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WIN Articles for January 17, 2018

Retail’s future still rests on the customer experience

By Renée Sunde, President/CEO

A hundred years ago there was Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and Bloomingdales, to name only a few well-known clothiers.  The focus then was about merchandising and marketing, but it was founded on personal relationships and developing services that catered to their shopper’s needs.

I often hear the question: “Has retail lost its customer-centered approach or is the future of retail still based on competition to better serve customer’s needs?”  The fact is, technology-savvy customers are changing. Whether by phone or computer, they increasingly use the Internet to research and buy merchandise.

As soon as retailers lose sight of what drives their customers, they run the risk of becoming obsolete.   In 2018, it’s still all about the customer.  Today’s climate requires competing across channels to create an enhanced customer experience that links strategic information through state-of-the-art technology.

Retailers continue to look for ways to be more responsive to shifting consumer priorities and are striving to create environments that cultivate discovery and encourage community.  Regional shopping malls across the nation are being reconfigured as town squares, adding elements like dog parks or other natural elements that work well with mixed-use housing.  It’s not uncommon to find medical clinics, churches or resource libraries co-located with retailers in communities across the state.

While connecting with customers remains a recurring tenet of success, retail has changed so much over the years that merchants doing business in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s would have a hard time understanding the challenges their colleagues face today.

The industry is moving toward a convergence where physical and digital channels blend as one.  Disruption, a re-occurring buzz word, has claimed a prominent seat at the retail table.  The points once used to measure retail success no longer apply.

With consumers now shopping across multiple physical and digital channels, store closures should not be viewed as a sign of distress but a marker of change.

Companies that refuse to evolve and/or embrace disruption are now suffering the consequences.  E-commerce is part of doing business as a 21st-century retailer.

It’s not killing bricks-and-mortar. It’s simply a component of the changing face of the industry.

Without it, a retailer’s business is simply half-baked.

The good news is that retail isn’t going anywhere.  It is changing and a decade from now the industry might bear little resemblance to today.


WRA opposes independent contractor bills that miss the target

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

 Two independent contractor misclassification bills have been introduced and heard before the legislature this week.  House Bill 1300, prime sponsored by Representative Marcus Riccelli (D) and Senate Bill 5527, prime sponsored by Senator David Frockt (D) each were heard in their respective committees.  WRA testified in opposition to both.

While well-intentioned,  these bills miss their mark.  The effort is to get at what is known as the “underground economy. ” It involves businesses and individuals that undercut law-abiding businesses by not paying industrial insurance or unemployment taxes. This hurts many industries including retail.

These bills flip the current independent contractor test upside down and require the employer – not the state – to prove that the independent contractor is not an employee.  Instead of a rifle shot to address the problem, it is more like an artillery shell. There will be significant collateral damage in industries where this is not a problem.

WRA is ready to work on real solutions to the underground economy. Unfortunately, HB 1300 and SB 5527 miss their target.


Meeting upcoming on paid family leave

By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer

Employment Security will be conducting a public meeting on February 2 to explain its plans for the start of statewide paid family leave benefits.

The meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon at the Employment Security Conference Room, Park Place B, 640 Woodland Square Loop S.E. in Lacey. You also can dial into the meeting via 360-407-3780 using the passcode: 657126#.

Employers will begin paying premiums for paid family and medical leave starting next year. Employees will be able to apply for the benefit starting on January 1, 2020.

I am meanwhile continuing to monitor a bill this legislative session aiming to implement gender pay equity in the state. WRA believes some fixes are necessary to make the bill fairer to employers as well as employees.

Many confused employers have been contacting me with questions about how pay equity would work if the Legislature makes it law. Getting those answers is part of WRA’s lobbying work this session.

One of our main concerns will be working to ensure that any approved law includes a prohibition against municipalities passing stricter guidelines for this benefit. Allowing for various standards of benefits is what makes it especially difficult and challenging for companies to comply with the requirements of laws.

