The Codcast: Retailing’s clicks vs. bricks

The Internet has changed all aspects of life, mostly for the good but not without a good amount of disruption. Take shopping. As people stroll virtual malls from the comfort of their couch, brick and mortar stores are paying the price, and that’s having an impact in job and tax losses.

Sears and Macy’s, two iconic names in retailing, recently announced they plan to close hundreds of stores resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs around the country. Both have targeted for closure a handful of stores at struggling malls in Massachusetts.

David Harris, associate managing editor of the Boston Business Journal, and Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, joined us on The Codcast to talk about the impact of the changes and what they bode for the state’s economy moving forward.

Both chains cited anemic holiday sales as the trigger for shuttering the stores, but Harris says the groundwork was laid long before Christmas.While department stores have come and gone – think Lechmere, Bradlees, Filene’s, and Jordan Marsh in our area – Hurst admits these new closings feel different because of the presence of the Internet. He says not only stores, but malls that counted on the stores to anchor their businesses, are going to have to rethink and repurpose their space to survive.

Hurst said lawmakers locally and nationally will have to make changes in policies to help out not only the big chains but the “mom and pop stores” working at a disadvantage because of tax inequity. Most online retailers don’t collect state sales tax, and Hurst says only Congress can change that. But he said Massachusetts lawmakers need to level the playing field with the current 6.25 percent sales tax by offering some relief to local businesses by reducing or eliminating it, which he said is the “most regressive” form of taxation.

Harris, though, said some of the impact will be mitigated by the uptick in technology-related jobs, citing the opening of the Amazon distribution center in Fall River. But, he admits, the opportunities for low-skilled and part-time workers and teens looking for employment will be vastly diminished.

JACK SULLIVAN 


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker pens a letter to congressional Republicans urging them retain key parts of the Affordable Care Act. (Boston Globe) Read the letter in its entirety here. (CommonWealth) Baker’s move had health care advocates singing his praises. (Politico) 

Beacon Hill budget officials agree revenues will grow 3.6 percent in fiscal 2018, but the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation thinks the number is wishful thinking. (State House News) 

Baker will call for taxing some short-term home rentals through Airbnb and other online services in his 2018 budget proposal. (State House News) A Herald editorial says the proposal seems reasonable, but expresses fear that the Legislature could try to expand the reach of the tax to include more rentals. 

Baker picks and chooses which public records requests he grants, so check out his record on records. (CommonWealth) 

The Senate Republicans, in part because of the way a delay in marijuana retail sales was approved between Christmas and New Year’s, recommend rules changes that would bar such votes in the future. Interestingly, Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, the leader of the Republican caucus, was one of three senators at the informal session where the marijuana change was made. (State House News/password protected) 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS 

Emails show an aide to Mayor Marty Walsh took part in early City Hall meetings on the proposed IndyCar races even though his brother was a lobbyist for the race enterprise, an involvement that the Boston Herald says the administration has denied since early 2015. (Boston Herald) 

Police and firefighters made “well-being checks” last summer to a Brookline home shared by two reclusive sisters without realizing one of them was dead on the kitchen floor and had probably been there for as long as a year. (Boston Herald) 

The Dudley zoning board approves the Muslim cemetery pact. (Telegram & Gazette) 

Bridgewater officials have proposed an ordinance to limit where adult entertainment and medical and retail marijuana shops can operate in town. (The Enterprise) 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL 

President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees keep contradicting him. (Washington Post) 

President Obama surprises Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Biden breaks down in tears saying he’s not worthy. (Associated Press) 

The Justice Department’s Inspector General will look into the handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails by the FBI leading up to the election. (New York Times) 

ELECTIONS 

Tito Jackson kicks off his campaign for mayor of Boston with a strong focus on inequality and those he says are being left behind. (Boston Globe) Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group says Jackson will scramble the mayoral map from the 2013 race that Marty Walsh won. (CommonWealth) A Globe editorial applauds the fact that the city will have a contested mayoral election — but laments the fact that this is regarded as news. Education issues and the candidates’ roles in the No on 2 campaign to stop expansion of charter schools might become significant issues in a Walsh-Jackson tilt. (Boston Herald) 

Much to Charlie Baker’s relief, indications so far are that Donald Trump won’t step into the Massachusetts contest for state Republican Party chair as he did in Ohio, where he helped drive out a loyalist of Gov. John Kasich. 

Wealthy Republican businessman Rick Green is weighing a Senate run against Elizabeth Warren. So, too, is Allen Rodney Waters of Mashpee, who calls himself an “angry, conservative black man with a chip on his shoulder.” (Boston Globe)   

BUSINESS/ECONOMY 

Amazon is looking to rent 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of office space in downtown Boston. (Boston Globe) 

President-elect Donald Trump rushes to support L.L. Bean, urging consumers to shop there and thwart a boycott launched because Linda Bean voiced her support for the Republican. (WBUR) 

The EPA has accused Fiat-Chrysler with installing software in more than 100,000 cars to cheat emission tests. (U.S. News & World Report) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE 

Big increases in premiums for some plans are causing an unusually high number of people who buy insurance through the state Health Connector to switch carriers. (Boston Herald) 

TRANSPORTATION 

Massport raises concerns about the height of the proposed Millenium Partners building at Winthrop Square. (Boston Globe) 

State crews are checking all streetlights along Interstate-93 after one light pole fell onto the highway, causing a multi-car accident. (WCVB) 

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT 

A new study says the New England climate is warming more rapidly than most of the country. (Boston Globe) Worcester recorded its highest temperature ever for Jan. 12, while Boston tied its record. (Masslive) 

The recent snow and rains has not cured the longstanding drought in Massachusetts, with more than 8.5 percent of the state still experiencing extreme drought conditions. (State House News Service) 

Bowing to pressure from the state’s top elected officials, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will schedule public hearings at the end of the month on the safety status of Pilgrim nuclear power plant. (Cape Cod Times) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS 

State prison officials are alerting inmates due for release to consider whether they’re eligible for disability benefits, a practice that has some critics riled while others, including a Department of Correction spokesman, say it’s a sensible approach to addressing issues such as addiction and homelessness that can lead to recidivism. (Boston Herald)

A former Registry of Motor Vehicles inspector who shook down a number of South Shore service stations for more than $30,000 was sentenced to 30 days in jail and ordered to repay the money. (Patriot Ledger)