The need for marketplace equity revealed in national holiday sales results
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
Last weekend’s sales results provided an important message hidden within the economic data.
In this case, though, the subtler message isn’t quite so hidden.
National retailers proclaimed a “very strong weekend” for sales from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. The turnout of an estimated 174 million shoppers through the weekend spent an average $335 per person.
But digging a bit deeper, we get to a subtler but important message. More consumers, an estimated 58 million, shopped only online compared to 51 million who shopped only in stores. The growing base of online shoppers generated double-digit percentage sales gains for online sellers compared to single-digit percentage sales gains for brick-and-mortar stores.
Many of those online shoppers were attracted not just by convenience but the chance to avoid paying sales taxes based on the states where they live. This message brings back a long-standing national debate about tax reform that would require online sellers to collect and remit sales taxes to the states where their shoppers live.
The price advantage offered by online sellers is directly tied to their ability to grow sales at a faster pace than traditional stores. The unfair advantage is that many online sellers are exploiting a legal loophole to forgo collecting sales taxes in states such as Washington. Collection of owed taxes for online sales could be applied to important Washington priorities, such as funding schools. Instead, state lawmakers have turned to new taxes to continue to meet the needs of our teachers and students.
For more than a decade, Congress has debated but not acted upon the need to mandate a level and competitive playing field for online and traditional retailers. Left unaddressed, we run the risk of unintentionally hurting brick-and-mortar retailers who no longer can compete in a marketplace with an unfair price advantage.
A bill to remedy the situation has twice passed the U.S. Senate. It now is time for the U.S. House of Representatives to step up to mandate marketplace fairness for all retailers. The wellbeing of our states, retailers and many who work in the industry depends on it.
Drug take-back will be a hot session issue
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
I participated on a conference call this week regarding the disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals or drug take-back.
Rep. Strom Peterson, D -Edmonds, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1047 that would create a statewide drug take-back program funded by the drug manufacturers. The bill would also pre-empt local governments from adopting other similar programs. HB 1047 is modeled after several county ordinances. Many advocates would prefer to have a statewide standard program rather than a county-by-county piecemeal approach.
Concerns over suicide prevention, poison control, opioid abuse, accidental overdoses, and drugs in the environment have all contributed to the interest in working on a solution. Also, several pharmacies are actively rolling out drug disposal programs on their own.
HB 1047 is expected to be in play early in the 2018 Session that begins January 8 and is scheduled for 60 days.
Seattle offers free webinars on new labor laws
Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards is continuing its lineup of free webinars to explain a host of new labor laws enacted in the past several months.
The issues include minimum wage increases, scheduling and paid sick and safe time off from work. The next session in the continuing series of policy updates is next week Thursday, at 9:30 in the morning. Click here to register.
Click here for further information on the remaining lineup of webinars and assigned topics.
WRA prepares for labor issues in 2018
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
To prepare for the 2018 Legislative Session, I met this week with Senator Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, the upcoming Chair of the Labor and Commerce Committee. She outlined various labor issues she expects legislators to address with bills during the session that begins on January 8.
Sen. Keiser’s expected top 5 labor issues are:
- Achieving gender pay equity
- Non-compete agreements
- Sexual harassment and abuse
- Apprenticeships and workforce development
- Overtime pay
Most of these issues aren’t yet addressed in bill drafts or fleshed out with any details. However, I invite our members to contact me and remain in touch as details develop so that they can ask questions or express concerns. It’s also a chance for you to suggest specific bill language for which we may lobby.
During the meeting with Sen. Keiser, concerns were expressed about local jurisdictions that sometimes feel inclined to make more stringent labor-related mandates than those adopted by state government. She was aware of our concern and is aware that this issue is likely to come up during the session.
Due to my promotion to WRA’s Chief Operating Officer and the added duties that brings, I will not be lobbying as actively this year as I have in the past. This year, I will be working with lobbyist Bruce Beckett, who is assigned to address labor issues for WRA. I expect he will be a great enhancement to our lobbying efforts this session.