If you have questions about these and other legislation related to workers’ compensation and benefits, contact me at 360-200-6452 or at tammie@retailassociation.org.


Seattle updates some of its labor laws

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards has issued updates to some of its labor laws that are effective this week.

The updates pertain to the paid sick and safe leave policy and the ordinance regulating employee scheduling for larger stores. The city previously issued an update and reminder on the current minimum wage.

Click here to review the details.


WRA begins work on bills for 2018 session

 WRA has begun testifying and monitoring bills that have been introduced in this, the second week of the nine-week, 60-day 2018 state Legislative Session. Lawmakers are scheduled for adjournment on March 8.

Last week, Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee called on legislators to approve a tax on carbon emissions to help fund public schools. WRA opposes such a tax and believes support in the Legislature to approve it is insufficient. However, such a proposal could be before voters in the fall.

Here is a summary of key bills WRA is following so far:


  • Pay equity. WRA is following HB 1506 that would require equal pay based on gender and similar jobs. WRA expects that the Legislature will approve some version of pay equity this session.  WRA wants a clause to prohibit municipalities from approving their own versions of pay equity.
  • Tourism funding. The bills to restore statewide tourism promotion are HB 1123 and SB 5251. The state eliminated tourism funding during the last recession. WRA supports funding because it helps retail sales.
  • Ban the box. WRA is neutral on HB 1298 that would prohibit employers from asking applicants about arrests or convictions before the person was determined to be qualified for the job.
  • Organized retail crime. WRA is supporting SB 5633 that would give store personnel new authority in combating organized retail crime. The law currently does not allow employees to ask why someone is hiding merchandise before paying for it.
  • Registering paid signature gatherers. WRA supports SB 5397 that would require paid petition signature gatherers who work outside stores to register with the state. Often, such petitioners pressure shoppers who want to be left alone to shop.
  • Internet access fee. WRA opposes HB 2389 that would impose a 40-cent fee when a customer buys an electronic device that can connect to the Internet.  WRA generally opposes growing the list of fees charged at the point-of-sale.
  • Drug take back. WRA is neutral on HB 1047 that would create a voluntary system for pharmacies to collect expired or unwanted drugs for safe disposal. WRA is seeking a clause that would prohibit municipalities from enacting stricter laws to require companies to participate.

As a result of elections last fall, the party make up of the Legislature changed. It became 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans in the House of Representatives, and 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans in the Senate.


Lens tracks bills of general interest to businesslens

Besides WRA, the Business Institute of Washington is tracking bills of importance to business from the 2018 legislative session in its online publication, Lens.

The current edition includes updates of bills on job creation, transit, taxes and a running debate on rural water rights.

Click here to read the bill summary.


WRA offers proven safety, claims management programs

By Terry Hopsecger, Director of Business Development

“Retail is a fascinating and rewarding industry, but it’s not an easy one.  Combine the fast pace of change with seasonal pressures, constantly evolving technology and a changing consumer, and many workers could find themselves feeling overworked and stressed out.” –   Arianna Huffington, author, businesswoman

Our work environment can be at times very stressful.  How well your employees handle their health will determine whether you have a good sales day or a bad one.  Employee well-being is critical to the success of your business.  Studies show there is a direct connection between employee well-being and the bottom line.

Well-being goes hand in hand with keeping a safe work environment for your employees. That is why we work so hard at Washington Retail Association to provide customized quality safety support and training for members.  A safe environment eases stress.  When companies prioritize well-being,  employees’ creativity, decision-making, focus and productivity all go up across the board.

If an injury does occur, making sure your employee has a support system within your company will have an effect on the outcome.  The goal is to have a timely resolution of a claim that has occurred.  Hopefully, this will limit time loss, which is the largest factor that negatively impacts your workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Claims management is the cornerstone of our services.  Not only do we protect and save you money and risk by implementing our aggressive pro-active claims management system, early return-to-work programs, loss analysis/risk assessments, and robust safety training programs. We also employ an extraordinary, experienced claims management team that cares about your worker and you.

