Articles for July 2011

3 Important E-Commerce Principles for Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 31st, 2011

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

It’s no secret that the internet can enable small business to compete on an equal playing field with larger online competitors; however, due to budget differences between the two the approach might be a bit different.

The current economy has made some small business owners shy away from internet marketing thinking it “simply costs too much to operate online.” This misconception is one that has caused many ecommerce businesses to close their doors during the past year or so.

The fact is that operating an ecommerce business online can actually be more profitable than operating the same retail business offline — but you must make sure you adhere to a few fundamental principles to make it work.

  1. Create ICE (Investment, Credibility, Exposure): Invest in your website design ensuring it speaks to your customers in their language and with a professional image. Talk about the benefits your products have for them rather than about yourself. Site design and functionality is important as it helps build credibility. Gain exposure for your products using a combination of online marketing channels such as SEO, Paid Search (PPC), and Social Media (great viral effect). The combination of marketing channels ensures that if one channel’s effectiveness temporarily lags the rest can help pick up the slack.
  2. Don’t Quit: Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing or promotions — doing this is a sure way to lose market share and sales. It may be tempting especially during tough economic times such as these, but refrain from doing it. Some of the most successful companies online actually increase their marketing spend during economic downturns. A previous article I wrote titled Ecommerce Survival in a Tough Economy – 6 Tips goes into that a bit more. If you think you do not have the funds to invest in marketing you need to consider enlisting the help of an expert who can ensure your marketing dollars provide you a proper rate of return and/or look carefully at your business model and product you are offering. Marketing should be an asset to a company not a liability. Proper marketing almost always drives sales.
  3. Instill Trust: I’ve asked this question before; “What is the one word that makes people buy?” The answer is trust. If you want to compete with the big guys then you need to ensure your approach always builds customer trust. Things like site design, use and appearance of security seals, and customer points of assurance go a long way toward building trust. If you can’t build trust you won’t build sales. It doesn’t matter whether a product or service is priced lower than the competition, if potential customers are uncertain about the quality of their purchase — or the companies behind them — they simply won’t buy.

Simi Town Center to get major facelift

by Ventura County Now

July 26th, 2011

Six years after it opened, the new owners of the Simi Valley Town Center are planning a multimillion dollar renovation of the open-air shopping mall, including possible tear-downs and reconstruction, and adding a top-flight park with an ice-skating rink to attract shoppers to the faltering plaza.

Construction at the 612,000-square-foot mall north of Highway 118 overlooking the city is scheduled to begin next year, developer Donald Provost told the Simi Valley City Council last week.

The center will have its grand reopening in 2013, said Provost, founding principal of Colorado-based Alberta Development Partners.

"The slogan we use at our firm is 'creating permanence,' " Provost said during a presentation depicting a mixed-use development in suburban Denver that his company opened in 2009. "Creating assets that stand the test of time, and can live for 50, 60, 70 years, not just 10 or 20 years.

"You'll see a lot of photos of people because that's what town centers in great places are all about — people," Provost said. "And creating the environment for these people to congregate and adopt as their own."

Provost gave the council an overview of the plans his group has for the struggling town center, which his partner, Chicago-based Walton Street Capital, LLC bought in December for an undisclosed price.

The recorded deed showed the property was encumbered with more than $112 million in debt.

When it opened in 2005, the center was valued at $350 million.

The former owners, Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises, cited several factors in putting the mall up for sale.

They included the economic downturn that began in 2007 and more retail competition in the region, including the renovated shopping center in Thousand Oaks, The Oaks.

Provost provided the council with few details of the planned overhaul, saying they are still being worked out by designers.

But some of the center's new features have been settled on, he said. They include:

n Construction of a large community park, including an ice-skating rink, for various events such as arts fairs and tree-lighting ceremonies.

