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Retail roundup: Overstock.com cuts marketing affiliates in five states, March retail sales better than expected, Toys R Us hires former Mattel exec

April 9, 2011 |  6:01 am

-- Online retailer Overstock.com has severed its relationships with thousands of marketing affiliates in five states to avoid being forced to collect sales tax from its shoppers.

Lately many Internet retailers, led by Amazon.com, have decried new state tax laws that would require the companies to collect sales tax from consumers. E-commerce companies currently collect sales tax only in states where they have a “physical presence” such as retail stores, warehouses and distribution centers.

States say online retailers shouldn't be exempt from collecting sales taxes, saying they need the money to deal with huge budget deficits.

Overstock.com said it would award free Club O accounts pre-loaded with $10 in Club O rewards dollars to top customers in New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Illinois and Arkansas. Club O is the company’s rewards program.

-- Retailers delivered another decent performance last month, with shoppers continuing to spend despite poor weather, high gasoline prices and a later Easter.

Retail analysts had expected to see the first monthly sales decline since 2009 because of those factors, which threatened to slow the industry's recent momentum.

But shoppers couldn't be deterred. On Thursday, the nation's retailers reported a modest 1.7% year-over-year increase for March, better than the 0.7% decline that had been expected, according to Thomson Reuters' tally of 25 major retail chains.

-- Toys R Us has named Neil Friedman president of its U.S. business.

Most recently president of Mattel Brands, Friedman will now oversee merchandising, marketing, store operations and product development for Toys R Us. He will also supervise merchandise planning and allocation for the company’s 866 stores and online business in the U.S.

Friedman had been at El Segundo-based Mattel since 1997.

-- Andrea Chang

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