Online Retail Tax Rules Could Reach Supreme Court
Following two opposite lower court decisions, the legality of states taxing Internet retail sales now appears more likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, according to analysts. Read Article
The Illinois Supreme Court late last week voided a state law established to collect sales tax from online purchases, while a recent New York judicial ruling upheld similar legislation in the Empire State. Because two lower courts have disagreed on their rulings, the chances of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing a petition on the case are better.
In the New York case specifically, Amazon and Overstock have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. New York has until tomorrow to file its response. The decision in Illinois is much more impactful, though, as it represents the first time a court has invalidated an Internet sales tax law among 18 states that have passed them. The Illinois' tax collector and the Department of Revenue are reportedly considering asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene as well.
Writing for the majority, Justice Anne Burke of the Illinois Supreme Court didn't see much difference between out-of-state businesses reaching Illinois' consumers by a click-through-approach versus other advertising that is not taxed. “The click-through link makes it easier for the customer to reach the out-of-state retailer,” Burke wrote in her opinion. “But the link is not different in kind from advertising using promotional codes in Illinois newspapers or radio broadcasts.”
Aside from lower judicial divergence, action by the Supreme Court may also take place because Congress has failed to offer a definitive solution. “Brick-and-mortar businesses, which pay property taxes, and income taxes, and are hiring people, are at a significant competitive disadvantage with their remote-selling counterparts,” said David Vite of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. “It's time for the federal government to clarify and finish putting retailers, who are making payroll and putting people to work, on equal footing.”
Despite the issue's high-profile nature, Congress has not passed legislation that would give all states the power to enforce their own online sales tax laws. Amazon backs federal legislation for nationwide state sales tax enforcement, but eBay and Overstock don't. If the Supreme Court does take up the state online tax issue, oral arguments could be heard by April.
Survey: Small-Business Owners Focused On Expansion
Concentrating on driving revenue gains, a growing number of small-business owners plan to ratchet up hiring and make capital investments, according to a new survey. Read Article
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor found that owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees are increasingly abandoning a “wait and see” approach, with one-third now making growth a top priority.
“Small business owners appear poised to flip the switch to growth mode,” said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, in a statement.
Data shows about 54% of owners are making capital investments, up from 49% a year ago, while 35% have hiring plans – up six percentage points. Entrepreneurs are now better positioned to make such investments as cash flow has become less of a dilemma – the survey found that 52% of respondents reported a cash squeeze compared to 59% six months ago. While a quarter of business owners believe the economy remains in recession, that's down from 36% last fall, according to survey results. And, significantly, 56% of small-firm owners have a positive outlook on business prospects, with 43% confident about an ascent in sales.
Growth is already well underway at distributor Added Incentives. Overall sales at the Northbrook, IL-based firm are up this year over last and vice president Danny Friedman expects revenue to keep rising in 2014. Friedman says the gains are being powered, in part, by companies in certain key markets that are increasing their spend on ad specialties – so much so that they are starting to approach pre-recessionary levels. “Legal, construction and education are all coming back,” he told Counselor this week. “Right now, I see no reason why it won't continue.”
A similar optimism is circulating at Black Duck Inc. The Albuquerque-based company, which boasts an extensive in-house decorating operation, plans to intensify the marketing muscle behind its sublimation printing offering, something the firm expects will drive more sales and possibly soon necessitate investment in more equipment. Black Duck plans to continue to drive the sales increases it experienced this year by focusing on markets where the company has been achieving success of late, including real estate and medical. “Real estate in particular,” said e-commerce manager Erich Campbell, “has been growing in a big way.”
South Lake Tahoe Bans Plastic Bags
The city council of South Lake Tahoe, CA, has passed an ordinance that bans single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and retailers beginning in 2014. Read Article
The measure, which was adopted by a 3-2 margin, will go into effect on January 15 for grocery stores and food vendors, and on October 15, 2014, for all other retailers.
Andy Kaufer, owner of Pro Leisure (asi/299709) in South Lake Tahoe, has already seen some interest from clients in reusable bags as a result of the legislation. “There are a couple clients who got bags from us for that reason, because they knew this was coming down the pike,” he said.
As a tradeoff, the ordinance will cause vendors to offer only paper bags to customers, while encouraging the use of reusable bags, which customers would need to bring in. For competitive reasons, grocers argue no store would charge for paper bags. According to the California Grocers Association, paper bags cost 5 to 11 cents more than plastic bags, a cost that grocery stores will essentially be forced to absorb. The Tahoe Daily Tribune reported that the owners of Grocery Outlet in South Lake Tahoe submitted a letter to the council echoing the sentiments of many local vendors.
“Without regulating all single-use carryout bags,” wrote Grocery Outlet Owners Mike and Kim Schouten, “consumers are not encouraged to use a reusable bag and instead simply switch from one type of single-use bag to another single-use bag which provides no environmental benefit and increases operational costs for retailers.”
