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Guest Editorial: 'Showrooming' is killing bricks-and-mortar stores

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You've seen them, with their glowing smartphones in their hands, standing in the aisles at Best Buy or Barnes and Noble or some other store, whether a mom-and-pop or big chain. And maybe you've even done what they do. Maybe you've gone to a store, sought out what you wanted to buy, checked it out, considered it -- and then used your phone to buy it online cheaper, including saving yourself from having to pay state and local sales taxes.

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It's called "showrooming," using brick-and-mortar stores as nothing more than showrooms while making purchases on the Internet. While it's hard to blame consumers for seeking out the best bargains, how many of them realize the practice is putting some retailers out of business while others take steps to avoid a similar fate?

Retail owners were back at the state capitol this legislative session, renewing their plea to require online companies to collect sales taxes, just like they have to. The requirement would help level the playing field for physical stores and could mean millions in new revenue for the state, the owners argued.

An online sales tax bill, sometimes referred to as an "e-fairness" bill, is unlikely to pass this Legislature. Legitimate concerns remain over whether it'd constitute a tax increase.

But in making the effort, again, bricks-and-mortar retailers are raising awareness, even if just a tad more, about what smartphone-equipped shoppers are doing to traditional stores and traditional businesses.

This editorial represents the opinions of the Duluth News Tribune editorial board. The Duluth News Tribune is owned by Forum Communications Company.

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