The National Retail Federation has retained DC-based agency Purple Strategies to work on its “Main Street Fairness” campaign.
The campaign is aimed at leveling the playing field between online and brick-and-mortar retailers, who are subject to different sales tax regimes that mean some online retailers don't levy the tax and can charge cheaper prices to the end consumer.
Tita Freeman, SVP of communications and public affairs at the Federation, said: “When you buy something on Amazon, sales tax is not collected, unless you're in Washington State where they're based or a state where they have a warehouse. But Barnes & Noble has to charge sales tax, even online, because it has brick-and-mortar establishments in almost all 50 states.”
The Main Street Fairness issue is a difficult one for the NRF, because it represents both sides of the argument, so it will work with Purple to develop strategy and messaging on the issue.
Another high-profile example is retailer L.L.Bean, which is only in a few states in brick and mortar, but competes with Lands' End, which is owned by Sears and thus has a brick-and-mortar presence in every state and is subject to the sales tax across the board.
“It's going to be a difficult issue for us,” explained Freeman. “We have a clear set of priorities on the issue front, and this is the only one where we're torn.”
Purple Strategies is a bipartisan strategic communications consultancy formed out of a merger of two well-established Republican and Democratic firms: Alex Castellanos' National Media and Steve McMahon's Issue & Image – hence the name “Purple.”
The National Retail Federation doesn't currently employ an AOR, but since Freeman moved over from the Chamber of Commerce in May this year, it has also been working with High Lantern Group as a thought partner to provide strategic guidance on the trade body's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and competitive positioning vis-à-vis others in Washington.
High Lantern Group specializes in strategic positioning and numbers former Disney communicator Rob Gluck, based in California, and former White House writer Kendall Bentz, based in DC, among its senior executives.