"Great public spaces are very important and I don't think Simi really has that one great public space today," Provost told the council.

n Enhanced landscaping and signage at the center's entrance and perimeter "to set a different welcoming tone" for shoppers.

n A large pop-jet fountain.

"We're not going to change the architecture per se," Provost said in an interview Thursday. "But I think there needs to be a significant repositioning effort, which will probably involve some new construction. It could be new construction ground up, some tear down of some of the stuff that's there and new buildings built in their place."

He said the cost of the redesign will be in the eight figures.

Describing the current financial state of the town center as "difficult," Provost said the goal of the renovation is to "create long-term value for us as the investor and create long-term value for the resident."

Simi Valley Economic Development Director Brian Gabler said from the city's perspective, the goals will be to provide a "gathering place for the community, shopping opportunities for the community that don't currently exist, job opportunities and generation of sales tax revenue."

Provost said since buying the town center, his group has stabilized the erosion of tenants.

At the same time, the developer is continuing to negotiate deals with potential new anchor tenants, hopeful it can consolidate the center's two Macy's into one.

The mall is currently 86 percent occupied with 93 tenants, said Megan Campbell, senior marketing associate for Alberta Development.

Tenants include Abercrombie & Fitch, California Pizza Kitchen and Coldwater Creek.

Dennis Torres, Pepperdine University's director of real estate operations, has doubts the redesign will restore the town center's revenues to 2005 levels, calling it a potentially "high-risk venture."

Torres said commercial real estate vacancies remain high and that while retail sales are up overall, according to reports, "if you take out the price of gasoline and food, retail is actually down."

Furthermore, he said, he believes hyper inflation will kick in about 2015, shrinking consumers' spendable dollars.

The town center will also continue to face competition from ever-growing Internet retailers, he said.

"So I think brick and mortar retail in the next five years is still going to be tough," Torres said. "Who knows where it will go after that?"


by: Mike Harris Ventura County Star

Why Ecommerce Is So Important To Embrace?

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 25th, 2011

The Internet is an unlimited space for the growth of any ecommerce industry and many possibilities and opportunities are constantly becoming available for anyone to create their own online business. This new media is an open area for communication and the exchanging of experiences and wide range of opportunities across the globe. If you want to grow and expand your business, you will need to embrace this new opportunity and set up an interactive business in the cyber community.

Any Ecommerce website expansion is a significant obligation and commitment for any online trade. The main goal of any ecommerce trade is to expand business by an ever growing website presence. It is a platform that requires more and more traffic in order to succeed. The users and visitors are potential clients, need to be persuaded to come and surf and then buy your products or services, you have to identify and feel their wishes and requirements. This requires you to think like a buyer. We must appreciate that everyone will have their own shopping experience and method, however it is possible to create a general flow whereby you can direct a client, without him or her actually knowing they are being ed. Always remember that clients can be quite capricious, so try and think out of the box as well as catering for the ordinary client.

You should continue this list of questions and ask yourself what is needed, always remember you must start with a good plan. If all features and details are planned and included into your draft, then you will have far less and unexpected chances for failure.

The internet community now boasts millions of users all are potential purchasers, all of them have an internet connection and are surfing the net 24/7. Thus, think how wide your business can be or could be, don't think too rural. Think how much you could expand your business window from a simple website. Websites are designed popularize products and services around the world. If you try to embrace as many people as you can, you will gain more flow and potential sales profits, traffic and high numbers are a pre cursor to converting traffic into sales.

Also you must consider other competitors on the network who may have the same goals as you. Do you run away from this point? Do not think that competitors will only destroy your clientele and your faith in overall victory, this is absolutely wrong!Direct competition only makes you stronger and makes you to think day and night how to develop your business. You can and must use this power of competitive network. If you think laterally your network with have useful contacts and creating links you establish a good linkage and network. It will work for your website and boast your overall awareness far more than that of your competitors` websites. Improvise and develop your website from various points of view. If you need some  additional support and advice, then you are welcome to contact ecommerce web design Birmingham company. They will provide you with a range of services in all web building spheres, making sure that you will have a full control of your own website.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

8 Reasons Every Ecommerce Site Should Get Serious About Video

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 18th, 2011

The truth about doing business online today is that for many companies, increasing market share requires winning customers from competitors. Using online video to build business is one tactic that has been rapidly gaining popularity in the past few years. It delivers benefits that include personalization, competitive advantage and cost-effectiveness.