Think of the Washington Retail Association as your go-to resource.  We care about the well-being of your employees and you.

Please let me know what you think about this topic.  Contact me at www.terry.wrasi.com.  I will look forward to your comments. Meanwhile, learn more here about our claims management program.


Save dates for upcoming WRA webinars

WRA has been confirmed to host four upcoming free webinars in February, March and April.

Dates include:

  • February 8, on planning for severe weather occurrences
  • February 28, on how to obtain government contracts
  • March 15, on preparedness for natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding, etc.
  • April 4, a guide to business recovery from disasters

Look for updates in upcoming newsletters for times and registration links and on our Twitter and Facebook postings.


Debate continues on Seattle income tax

 A panel discussion before the King County Regional Policy Committee earlier this month kept alive the debate about whether Seattle’s income tax on the wealthy will survive a court challenge.

Featured in the taped discussion was Jason Mercier, the Washington Policy Center’s Director of the Center for Government Reform who regularly opposes the tax.

A King County judge has ruled the tax, approved last year, is illegal but Seattle has appealed to the state Supreme Court to hear more arguments.

Mercier noted that Washington voters have voted down numerous attempts to approve a personal income tax, which has been prohibited in nine states including Washington. Seattle taxes individual income higher than $250,000 at a rate of 2.25 percent. It is the same rate for couples making more than $500,000. The city projects it can raise $140 million a year through the tax.

As courts have ruled, Mercier said the Legislature changing the state constitution would be the only way to start an income tax, not passing an ordinance as Seattle has done. You can read about and watch the discussion here.

Source: Washington Policy Center


Latest Research Council policy brief reflects strong economy

 Monthly state revenue collections updates have consistently been increasing since the Legislature passed the last state budget last June.

A new Washington Research Council policy brief predicts that next month’s revenue update also will include higher-than-expected tax revenues as the Legislature prepares to pass a supplemental state budget. Tax revenues to the state finished $87.8 million more than expected for the one-month period ending January 10, the brief reported. The past two monthly revenue reports show increases 3.4 percent higher than forecasts.

The brief includes a useful chart that shows increases and decreases in periodic revenue forecasts dating back to 2001. Click here to review the brief.


Safety tip of the week

How to avoid slipping up

Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common workplace accidents. Falls can cause serious injuries and even death.  Most slip, trip, and fall incidents are preventable with general precautions and safety measures.

Here are a few definitions for these accidents:

 Slip – A slip occurs when there is too little traction or friction between the shoe and the walking surface and can cause you to be off-balance.

Trip – A trip occurs when a person contacts an object in their way or drops to a lower level unexpectedly, causing them to be thrown off-balance.

Fall – A fall occurs when you are too far off balance.  There are two types of falls:

  • Same Level – Fall to the surface you are walking on. Same-level falls are more common and are usually caused by slips and trips.
  • From Elevation – Falls from elevation are more severe and are usually caused by ladders, stairs, platforms, and loading docks.

Housekeeping is the first and most fundamental way to prevent falls due to slips and trips.  Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measures such as installation of sophisticated flooring, specialty footwear or training on techniques of walking will never be fully effective.

Other ways to help in preventing slips, trips and falls:

  • Don’t be in a hurry
  • Don’t be distracted and focus on the task until it is completed
  • Wear appropriate shoes for the work conditions
  • Get better lighting where needed
  • Balance the load that you are carrying

RASI SafetyTV has some videos on this topic. It can be a good discussion item for safety meetings.

WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360.943.9198 x18, or rick.means@retailassociationservices.com.


WRA diversity statement

It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion.  We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people; creates a diverse workforce; fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued; partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities; and communicates these values with others.

In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level.  The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.

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