Killing us with non-argument

This is part of a general comment on commerce, and where the priorities are now in relation to where they should be.

Books are overpriced. Domestically this is undoubtedly true, all you have to do is look at the suggested price the publishers put on the back cover and compare it to what the shop expects you to cough up.

Clothing is overpriced too, and at times (it fluctuates) electronics. The New Zealand market is simply too small for commerce on-shore to be competitive with overseas markets. They are awash with people, and stuff is cheaper.

Muddying this already opaque water is the government. It gets involved with tax and duty and the effect is disproportionately cruel. Alcohol is more expensive here than overseas despite there being no shortage of drinkers, as the tax levied against it gets fiddled with every year.

I say this is disproportionately cruel, because it rifles through the wallets of the poorest New Zealanders. They spend a greater amount of their income on consumables because they have less income overall. One might say uncaringly that the poor shouldn’t be wasting their money on such non-essentials as alcohol, and such utterances used to be followed by the satisfying thud of the guillotine hitting the block.

Yes the heads of the rich are due for blocks and pikes, metaphorically speaking, but that hardly solves the problem at hand. The poor deserve a drink as long as anyone else does, and they shouldn’t have to subsist in a swamp of debt they may never escape from.

What I propose is simple. Prioritise the taxation of things of value to the rich, like capital gains, income, and overseas goods worth more than $10k, over the taxation of things of value to the poor. Goods and services, Christmas presents bought off Amazon, and books. Denigrate that if you will, but taking money from the poor so you don’t have to take it from the rich is an evil thing to do.

Retail NZ want the GST threshold on overseas goods lowered from $400 to $20. They think that will improve the domestic market, busting up online stores like the mafia. That is not an overstatement, the Retail NZ lobby group is a mafia, and the concern of the sector over encouraging customers to buy their products is not reflected in the salaries they award their bosses.

The CEOs of The Warehouse and Kathmandu both earn well over a million a year, while most of the other big businesses are owned and run offshore. It is who is in the middle that is of real concern. The small to medium sized businesses that concentrate on a section of the domestic market and are dependent on them. They aren’t earning the big bucks, and they don’t have the capacity to insulate themselves from the varying tide of the market by having multiple sources of income.

Does lowering the GST threshold help them or harm them? Books, electronics, and cheap clothing are standard goods. They are sold by the monolithic chain stores as well as online. Smaller businesses are increasingly focussing on items for niche markets. Hipster stationary. Vinyl records. Luxury clothing and goods (organic beauty products etc). Such things are increasingly being bought online, but that does not mean shutting off overseas goods improves conditions for domestic businesses. More pressure is put on them to respond to the changeable demands of a fickle market.

When it comes down to it, NZ businesses directly competing with overseas online stores hold a trump card. They can get their products to consumers more quickly. That is everything in retail today. At the moment I am waiting for five products to be delivered from overseas – four books and a piece of camera gear. They have been purchased, and have been shipped, so they are somewhere in the pipeline.

I usually have to wait weeks for the things I buy online. But not if the store is in NZ. I have got several items from Wellington based online electronics store Rubbermonkey, and the items get delivered the next day. Hallenstiens and Glassons have stepped up to the online plate and can get things to you overnight as well.

Circumstances are changing. Retail has to adapt, the environment shouldn’t have to bend to accommodate it. Wake up parochial New Zealand, there’s a world out there and you are part of it. It was wrong of Robert Muldoon to personally authorise what goods could be sold in New Zealand, and it is wrong to strangle the options of New Zealanders through tax and duty.

See the hypocrisy in money grubbing lobby groups pushing for more red tape, which according to NZ Post would add $20 to every parcel. The prelates of the business world try to coach their beliefs in an overall advocacy for the customer. They are afraid of rivals, and as such do not show confidence in their own businesses. The retail world is ruthless and cutthroat. That doesn’t mean we should shroud Retail NZ in protection. Buy better, and deliver on time.

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