State looking to help local retail stores generate more customers

More than 6,000 retail stores have closed in the U.S. this year

BOSTON (WWLP) – The state’s Special Senate Task Force on the Retail Sector is looking at challenges faced by retailers and considering actions the state can take to help both local businesses and consumers.

More than 6,000 retail stores have closed in the U.S. this year, according to a Fung Global Retail and Technology report. Retail industry experts say eCommerce and online sales may be to blame.

Frank Julian of the National Retail Federation told 22News, “This increased competition from online sellers is forcing many retailers to close their doors.”

Residents can avoid paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax through shopping online.

Experts are calling on lawmakers to lower the sales tax and reinstate the sales tax holiday. They said the move could help generate foot traffic and excitement to shop at local businesses.

The state’s Special Senate Task Force on the Retail Sector also heard from Zeynep Ton who teaches operation management at MIT. Ton says higher wages will encourage companies to adopt new strategies including cross training employees.

“If you have a person who’s only job is to operate the cash register, you don’t need them when customers are not there, right? So cross-training is a way that provides flexibility and better schedules for their employees,” said Ton.

Experts also suggest that a tax incentive could help local retailers.

The task force plans to hold public hearings throughout Massachusetts, including one in western Massachusetts next year.