Kaufer acknowledges that the measure has proved unpopular locally with businesses, and doesn't see the wisdom of merely banning plastic bags. “To me it's kind of silly,” he said. “I get the whole ban on plastic, but now we have more paper bags. We're just changing one for the other.” He suggests it would be better for his city to adopt a model like Europe and eliminate all single-use bags, forcing customers to bring their own. “The reusable bag has to be the push,” he said.
Best Places To Work Road Tour Wraps Up
Needing a good dose of coffee, the Counselor Best Places To Work Road Tour crew wrapped up its eight-day visit of the ad specialty industry's most unique and interesting workplaces with three company stops around the Pacific Northwest on Sunday and Monday. Read Article
After visiting 15 companies in the span of a little more than a week, ranging geographically from New Jersey on the East Coast to Dallas in the South to Oregon and Washington on the West Coast, some themes from the company visits were abundantly clear: These are all companies that create motivated workplaces, foster teamwork environments, and have employees who are highly energized and engaged in their work. Oh, and they really like to have fun.
We took part in picnic games at Admints (asi/31516) in New Jersey, did push-ups with Cavanaugh Marketing (asi/159262) in Pittsburgh, judged a highly-competitive pumpkin carving competition at Indoff (asi/231011) in St. Louis, went to Happy Hour with Leaderpromos' (asi/287087) employees in Columbus, did yoga at PromoSpark (asi/349939) in Ohio, got beaten down by a fitness trainer in the Numo (asi/74710) warehouse in Texas, and ate lunch in the nicest company cafeteria you'll ever see at SanMar (asi/84863) outside of Seattle. In all, the 15 companies have truly inspired workplaces, ones that should be emulated throughout the industry.
But, there's also a business case for having all of this fun. Not only do these 15 companies have a lot of fun and create family atmospheres and comfortable environments for their employees, but they're also highly successful. Entering their offices, we'd always ask one question (among many): How's business? Overwhelmingly, these companies are doing very well this year, increasing revenues and profits well beyond the rates of average companies in the promotional products market. “It's a busy time of year for us right now, but we try to make it a fun environment even when it's entirely stressful,” said Mark Johnston, who began PromoSpark with his wife Sarah in 2001, and has grown the company by between 15% and 40% since then. “Especially when it's overly stressful, we want to have fun and make it comfortable for our people.”
To see coverage of the whole Best Places To Work Road Tour (including blogs, videos, pictures, and company reports), go to www.CounselorMag.com/roadtour. Or, follow the Twitter and Instagram feeds of the whole tour with the hashtag #counselortour.
U.S. Economy: 148,000 September Jobs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a delayed jobs report this morning showing the U.S. economy added 148,000 in September – lower than most forecasts. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 7.2%, largely because the labor-force participation rate remained at its lowest level in three decades.
The bulk of the jobs were created by the professional and business services sector, which added 32,000 positions. The transportation and warehousing industry increased jobs by 23,000, and construction companies added 20,000 positions. However, the leisure and hospitality sector – a recent strong spot for gains – surprisingly lost 7,000 jobs last month.
There were multiple revisions for prior months as well, as the BLS report showed the economy added just 89,000 jobs in July (revised down from 104,000), while August's jobs count was revised higher, up from 169,000 to 193,000. Wages were mostly unchanged for September, with average hourly earnings up just three cents to $24.09, while the average workweek remained at 34.5 hours.
According to a consensus of analysts, it now appears unlikely the Federal Reserve will reduce its monthly $85 billion in asset purchases until 2014, after Janet Yellen takes the helm of the Fed from current chairman Ben Bernanke.
Counselor How-To: Hiring A First Employee
Picking the right person to hire as your company's first employee is among the most critical decisions any business owner will make, according to consultant Lori Davila. “It really is important to take the time to define specifically what you're looking for and hire a person not only who you can get along with, but has evidence in their history that they can do the job and succeed,” said Davila, author of How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time. So what should your approach be? How can you avoid mistakes?
Before actively looking for an employee, Robert Wendover, author of Smart Hiring, suggests a little reflection. “First of all, I would decide whether I really need somebody,” he said. “There's real confusion on the part of small-business owners – and I know, because I am one – to go out and hire a staff person, but they don't necessarily realize the costs involved. It's not only the cost of hiring, but it's the cost of bringing the person up to speed, the insurance, the worker's comp, and all of a sudden, they're spending 40% more than they thought they were.”
Wendover recommends conducting a Google search for virtual assistants and determining whether this type of arrangement might fulfill your company's need. “Number one, that would give them an idea of what they should be looking for in an employee, and number two, that may be a nice stop-gap until they really get a sense of supervising people,” he said.
But what if a virtual employee is not for you? What should be your next move then? Click here to read the full online article and find out.
