Economic factors take some shine off the holiday for retailers
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
We’ve all heard the good news about retail projections for a strong holiday season. Crowds were plentiful and in a buying mood starting on Thanksgiving and lasting through Cyber Monday.
Yet, as The Wall Street Journal reminds us, there are other economic factors that may very well tame retail stock prices throughout the holiday season and into next year.
Rising inventories, trade tariffs and higher labor costs have left investors worried that retailers may have to slash prices next year to clear out warehouses full of inventory. Retailers who import goods from overseas rushed to buy extra inventory to avoid an expected 25 percent increase in U.S. tariffs in January.
While retail revenues are sure to be up by the end of the year, costs also are rising. Retailers who have raised their minimum wages either because of new requirements or to remain competitive are absorbing higher labor costs.
The result could be that merchandise will cost more due to tariffs while inventories will be fuller than normal. That’s a combination of factors likely to make some retailers cautious in 2019.
Stock market analysts still expect retailers to do very well this Christmas due to lower taxes, low unemployment and high consumer confidence. General merchandise retailers will pick up sales from the closure of Toys ‘R’ Us. The Sears bankruptcy also is likely to boost business at home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.
But the smartest retail strategy for 2019 is already starting to become clear. Winning retailers will be those able to hold down prices, manage labor costs and keep pace with the strong growth of online retailers.
Weekend holiday shopping showed big boost for multichannel shopping
An estimated 165 million shoppers began the holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday, the National Retail Federation reported.
The average shopper spent $313.29 over the five-day period.
NRF’s survey highlighted an overriding trend to multichannel shopping. It found a 40 percent increase in the number of shoppers, some 89 million, who made purchases both in stores and online.
The biggest spenders were millennials and Gen Xers (ages 35 to 44) who spent an average of $413.05.
Three close state Legislature races are headed for recounts
Rep. Chopp will step down as House Speaker next year
Three state Senate and House election races in Districts 26 and 42 are headed for recounts under provisions in state law. Also this week, Frank Chopp, Speaker of the state House of Representatives, announced he would step down from the leadership position at the end of the 2019 Session. He has been Speaker since 1999.
State law requires machine or manual recounts depending on how close the certified results come in. Officials use machines if the top two candidates are less than 2,000 votes apart and manual counts if the vote difference is less than 150 votes. Read more on recounts.
In the 26th District Senate race, Democrat Emily Randall was leading Republican Marty McClendon by 104 votes on Monday. The two are competing to replace Republican Jan Angel who is retiring.
In District 42, Republican incumbent Doug Erickson was leading Democrat Pinky Vargas by 46 votes. Also in District 42, Republican incumbent Luanne Van Werven was leading Democrat Justin Bonneau by 80 votes.
Democrats gained seats in both state houses in this months election. If current results hold after the recounts, Democrats would hold a 28-21 seat majority in the Senate and a 57-41 House majority. Final outcomes must be settled before the 2019 Legislative session begins on January 14.
Sources: King5 TV news, Secretary of State, Seattle Times
Washington transportation officials are studying whether to replace gasoline taxes with charges that would be determined by how far you drive. Such a change would not only be important for commuters but for retailers, whose costs include delivery expenses.
In a recent Seattle Times opinion piece, the Washington Policy Center’s transportation director addressed a subplot to the issue: where funds from the tax would be directed for spending.
Director Mariya Frost notes that there would be pressures to divert funds from a mileage tax away from a protected Motor Vehicle Fund (MVF) to possibly be spent for unspecified, unrelated reasons. Should the Legislature eventually approve a mileage tax, Frost urges that revenues be protected in an existing state highway maintenance fund and not diverted for transit expenses or reasons unrelated to transportation.
“Lawmakers put tolls on state Highway 520 and the new state Highway 99 tunnel into accounts outside of the MVF, and the money is therefore not protected,” Frost wrote. ” When public officials choose not to deposit drivers’ money into the trust fund, it means they want to spend it elsewhere on projects that may not provide a direct benefit to those who have paid.”
Businesses need to do a better job training employees for increased automation to protect employees from losing their jobs, according to recommendations to a state Senate committee.
The advice from Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board has been communicated to the Senate Economic Development & International Trade Committee.
Representatives from the board told the committee that future workers will need training on programming and repairing robots so that they will have valued skills rather than being replaced by computers. Increasingly in recent years, automation has become more common among retailers including Amazon stores that are completely automated.
The online news site The Lens carried a recent story on the need for companies to anticipate and develop new jobs skills for increased automation in workplaces. Some studies have concluded that retail employees may become some of the most vulnerable to job losses without proper training on the use of artificial intelligence and computers in the workplace.
Safety tip of the week
Learn to use a ladder safely
Ladders are one of the major causes of fatalities related to falls, according to the National Safety Council’s statistics. It is estimated that in any given year, 65,000 people receive emergency room treatment due to ladder accidents. Most ladder incidents happen at 10 feet or less from the ground.
Here are ladder safety tips:
- Always take precautions when choosing a ladder based on the type of work being done, the weight the ladder must carry, and the condition of the ladder. Make sure that the weight rating will support the weight of the worker plus materials.
- Keep in mind that the length of a ladder is different from its usable length. Make sure that the ladder is long enough for the job. Never stand on the top or top step of a step ladder or the top three rungs of a straight or extension ladder.
- Examine the ladder for any defects or features that can be potentially dangerous.
- Protect your ladders by storing them where they are protected from weather and other possible damage.
The key to preventing accidents is to take proper precautions. Always read and follow instructions accompanying ladders, properly set up the ladders, and use good sense while working on ladders. Businesses need to use Type II, I or IA ladders. Type III ladders (home use), are not built for the extra use that workplace ladders experience.
More information is available at:
- RASI SAFETYTV Ladder videos
- RASI Safety Library – Ladder Safety document
- SAFEME Essentials app has a ladder module
WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist to members. He’s available for workplace safety visits or to help outline safety plans and to suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198, x18 or at email@example.com.
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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.