Below are seven ways video outperforms static web content in the ruthless competition for market share.


1. Video Attracts New, Relevant Search Traffic


No conversation about ebusiness is complete without discussing search engine optimization (SEO). An ebusiness cannot gain on a competitor until consumers know it exists and can easily find it through organic search. Today, ebusinesses that utilize video assets are at an advantage, since Google is structuring its search engine results to reward sites that include video. According to Forrester, any given video in an index of searchable keywords has a 50 times better chance of appearing on the first page of results than any given text page.

To better promote their video investments and derive the greatest SEO rewards, ebusinesses are making videos more accessible to visitors, scaling videos to reach long-tail keywords, and automating video production in order to have video available as soon as new products are introduced.


2. Video Assets Can be Easily Syndicated


Online video is usually channel agnostic. By syndicating video properties to multiple sites — includingYouTube, the second largest search engine today — ebusinesses extend their reach to innumerable eyeballs. In addition to traditional channels, online video plays equally well via mobile networks, TV, and in-store screens. It is a cost-effective way to maintain brand consistency and strengthen consumer awareness.


3. Videos Encourage Sharing


Videos are far more likely to be passed and shared than text-based pages. Additionally, a video thumbnail on a social media platform — Facebook, for example — grabs more attention than static text and often results in more comments, more “Likes,” and more traffic to the brand’s website. When you like or share a video link, a thumbnail appears on your wall and is also seen by your friends.

According to a study from YouBrand, pictures and video within Facebook get engaged with and clicked more often than just text and questions.


4. Video Engages Site Visitors


Video provides a familiar user interface for site visitors. When videos are properly produced, they captivate the user. Instead of the need to navigate, scroll and click to access information, the video is a one-stop shop for information. It takes less energy than the hassle of reading and the user is engaged until he or she is ready to follow an embedded call-to-action. Today’s automated video production platforms easily enable this flow, in many cases directing visual and auditory calls-to-action that guide the viewer to a shopping cart.


5. Video’s “Halo Effect” Drives Conversions


Video can give customers an in-depth view of a product or a demonstration that quells any hesitancy they might have about purchasing online. The peace of mind the customer gains from the video seeps into the way he or she feels about the brand and website overall, building trust and credibility. This is essential to gaining market share, especially for businesses that sell products with a lot of competition.


6. Video Increases Customer Loyalty


Video newsletters are more likely to attract consumer attention. By some estimates, the open rate for a video newsletter is two to three times higher than for a text-based newsletter. While many brands compete for consumer attention with the latter, those who employ the former stand out from the crowd. These video communications can be personalized for each recipient with individualized greetings, references to previously purchased items, or offers based on shopping history, geography and segmentation.


7. Video Creates Online Personalization


By improving and tailoring the customer experience, online retailers in every sector have increased customer loyalty, conversion rates and average order price. The quality of online personalization continues to rise and in many cases can rival or outperform the “live” shopping experience. This is a key factor in gaining market share, since consumers increasingly shop online but still express a desire for the personal touch and the social aspects of in-person browsing.

When prospects go to a store, they get recommendations and help from in-store staff who point them to relevant products. Video delivers this experience online, with far less variability and chance. With new technologies that offer personalized video created on-the-fly, ebusinesses can bridge the gap between live and virtual experiences.


8. Video Production Costs Are Falling, ROI Is Rising


Online video clearly has an impact on competitive advantage. But is it feasible for most ebusinesses? Thanks to today’s automated video production technology, the answer is “yes.”

