagin about going to Best Buy to look at products and then buying them on Newegg.

In my high school days I worked at Best Buy one Christmas selling printers and printer ink, and I had at least one couple come in ask for me for help finding the right printer cartridge for their printer and once I found it they said they'd go buy it at Wal-Mart, so it's not exactly an online vs B&M problem.

Also not sure how you can combat that. The point of the B&M store should be to create value for the consumer, and some consumers will recognize that and reward it (like in that article I posted earlier about bookstores) but there will always be people that will just try and nickel and dime everybody to save as many absolute dollars as possible.

Back to Best Buy, I bought my wife a laptop a year or two ago from Best Buy. I could have gotten it at Amazon for a few bucks cheaper but I wanted to play with it in person first and get it right away, so I was willing to get it at Best Buy. The checkout process was so awful I was about ready to tell him nevermind and just order it from Amazon on my phone right there in the store out of spite. We spent 10 minutes signing me up for free anti-virus that I in no uncertain terms wanted. Everytime I think about it, I should have been more of an ass in that situation. I eventually just went along with it, but I really should have demanded to speak to a manager and refused to sign up for the Anti-virus (it required my address or something), and if the manager refused to not give me the anti-virus, I should have ordered it on Amazon right there.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 12:25 pm

As to sales tax, the fact that online stores don't collect sales tax means we should just abolish the sales tax and get that money somewhere else. It's too much of a bureaucratic nightmare to collect online sales tax and put everybody on a level playing field, I say just get rid of it and find some other way to fund things.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby twincitizen » December 6th, 2013, 12:31 pm

Totally anecdoctal, but:

I once tried to buy a vacuum at Best Buy, as they had it listed for the same price as Amazon ($130). I had Amazon Prime at the time, and would've gotten free 2-day shipping. I'm definitely a nickel & dimer, but I also share the values that David expressed above, not minding paying local sales taxes that benefit my community. I calculated what the sales tax burden would be (just under $10) and decided to go with Best Buy. I got there and Best Buy's "sale" had ended on the vacuum, now listed at $150, or $20 more than Amazon. Obviously Amazon won that purchase.

FMP: Is it really that much of a burden to calculate local sales tax? I'd think there would be a simple piece of software out there that would track local sales tax rates and provide that product (as a plug-in app or whatever) to businesses. Larger businesses like Amazon, Target (online sales), etc. obviously can afford to keep track of rates on their own. Amazon currently seems to handle this burden just fine in the many locales that make them collect sales tax. Didn't MN pass a law this year to start collecting online sales taxes? Or did that effort somehow fizzle out? I'm pretty positive it even had some Republican support. I did not pay sales tax on a recent Amazon purchase, so it's definitely not in effect yet. If I were to buy something from BestBuy.com (or Target), I'd have to pay sales tax because they are based in MN, so there is unfairness even between online retailers.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby David Greene » December 6th, 2013, 12:39 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:As to sales tax, the fact that online stores don't collect sales tax means we should just abolish the sales tax and get that money somewhere else. It's too much of a bureaucratic nightmare to collect online sales tax and put everybody on a level playing field, I say just get rid of it and find some other way to fund things.
Why is it a nightmare? Computer programs exist that handle it just fine. It's the exact kind of problem computers are good at solving.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 12:48 pm

It's not the big retailers that i'm worried about, but the little independent shops, the ones that can only really exist on the internet. I know quite a few local fashion designers that sell a little bit locally but also do online business. They don't really have the time or manpower to do all the legwork themselves to figure out the proper sales tax and then distributing it to any one of thousands of municipalities that collect sales tax in the country.

Maybe there's a market for a sales tax clearinghouse that gets a small percent of the order in exchange for figuring out the correct sales tax based on billing address and properly distributing it.

But how do you verify the correct sales tax? I can easily give different billing and shipping addresses when I order a product (and I do, as I have everything shipped to my office but billed to my home address). So what's to stop me from setting my billing address to someplace in Oregon where there's no sales tax, and my shipping address here?