Meanwhile, please feel free to contact me on any of these or other labor issues before and during session. Reach me at 360-200-6452 or email@example.com
Look for a WRA survey soon in your email
By Terry Hopsecger, Director Business Development
In days gone by, putting customers first wasn’t a strategy as much as a way of life for nonprofits like the Washington Retail Association. Based on how well associations knew their members, they might have pro-actively offered suggestions and provided thoughtful advice on what services might best serve their membership.
These days, customer service involves more emphasis on offering services based on collecting data. We’re seeing this, for example, with groceries that track buying habits before sending customers discount coupons based upon what people buy. This sometimes leaves little room for the human touch of business and relationship building.
What’s the answer?
Surveys tell us that serving association members requires a team effort made with executive support. WRA must focus on making each engagement with members exceptional. Most importantly, we must learn from each interaction with members or potential members.
We at WRA want to achieve that personalization just like in years past. That’s why we want to understand the future needs of our members and prospective members who have small and large businesses in Washington State.
We’re formulating a WRA survey that will arrive in your email. When it arrives, please take just a moment to answer the questions and let us know what’s most important to you so that we can provide services that better assist in the success of your business in the upcoming year.
We are and will be listening!
Judge rules against Seattle income tax
In a ruling expected to be appealed by the City of Seattle, a Superior Court judge last week ruled that the city’s high-earner income tax is illegal.
Attorney Brian Hodges, who represented plaintiffs in the case, said Seattle’s City Council violated the law in approving the tax on individuals earning more than $250,000 a year. Traditionally, lawmakers have believed that state law prohibits taxes on net income.
Observers say the City Council thinks it can convince the State Supreme Court that earlier legal interpretations of state law were mistaken and that an income tax is permitted.
The council unanimously passed the tax last July. It imposes a 2.5 percent tax on individuals making more than $250,000 and on married couples exceeding $500,0000 in annual income.
Click here to read Judge John Ruhl’s ruling.
Sign up for updates on paid family and medical leave
To help prepare for new state laws, Employment Security is asking businesses to sign up for email updates before paid family and medical leave goes into effect in January of 2019.
Paid family leave is distinct from a paid sick leave law that takes effect in January 2018.
For updates on these new laws and a host of others, click here. The service requires only an email address to subscribe.
Safety tip of the week
Are you prepared for workplace threats?
When was the last time you reviewed your plan for the potential of robbery or bomb threats?
This type of intended harm can come at any time to any store operation dealing with the public and money transactions. Convenience stores, banking, pharmacies and jewelers are high on the list of possible targets. Some basic tips:
- Offer no physical resistance. Do not try to be a hero. Safety must be your number one priority.
- Follow the robber’s instructions.
- Do not argue or attempt to stop or apprehend the robber.
- Do not make sudden movements.
- Advise the robber of any surprises or unexpected events that may occur.
- Mentally note the physical description and dress of the robber(s). Do not stare or draw attention to yourself.
- Try to retain the note (if one is used). Do not handle it any more than is necessary.
- As soon as the robber is gone, call the Sheriff or Police Department and provide the following information: the crime location, number of suspects, direction of flight and vehicle used, if any.
RASI SafetyTV has good videos on what to do in a robbery scenario.
Here is a link to the 2016 Washington State crime report by county.
Bomb threat/Active Shooter:
While not as common, you should still have it on your radar to discuss in case it could happen. Create procedures such as whom to notify and how to evacuate the building for both your employees and customers.
Please review your current policy and plan to share that with your employees at your next safety meeting. You can also find additional items in the RASI Safety Library. Here is the WAC Rule for late night workers.
Contact WRA if you need an updated workplace poster
The state Labor & Industries department has updated the Your Rights as a Worker poster to include the new paid sick leave requirements that were approved by Washington voters in 2016. The requirement of businesses goes into effect in January 2018 as a result of voter approval of Initiative 1433.
L&I mailed the poster to businesses, but if you misplaced it or didn’t receive it, you can print one here. If you would like a full-sized copy sent to you, please contact Rick Means at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to larn more about the nine employee posters the state requires, go here and scroll to the Workplace Poster list.
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.