Two decades ago, the market struggled to replace the labor-intensive process of website management. Today we hardly think about the steps required to update or add web content: Images and text are now template-based, database-driven and easy to manipulate.

Video production is experiencing a similar change. While many website owners once fought the limitations of manually produced videos — including slow production times and prohibitive costs — today’s solutions tend to be automated, cost effective and high quality. With relatively little human intervention, online video production can increase a business’s competitive advantage while creating a better shopping experience for the user.


Online Coupons Reach Nearly Half of Web Users

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 11th, 2011

88.2 million US adults will redeem an online coupon this year

A digital revolution in couponing coupled with the belt-tightening of the recession have combined to make coupons cool among more than just those clipping the Sunday circular. Digital coupon usage is now firmly a part of the online shopping experience of millions of US consumers.

eMarketer estimates nearly half of US adult internet users, or 88.2 million people, have redeemed an online coupon or code for use either online or offline in the past year. By 2013, 96.8 million adults will redeem an online coupon.

“Consumer brands are accustomed to promoting their products in stores and in newspaper inserts,” said Jeffrey Grau, eMarketer principal analyst and author of a forthcoming report on online couponing. “But as more shoppers make purchase decisions online before taking a shopping trip, brands are following them onto the internet.”

US Adult Online Coupon Users, 2009-2013 (millions and % of adult  internet users)

The growth rate for online coupon users is expected to gradually decline through 2013, as most online consumers predisposed to using digital coupons already do so.

Already, household usage of digital coupons has nearly doubled since 2005. Experian Simmons reported that 12% of households redeemed coupons from email or the web that year; it expects that figure to reach 22% in 2011.

Digital Coupon* Usage Among US Households, 2005 & 2011 (% of  total)

“Today’s online coupon users tend to be affluent, highly educated and over the age of 55,” said Grau. “This is valuable input for marketers shaping the different elements of a promotional campaign, such as what products to promote with coupons, where to place the offers and what marketing messages to use.”

 

Keep your business ahead of the digital curve. Learn more about becoming an eMarketer Total Access client today.

Why Your Business NEEDS A Facebook Fan Page

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 7th, 2011

Regardless of what your business engages in, either a service or product, it’s a great idea to have an established Facebook fan page.  It all starts with how YOU network through Facebook. Why is having a Facebook fan page important? I’d say at this point, you should really focus more on a Facebook fan page than a Twitter account. Facebook is the largest social network in the world! As the internet becomes more social and Facebook becomes the largest portal on the web, you want your business to have a presence.

I have seen just about every small to large business owners have a fan page online, from local pest control companies to very large online retailers pushing product and branding through Facebook fan pages. The trick, or strategy I should say is establishing a base to then let your fans do the work for you. I think and believe the main reason and objective for a Facebook fan page is to have much better engagement with consumers and in a way, become a more transparent company. In this day in age in media, social media plays a huge role. Companies nationwide and even world-wide are putting more and more resources into the web and the social web(Facebook Ads, etc.)

A Facebook page can create lots of credibility not only with your existing customers but with new customers who are really looking and thinking about why they should trust your company and if its safe to do an online transaction (if you’re an e-retailer.) Let’s not forget, YES, e-commerce grows year after year (except 2009 I believe it was stable) but as e-commerce grows, so does online fraud (identity theft online) and users are becoming more and more weary of this issue. It’s very important and something you have to work on daily to make each visitor feel it is safe to purchase from your website. These portals, such as Facebook and Twitter allow for this because they know once you “screw” them, if ever, they can go right to those portals and announce it to the world.

Once your Facebook page has taken off, it can literally be one of your top resources for traffic and sales. The key to your facebook page taking off is LETTING YOUR FANS AND FRIENDS DO THE WORK FOR YOU AND BEING ACTIVE ON A DAILY BASIS promoting sales, specials, news, and whatever you can do to engage the user and keep brand awareness on a daily basis.