Wearables: The T-Shirt That Could Save A Life
In the newest edition of Wearables, you'll find the inspiring story of Haley Bellows, a 21-year-old college student who's stricken with cancer. Her fight alone shows her courage, but that's only a small part of her story. Is it possible that a simple T-shirt, designed by one of her friends, is keeping Haley alive? Below is an excerpt from the article. To read the complete profile, click here.
“Without the words, there is just a girl. She crosses her eyes and makes goofy faces. She shakes her head playfully, blond-streaked hair crossing this way and that across her face. She flashes a meaningful smile and unveils a carefree laugh – the kind endemic to youth, born of a past without concern and aimed toward a future without limits. But this is a video, and there is a story to tell, at once sad, bittersweet and entirely unexpected. The weighty words appear on-screen like daggers to the heart.
‘Haley was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma a year and a half ago. She's gone into remission multiple times, but recently relapsed. Haley decided to increase her treatment, and in order to take matters into her own hands, to shave her head.'
Just under two minutes later in ‘Bald is Best,' Haley Bellows is shorn. The video was filmed by a friend, and there are dozens who join Haley on this July afternoon. Some cry. Many laugh with her. Practically all of them, including Bellows, share something. It pays for her treatments. It rallies a close-knit college campus by her side. It encapsulates the mindset that keeps her fighting when many others would give up hope. The thing they share? A T-shirt.”
Millennials Prefer Demanding Managers
Maybe the millennial generation isn't so different after all. A new survey shows that workers between the ages of 18 and 34 define what makes a good manager much the same way as other generations. These young employees prefer a high-achieving, but demanding boss over a nice but ineffective one, and they would prefer their bosses to invest in their professional development rather than programs that make the workplace more fun, according to a survey released by workforce management firm Kronos.
“In recent years, we've been hearing that Millennials will completely change the workplace,” said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated. “Significant shifts are clearly underway, but this research reveals workers who are earlier in their career don't differ significantly from other generations in how they want to be managed and motivated by their boss.”
Conducted to correspond with Boss's Day, on Wednesday, October 16, the survey also revealed that 69% of employees of all age groups believe their managers set a good example by behaving ethically, honestly, collaboratively and creatively. Of those who believe their managers establish the right tone, 92% said that their bosses exhibit proper values and behavior on a regular basis. “The results of this survey shatter the stereotype of the clownish boss made popular by countless sitcoms and movies,” said David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, a human capital management researcher.
When it comes to being recognized, most employees would rather receive praise privately, the survey found. About 43% of workers prefer direct individual praise from their manager, while 32% favor praise to their manager's manager, and 25% prefer praise in front of their peers. The survey found that Americans and Australians most typically appreciate recognition from managers through individual praise. However, Indian workers with managers prefer to be recognized in a peer environment.
The survey, which included 2,000 adults, was conducted online within the U.S. in late September by Harris Interactive on behalf of Kronos.
ASI Radio: Brilliant Holiday Promotions
On this week's Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts invited listeners to call in and share the best holiday-themed campaign they've worked on. Plus, the hosts offered up their Favorite Things, explained how smiling can help your career and listed business lessons learned from video games.
If you missed the show, a recording is now available at www.asicentral.com/radio. And, don't forget to join us for a special broadcast tomorrow during the ASI Virtual Tradeshow. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air.
In The News
Crystal D (asi/47759) has recently donated crystal awards to several industry organizations, including the Upper Midwest Association of Promotional Professionals and the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association.
Prime Line (asi/79530) has announced that a video entry from distributor P.O.P. Solutions Group (asi/359180) is the grand prize winner in the company's Success Stories Contest. You can view the winning entry here: bit.ly/1i8ASgR.
Proforma (asi/300094) has announced its interactive media manager, Tony Zayas, was recently named a SoMe Impact Award winner for his work in implementing social media strategies.
THE ASI VIRTUAL TRADE SHOW – IT'S TOMORROW Wednesday, October 23 • 10 a.m.-3 p.m. ET
Register today and plan to attend the ASI Virtual Trade Show for FREE, TOMORROW, October 23. From the comfort of your own office, you'll be able to stay up on the most current trends while finding out-of-the-box ideas to meet your clients' fourth-quarter needs. Here's what you'll find…
VARIETY: From pens and mugs to apparel and gifts — find what your clients are asking for. PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS: Discuss client projects with top suppliers. NEW INITIATIVES: Take part in ASI Education to boost your sales. SNEAK PEEKS: See early arrivals for 2014. RESOURCES: Find the latest catalogs, sales sheets and white papers. NETWORKING: Join your colleagues in the Virtual Lounge.
Find new ways to boost YOUR sales without ever leaving your office, or missing a client's call, when you attend the ASI Virtual Trade Show TOMORROW, October 23 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Register today at www.asivirtualtradeshow.com.