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CHRISTMAS GRINCH: Greedy Myer wants to punish online shoppers while its former owners skipped town owing $678M in tax

When Myer department stores were bought by foreign private equity investors who are in the business of buying and selling companies for a profit, they had no plans to ever pay tax on the money they made. They bought the company cheaply from within the Coles Myer structure where it was languishing and doing a fine job of impersonating a Stalingrad emporium circa 1960.

The new owners made some good changes and sold it for a huge profit to the dumb money of mums and dads who paid top dollar in the float. The shares were issued at $4.10 and have essentially never traded that highly since.

The Australian Tax Office calculated that the Texas Pacific Group private equity firm owed the Australian public around $678 million in tax on their profits on the deal and have been in pursuit of the money ever since. Myer’s former owners booked their money from the float, sent it overseas quickly and have refused to pay anything, arguing that it was a one-off capital gain not profit as a result of the conduct of the ordinary business. That’s important because foreign investors don’t pay capital gains tax here but foreign companies doing business here do.

So when the well-salaried man appointed by TPG to run Myer who is still the CEO, Bernie Brookes, professes concern at Australians not meeting their tax liabilities in the form of Aussie mums buying clothes and toys and gifts for Christmas online then there must surely be more to it than meets the eye.

Bernie Brookes (who in addition to owning $43 million of shares in Myer is paid over $100K per week!), Gerry Harvey and Sol Lew have emerged as the Christmas Grinch trio of the nation.

Myer’s silly stunt that it would operate a website from southern China to avoid GST is purely designed to protest against the rise of online shopping.

Our retail industry is $270 billion strong and is principally in the business of selling imported goods to Australians. With our economy strong and our currency absurdly high, they really shouldn’t be whining.

But they really don’t like competition, even if it is $1 billion a month worth, the number claimed by retail billionaires.

Cost-of-living is the most sensitive political issue in the country.

Many of those doing their shopping online are very value-conscious consumers, who invest a great deal of time and effort in selecting items online and then patiently waiting for them to arrive.

Myer’s demand that the Commonwealth government scrap a $1000 GST-free threshold on these imported items would create massive delay and hardship on those online consumers. It would create a political backlash that would make the mining tax look incredibly popular by comparison.

Billionaire retailers say they worry about the public revenue. Everyone knows that’s a joke.

They don’t want competition from websites, that’s actually the reason they want online consumers punished and taxed.

The truth of it is that traditional retailers can compete with and beat their limited online foes. Just this weekend came a newspaper survey that revealed that most books are cheaper in the stores than they are online.

Myer built a brand over more than a century. By not re-investing in their stores and failing to re-invent the old department store model, they looked very much damaged goods for a while.

But they’re doing a much better job now, their new Melbourne CBD store isn’t fully finished but looks superb and seems to have more attentive staff, is much better designed with places to stop and have a coffee everywhere you turn and it challenged the impression Myer had allowed to create since sleazy billionaire Sol Lew became a big shareholder in it in the mid-1980s. They have really turned the corner and are starting to polish their tarnished brand from the mess it was left in people like Lew.

That’s why their publicly stated desire to punish online shoppers is so misguided and foolish. They should be winning over customers by doing better not coercing them away from online competition (tiny as it is) through cheekily demanding new taxes and bureaucratic delays on the delivery of kids’ toys and Christmas gifts lovingly bought on eBay by Aussie mums doing the best they can for their families.

And when those demanding this punishment of Aussie online shopper battlers include a department store chain whose former owners are being pursued for nearly $700 million in tax liability and a couple of billionaires Gerry Harvey and Solomon Lew, it really does seem more than a bit rich.

And when those demanding this punishment of Aussie online shopper battlers include a department store chain whose former owners are being pursued for nearly $700 million in tax liability and a couple of billionaires Gerry Harvey and Solomon Lew, it really does seem more than a bit rich. These people have made their fortune flogging imported goods to families kicking back a little and showing Christmas-time generosity to each other. Instead of being grateful and gracious about all Australia has done for them, the rich and thick Bernie Brookes (who in addition to owning $43 million of shares in Myer is paid over $100K per week!), Gerry Harvey and Sol Lew have emerged as the Christmas Grinch trio of the nation.

The federal government seems very unlikely to cave to their outrageous demands:

Assistant Federal Treasurer Bill Shorten last night told BusinessDaily: “We are looking at making sure we have the settings right and (are) cracking down on people who rort the system, who bring in multiple batches of goods, each worth $999, just to get around the threshold.” Mr Shorten also said the government had no plans to put a GST on online shopping for goods under $1000.

Cracking down on rorters is fair enough but removing that threshold for Aussie consumers would be as popular as Clover Moore’s infamous attempt to banish Christmas decorations from Sydney’s CBD.

