Dr. Mercury at Maggie's Farm has been discussing the current proposals to tax Internet sales nationwide. Some states are already doing it; my own beloved Texas has bullied Amazon into assessing sales tax, effective this month. One of the ostensible rationales is the need to "level the playing field" for brick-and-mortar stores (as if anyone believed the motive was anything but the obvious desire to glom onto more revenue), but as Dr. M and many commenters pointed out, the local stores are going to need a lot more than an 8% advantage to complete with the on-line prices and selection.
Here at Swankienda99, we rely heavily on Amazon for things we can't get locally. Ever since Amazon expanded out of books and took on the entire retail market, I've depended on them for the many food brands my duopolistic grocery store won't carry. They're an especially good source for brands that have fallen out of disfavor but haven't completely ceased production. In fact, I buy most things from Amazon that I don't need to touch or handle ahead of time, from cookware to linens to small appliances. They let me search efficiently for products by key word and best price, they provide customer reviews that take the place of indifferent sales clerks, and they get me my stuff in two days for a flat annual fee. It just has to be a product that can be easily shipped, so it can't be too heavy, too voluminous, or too perishable.
In order to compete, local stores may have to specialize in that kind of tricky freight, or provide expertise and advice that can't be duplicated by my fellow customers on-line, or carry things for which I'll pay a premium for same-day availability. Big-box stores have gotten used to being passive purveyors who make their customers wander through miles of aisles on scavenger hunts. I wonder if future retail merchants won't have to function a bit more like knowledgeable brokers in order to lure customers back.
What do you guys buy online?