Should something I order from Europe pay sales tax? Should something ordered here and shipped to Europe pay VAT?

On the surface it seems simple but I think when you dig down and look at all the edge cases you'll find it gets pretty expensive and burdensome on the merchants to collect it.

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mister.shoes
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby mister.shoes » December 6th, 2013, 1:14 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:So what's to stop me from setting my billing address to someplace in Oregon where there's no sales tax, and my shipping address here?
Your CC is tied, at the very least, to a ZIP code. At least I'm pretty sure it is.
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Avian
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby Avian » December 6th, 2013, 1:17 pm

Amazon is peculiar. Really peculiar. Since it was founded in 1995, it has not made a profit. Almost 20 years along now and zero. Nothing.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”
― Plato

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 1:25 pm

mister.shoes wrote:
FISHMANPET wrote: Your CC is tied, at the very least, to a ZIP code. At least I'm pretty sure it is.
It usually is. If I had family in Oregon I could set their address as my billing address, or if I was really crazy I could find some guy in Oregon as cheap as me on some forum for cheapskates and we'd all set our billing address as him.

On a more local level I could set my billing address to my mom's place in Zumbrota and avoid Minneapolis sales tax under a scheme where sales tax is charged based on billing address.

So maybe sales tax should be charged based on where a package is delivered to? But if I live in Minneapolis and work in a suburb (I don't currently, but I'm sure it's a pretty common scenario, and one that I might face in the near future) and ship my packages to work, I would still be skirting Minneapolis sales tax.

And what about purchasing something like a video game on steam, where there's no physical product, where should that sales tax go?
Avian wrote:Amazon is peculiar. Really peculiar. Since it was founded in 1995, it has not made a profit. Almost 20 years along now and zero. Nothing.
It's because they don't want to. Jeff Bezos has somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of a Wall Street obsessed with quarterly profits, and they've let him invest all the money back into the business. They're not losing money, they're just doing with their money what I think most liberals would prefer a business do with their profits, invest it back into the business to create new technology and jobs rather than pay it back to fat cat investors.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby RailBaronYarr » December 6th, 2013, 1:35 pm

FISHMANPET wrote:It's because they don't want to. Jeff Bezos has somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of a Wall Street obsessed with quarterly profits, and they've let him invest all the money back into the business. They're not losing money, they're just doing with their money what I think most liberals would prefer a business do with their profits, invest it back into the business to create new technology and jobs rather than pay it back to fat cat investors.
Yes. There's lots to question regarding Amazon, but overall I think they're a positive. They're taking down big box retailers, not so much small businesses (in fact, they pioneered well-executed online marketplaces to allow small businesses instant reach to hundreds of millions of buyers). And the re-investing thing is spot on. Not to mention where/how they've built their HQ.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby Didier » December 6th, 2013, 1:39 pm

The concept of driving to Best Buy to get help locating a printer cartridge and then driving to Wal-Mart to save a marginal amount of money is so ridiculous I don't even know what to say.

Also, I'm pretty sure Best Buy had changed its price matching approach and also re-emphasized customer service, which sound like the two biggest complaints. I can't speak to the results myself, but just pointing that out.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby FISHMANPET » December 6th, 2013, 1:44 pm

Veering another thread way off topic, but I've seen it speculated that the high marginal corporate tax rates in the first three quarters of the 20th century are what allowed things like Bell Labs to exist, without which the tech world would be a vastly different place (they invented quite a bit of Unix).

So yeah back to the topic, the problem with everything is capitalism in its current form.

And I worked at Best Buy for Christmas 2004 so obviously quite a while ago.

I'm probably the wrong kind of customer for Best Buy, where I know what I want and I just want a place to procure what I want, rather than being sold something.

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Re: Downtown Retail News

Postby mattaudio » December 6th, 2013, 2:49 pm

Amazon and locally-owned independent shops can coexist, they're just squeezing out big box on both ends. And that's fine. Here are two of my favorite futurists, Chuck Marohn and Ian Rasmussen, talking about it:
http://www.strongtowns.org/strong-towns ... prime.html


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