For SEO reasons, your Facebook Fan Page can be a big factor in the SERPs as you can rank really well for your company name (besides your website) for reputation management reasons. Make sure you have a vanity URL to go along with your facebook fan page, i.e. facebook.com/companyname. This can play a big role if you’re trying to push a site out of ranking for any particular reason as this one page can rank really well with Facebooks authority with Google.

By: Pablo Palatnik

HOW TO: Start Marketing on Facebook

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 4th, 2011

It’s no secret: U.S. consumers continue to spend increasing amounts of time on Facebook. Consequently, marketers — lured by Facebook’s suite of highly targeted marketing products and the site’s smooth ability to spread information across networks of friends — are investing increasing amounts of capital in the platform.

Facebook‘s proposition is especially attractive to small business owners, and not just because it enables them to hone in on potential customers through highly targeted, paid advertisements. Facebook also allows them to grow their business in a way that is familiar to many of them — through word-of-mouth marketing.

“Ask [small business owners] how they get customers, and they’ll tell you that someone walks in, has a great experience, walks out and tells a couple of their friends,” says Emily White, senior director of local at Facebook. “Now, that word-of-mouth marketing model is happening online, and Facebook is enabling to happen that at scale. Now [small business owners] aren’t just reaching a few customers’ friends, but all of their friends, mimicking these long-term behaviors in a way that small businesses can actually control,” she explains.

With these ideas in mind, we’ve compiled this six-step guide for getting started on Facebook.


1. Set Up Your Facebook Page


 

 

 

 

Setting up a public Page for your small business is as simple as visiting facebook.com/pages/create.php, selecting a category that describes your business and filling out a few basic details, such as the name of your business and, if applicable, its address.

Facebook will then send you to a template of your Page, which you can spruce up with a profile photo, further details such as hours (see Info tab on left-hand sidebar). You can also identify additional Page administrations (see Info > Manage Admins), add more multimedia and events (Info > Apps) and adjust the settings to control how users can contribute to your Page (Info > Manage Permissions).

 

 

 

 

It’s also a good time to post your first status update welcoming fans to your Page. You can share your updates with everyone, or target by location or language — a great option if you run a business in multiple locations.

 

 

 

 


2. Invite Your Friends


 

 

 

 

After your Page is set up, you’ll want to invite your friends to “like” your Page. Once you’ve amassed 25 fans, you’ll be able to set up a vanity URL, e.g. facebook.com/mashable.

Go to the Username page, select the Page name from the dropdown menu and then write in the name you’d like to use. Keep in mind that you can’t change the URL for a Page once you confirm.


3. Customize Your Page


 

 

 

 

There a number of apps to help you customize your page beyond the standard layout, which can be found in the Applications Directory.

There, you’ll find apps that will let you create polls, add more content to your Info tab, offer coupons, showcase your YouTube videos and more.


4. Convert Your Existing Customers Into Likes


Once you’re feeling confident about the look of your Page, your next step, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow suggests, is to leverage all of your owned media assets — your mailing list, e-mail newsletter and signature, store window, website, business cards, etc. — to grow your fan base. Let them know you’re there, and provide an immediate incentive for them to connect, such as a discount or giveaway.

“This will increase your conversions significantly,” Lazerow says. “Since your Page is a ghost town at this point, you need to give people an incentive to connect at the onset. The best way to do that is to give them a ‘thank you.’”


5. Engage


 

 

 

 

As you build up your fan base, you’ll want to provide a stream of interesting content that will entertain and engage your fans.

Anna Strahs, the owner of a gluten-free bakery in Richmond, VA, attributes half of her business to Facebook. She says she keeps fans coming back for more by posting pictures of the items she’s baked that day.

“When we post pictures of specific items, we immediately get orders for those items,” she says — and it’s no wonder, because they look delicious. Strahs says she will also post little quizzes in exchange for free baked goods, which winners can pick up at one of two farmers market locations two days each week.