Discussion

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  1. Myers is a complete rip off.

    good place to look and then find cheaper price on line or in northern suburbs….

    Posted by rip off | December 6, 2010, 10:58
  2. I just bought a digital camera – an xmas gift to me. Myer sells the camera for $549. I got it from Amazon (US) for $AUD $266 plus AUD $44 for a US friend to send it via DHL it to me (which took 30 hours).

    Even with GST I’d have done it. Fact is, Myer and two-faced billionaires like Gerry Harvey are lining their pockets at consumers’ expense.

    I bought a spare battery at the same time. Australian price: $78. My price: AUD $28. Something is badly wrong here that can’t be explained by the size of the market.

    Posted by Walter Plinge | December 6, 2010, 10:58
  3. I just bought a present for my friend Sotherby – lego for him to build his own empire with – and it was cheaper getting it on-line.

    Posted by Wendy | December 6, 2010, 12:01
  4. Perhaps Myer should convert to an online shop because we are now used to not finding any help in its stores anyway. May as well deal with a keyboard and screen.

    Posted by Boy from Babylon | December 6, 2010, 12:16
  5. I would think you purchase your bongs online dear Wendy, or is the coke/garden hose still cheapest for you latte types?

    Posted by Sotherby | December 6, 2010, 12:28
  6. Wow – love the lips! Ani its the same expression the Wench makes when I bring out tiny…

    Posted by Boofa Leigh | December 6, 2010, 13:45
  7. Gee whiz, that Sotherby gets all steamed up about his bongs and coffee. I hope none of them carlton cafes make a milk drink for a conservative … that’d be like treason?

    What do Libs drink? Flat white? Nats? Sniff petrol? Labor – lattee obviously and Green? Soy chocolate?

    I guess family First drink placenta?

    Posted by Bryan | December 6, 2010, 14:10
  8. I love hamburgers and filling out other peoples ballot papers.

    Posted by Natasha Manclaren | December 6, 2010, 16:52
  9. on line shopping is one thing. When the NBN is up and running all our jobs will be exported because of the superfast broadband.
    All programming will be done overseas and we taxpayers will be paying for it. Perhaps we can put parliament on the NBN and save the expenses of having CANBERRA.

    Posted by treehugger | December 6, 2010, 21:08
  10. HELP,my wife is turning ibto a greenie.The other night when we went out for tea at the local pub,after our meal she ordered a latte for herself.

    Posted by Brimbank Party hack | December 6, 2010, 22:07
  11. […] CHRISTMAS GRINCH: Greedy Myer wants to punish online shoppers … […]

    Posted by OsCommerce ? A Profitable Shopping Cart Software - Wordpress Video Tutorials | December 6, 2010, 22:24
  12. Does this mean the millions of Australian ebayers will arrive at Myer stores with bags of dog shit? Would look lovely in front of the cosmetics counters.

    Posted by Gotti | December 7, 2010, 0:50
  13. Myer’s stock is of variable quality to say the least. I bought socks online for the first time last month; that’s after trying two brands available from Myer and watching them disintegrate within 3-4 months.

    Posted by Gregoryno6 | December 7, 2010, 9:01
  14. I buy clothing from o/s online mainly because of the quality and when you buy two of something the same size they actually are, instead of just labelled a size like Solly Lews and Myers et al. Check first to see where they are made of course, sometimes lineball on price with the $ at .78 but no contest with it around .96

    Posted by Benvolio | December 7, 2010, 9:36
  15. Myer’s city story reminds me of a collectivist shop in Pyongyang.

    Posted by Anonymous | December 7, 2010, 11:57
  16. @Anonymous: Everything marked ‘made in China’?

    Posted by Gregoryno6 | December 7, 2010, 12:38
  17. Wrong anon. Pyongyang stores are more modern than Myers city store.

    Posted by Anonymous | December 7, 2010, 14:20
  18. This attack on Myers has nothing to do with past legal action?

    Posted by Myers - all out of love | December 7, 2010, 22:36
  19. re: all out of love:
    Perhaps it does but they do deserve the serve.

    Posted by out of luck | December 7, 2010, 22:37
  20. re: difference between online and in store price.

    ..didn’t your mamma tell you….never buy retail…

    Posted by retail for suckers | December 7, 2010, 22:40
  21. when not driving over priced hybrids greens can be seen in Myers – a quick guilty pleasure then back to the organic vegie store for a photo op with a ferel activist

    Posted by green cred in Myers | December 8, 2010, 4:59
  22. Now that we have dismantled the Green bogeyman, along with the Age tossers and exposed the Myers cartel can someone pass the scotch.

    Posted by cynics unite | December 8, 2010, 5:01

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