Her advice? Post often and make the posts count. She emphasizes that beautiful images with contextual captions go a long way. “The whole point is to get people to comment and interact with your Page so it shows up in others’ newsfeeds,” she explains.

It’s also important to keep content fresh, update in an authentic voice and to evolve your Facebook strategy over time.

Remember to keep track of analytics on your Insights page to see what kinds of posts performance best in terms of engagement. And seek feedback directly from your fans. Are you posting too little or too often? What kinds of things would they like to see?

 

 

 

 


6. Advertise


Once you’ve converted most of your existing customer base into Facebook fans, you’ll want to start reaching others through targeted Facebook ads, which is still the most effective method for increasing your number of “likes,” says Maureen Mullen, chief researcher at luxury think tank L2.

You can target users in your immediate area by gender, age, alma mater, employer, and even those who “like” your competition. You could also target users on their birthdays, offering them a free ice cream cone, for instance, if they stop by your store that day. You can also target existing fans with coupons and other incentives to encourage them to stop by your retail location or place an order.

Facebook also has a Sponsored Stories product that enables you to reach the friends of your current fans. In your advertisement, a user will see that one of their friends has endorsed your company, essentially enabling a fan to market on your behalf.

Ventura's July 4th Street Fair - "a Celebration of American Music", Events and Entertainment Line-up

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 2nd, 2011

Ventura's July 4th Street Fair - "a Celebration of American Music",  Events and Entertainment Line-up


Ventura's popular 4th of July Street Fair, a 36 year tradition with the city, will be held on Monday, July 4th in the Downtown Ventura Cultural District.  The Independence Day celebration begins officially at 10:00am and continues until 5:00pm.

Street Fair activities will be stretching a full 9 blocks along downtown's Main Street from Fir Street to Mission Park. There will be approximately 300 participating artist and crafters, entertainment on six stages and an assortment of food booths.

Kids' attractions include Pony Rides, Train Rides, WOW Inflatables and Gold Rush Mobile Rock Climbing at Mission Park.  Entertainment will appeal to all attendees.  The Ventura Visitors Bureau will be open for the duration of the street fair, visit them at California and Santa Clara Street along with many of the Downtown Merchants.

Oak Street will host the Sierra Club with their exhibits of environmentally friendly cars.  The Sierra Club will also offer many environmentally friendly and global awareness displays and hands-on activities for children.

Free parking is available in the downtown parking structure, as well as city lots.  Attendees may take the free shuttle bus from the Ventura County Government Center to the Street Fair site every 30 minutes.  Smoking is not allowed on the shuttle bus, and only service animals are permitted (no pets.)

Admission to the Street Fair is free.  This event is presented by the City of Ventura Parks Recreation & Community Partnership Department, and sponsored by Community Memorial Hospital, Ventura Harley Davidson, DSR Audio, the Ventura County Star and Gold Coast Broadcasting.

For further information visit the website at www.cityofventura.net/streetfairs or call (805) 654-7749.

Children, adults and their little red wagons are invited to dress up for the Pushem-Pullem Parade sponsored by the Ventura East Rotary Club that assembles at Cemetery Park (Main & Crimea) at 9:30 am and begins to parade down Main Street at 10:00 am (Participants receive a free commemorative button while supplies last).

4th of July Street Fair ENTERTAINMENT 2011


FIR & MAIN STREETS STAGE  
    10:00am - 11:00am    Bachlorettes & Bachelors
    11:30am - 12:00pm    Channel Islands Clippers
    12:15pm - 12:45pm    Barranca Vista Dancers        
    1:00pm - 1:30pm        Jewels of the Nile
    1:30pm - 2:00pm        Channelaire Chorus    
    2:00pm - 3:00pm        Tina's Port of Paradise    

CALIFORNIA STREET STAGE
    11:00am - 3:00pm    Benise
                                                   
PALM STREET Food Court
    11:00am - 1:00pm    Pier 101
    2:00pm - 4:00pm      Super Sonic Band
        
OAK STREET
    11:00am - 3:00pm    Jill Martini Soiree

MINI PARK STAGE
    11:00am - 4:00pm     Duchesla

MISSION STAGE
    11:00am - 4:00pm    Iron Mountain Boys

For further details visit the website at www.cityofventura.net/streetfairs or contact Michelle Godoy at 805.654.7749. 

State sales tax drops to 7.25%

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 1st, 2011
Angela Morgan, right, takes cash from a customer for a sale at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo Wednesday. On Friday California sales taxes will drop from 8.25% to 7.25%.

Angela Morgan, right, takes cash from a customer for a sale at the Rocket Fizz store in Camarillo Wednesday. On Friday California sales taxes will drop from 8.25% to 7.25%.

The owner of the Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop in Camarillo only became aware this week that he needed to change his cash registers to drop the state sales tax by 1 percent on Friday.

Ryan Morgan said notices sent to him by the state usually say he owes money, not that he must start collecting less. But he was eager to look into the situation because he expects it will be good for business.

"By them lowering tax rates, it'll help increase sales, absolutely," he said.

Beginning Friday, the basic sales and use tax rate statewide drops to 7.25 percent from 8.25 percent as a temporary increase, passed in April 2009 as part of a state budget agreement, expires.

In addition, a new state law effective Friday requires large out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on online purchases made by California customers. If a retailer is not subject to the law, the purchaser still may owe use tax — a levy on the use, storage or consumption of personal property in the state, according to the Board of Equalization.

To notify retailers about the reduced sales tax, board spokeswoman Anita Gore said, a notice was posted on its website, the media was alerted, emails were sent to 680,000 retailers and letters went out to the top 1,000 taxpayers.

At the Bunnin Automotive Group in Oxnard, owner Leo Bunnin thinks the cut in sales tax will be a big win for auto dealers. A 1 percent reduction adds up on big-ticket items such as vehicles, he said.

"We are just figuring out now the best way to get the message out to the people," Bunnin said. "The government is so nice to reduce it by 1 percent that maybe we'll give an extra 1 percent to reduce it by 2 percent (on his auto sales). It's on the drawing board but highly likely."

With the change, buyers should check receipts carefully. Gore said it is the buyer's responsibility to bring up inaccurate taxation with retailers. Retailers who over-tax must either refund the money to the consumer or send it to the state.

"They cannot keep it," Gore said.

Be aware, however, that on top of the state's new 7.25 percent rate, some cities tack on their own voter-approved sales taxes.

In Ventura County, only the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme have local sales taxes, bringing the rate to 7.75 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown tried but failed to convince legislators to maintain the higher 8.25 percent rate to help close a budget gap that stood at $26 billion early this year before severe cuts were made. The Board of Equalization estimated the 1 percent increase generated $11 billion for the state since April 2009.

George Runner, a member of the board, supports the drop. "This is great news for overtaxed California consumers and retailers who bear the sixth highest overall tax burden in the nation," he said.

Besides the sales tax, vehicle registration fees return Friday to 0.65 percent of a car's depreciated value, down from 1.15 percent — another temporary tax increase that was not extended.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has not sent out notices about the change, according to spokeswoman Jan Mendoza. Notices will be sent beginning Friday. People who have to register vehicles in July or August will get a 30-day grace period before facing late penalties.

Also, a 0.25 percent personal income tax surcharge in 2009 and 2010 expired Dec. 31.

Brown wanted to ask voters to extend the three temporary tax increases but could not get Republicans to agree to put them on the ballot.

For a listing of California sales and use tax rates by city and county, go to http://boe.ca.gov/cgi-bin/rates.cgi.

- vcstar.com PHOTO BY ROB VARELA