Greetings from the new WRA President/CEO
By Renée Sunde
Greetings! Monday, October 16 marked my first day in the office as President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association. It was great to meet many of my staff members and discover firsthand the people behind WRA’s successful leadership.
Change is in the air as we undergo a building expansion and tenant improvement, now scheduled for completion by the end of November. The nearly 1,500 square feet of new space will allow our staff to operate more efficiently and sets the stage for future association growth.
September was a busy month. I had the pleasure of joining Jan Teague and WRA staff, Tammie Hetrick and Mark Johnson, as we represented the association at several annual conferences. Besides the informative conference content, the introductions by staff to our federal, state and local association partners, state policymakers and WRA stakeholders were valuable as I seek to forge important connections with all of our partners.
Washington State’s economy is healthy as consumer confidence continues to rise and unemployment has fallen to lows we haven’t witnessed in a decade. Yet, many parts of rural Washington still are suffering with high levels of unemployment and scarce job opportunities.
The pressures on our industry are real, but I agree with Oregon economist Josh Lehner. He warns that fears of a retail apocalypse are overblown.
“Retail jobs aren’t disappearing, they’re just changing,” says Lehner. “The modest but steady growth of retail jobs in recent years is because of, not in spite of, the growth of online sales.”
The online versus brick-and-mortar pressures and changing consumer demands added to the many regulatory requirements being placed on retailers throughout the state have created a culture of uncertainty for the industry.
As an association, our focus will be on better anticipating the changes facing our industry so that we can better serve our members not only in the hallways of the Legislature but in Seattle, the trendsetter for many of the new regulations and labor laws popping up in cities around the state and nation.
I’m thrilled for the opportunity to lead such a highly reputable organization and look forward to building on our past successes as we work together to tackle the many challenges and great opportunities facing the industry.
Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at (360) 200-6450 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRA seeks board of directors nominations
The Washington Retail Association’s Nominating Committee is looking for interested members to serve on the association’s Board of Directors.
Board members meet three times a year to discuss the key issues facing retailers and to express their concerns to elected officials and key agency staff. The Board oversees the financial health of the organization and develops goals and objectives for the association. At one of the meetings, the Board holds a two-day retreat to explore the future direction of the association and take a closer look at key issues.
In 2018 the retreat will be at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle on July 10 and July 11. If you want more information or would like to be considered for a board position, please contact Jan Teague at email@example.com.
Membership is key to WRA’s success
By Terry Hopsecger, Director Business Development
At the Washington Retail Association, our valued members drive our goals and strategic initiatives each and every day.
Established in 1987, WRA is the only association in Washington formed exclusively to advocate for the unique interests of the retail industry. Our strength is in our numbers and in the diversity of our membership. Our impressive roster includes the largest national chains to the smallest independent businesses. Your membership investment allows us to be the industry experts you have come to rely on as we respond to the ever-changing retail environment around the state.
We focus our efforts by providing political influence locally, statewide and nationally. We strive to keep our members informed and up to date on the important issues and trends that impact you the most.
Our RETRO program offers members a financial incentive by providing a safe work environment and reducing workplace injuries. We protect our membership by implementing our aggressive claims management program and robust safety program. We have a proven record of success in the Group Retrospective Program and continue to offer our membership a financially sound program.
We are a value-based organization and have built our 30-year reputation on trust and transparency. We pride ourselves on the flexibility, expertise and commitment to excellence, our members have come to count on.
Your financial commitment is key to our on-going success and we want to thank you for your continued support. We will be reaching out to each of our members to better understand how we can serve you in the coming year.
If you would like more information about the many member benefits available and how to join the Washington Retail Association, please contact Terry Hopsecger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council members propose a Seattle business head tax to address homelessness
Two city council members have proposed returning a business head tax to Seattle, this time to address needs related to homelessness.
Any company in Seattle grossing at least $5 million a year would pay the city about $100 a year per employee at a rate of 4.8 cents for every hour worked. Councilman Mike O’Brien estimates such a tax would raise $24 million a year.
WRA opposes the head tax. This new tax will hurt retailers and their employees. If homelessness is a council priority, the members should adequately fund it, not look to retailers and other businesses with unwanted new taxes.
The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce promptly dismissed the idea as an unnecessary tax on jobs that would discourage business from locating or remaining in Seattle. Chamber President Maud Daudon noted that:
The city’s general fund budget has grown by $70 million.
Voters approved a $290 million housing levy last year.
The council passed a $29 million affordable housing bond last year.
“This is not a resource issue,” Daudon said. “It’s a matter of political will.”
Between 2006 and 2009, Seattle had a head tax of $25 per year per employee to pay for sidewalks and streets. The council repealed the tax during the last recession.
It would take a two-thirds majority of the city council to approve the head tax and include it in the next city budget. The council is facing a November 20 deadline to pass a new city budget.
ADA lawsuits are on the rise
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Relations
A few unscrupulous lawyers and law firms are distorting and perverting the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to line their pockets by filing unwarranted or petty lawsuits to extort settlements from unsuspecting businesses.
In 2016, a total of 6,601 ADA lawsuits were filed in federal courts across the country.
How does this scam work?
The lawyer files a lawsuit against a business alleging an ADA violation. However, the lawyer offers to drop the lawsuit if the business returns a payoff to avoid the time and expense of a court trial. Unfortunately, many businesses pay the bribe. Please watch this video to learn more about the problem.
WRA is considering legislation that could halt this shakedown practice. A law needs to be in place that gives businesses clear notice and a description of the ADA deficiency. If there actually is a problem, a business should be given a reasonable amount of time to fix it before a court action or paying a fine. This will help make businesses more accessible to customers with disabilities and keep businesses out of legal or financial peril.
We need your help. If you have been a victim of an unwarranted ADA lawsuit plot, I want to hear from you. I know it can be embarrassing and something most businesses want to forget and move on from. But this practice needs to be stopped. I assure you any information shared will not go forward with identifying company or owner information unless you specifically give permission. Thank you in advance for helping other businesses avoid being a victim.
Please contact me directly for a confidential discussion on this growing problem. Call me at 360-943-9198, extension 15, my cell, 360-704-0048 or contact me at email@example.com.
WRA co-sponsors employment law conference
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
WRA and the Lane Powell law firm held the 35th annual employment law conference this week before a sold-out audience of about 300 in Seattle.
I spoke to the attendees about the array of services WRA offers retail members and our expanding involvement in Seattle politics. It was fortunate to hold the conference in Seattle where WRA is focused on growing some of its overall membership.
Presenters covered several important aspects of employment law that businesses large and small should know about or address if they have been negligent. Three of the most important topics were:
Data security. Companies need to become more aware of the need to protect their trade secrets and confidential data from hackers.
Employee assistance programs. Firms without such programs are well advised to create a way to identify and treat employees who may be troubled for a variety of possible reasons. Companies need to get better at identifying and treating mental health issues.
Sexual harassment. It is reportedly on the rise and is challenging to address including not only employee behavior but establishing the truth about claims.
Lane Powell has been a valued partner with WRA for the past several years and is among the valued assets offered to our members. While in Seattle, partners of Lane Powell reaffirmed their pledge to continue supporting WRA’s needs including the possibility of playing an expanded role.
Washington State leads nation in workers’ compensation costs
In 2015, Washington State’s workers’ compensation benefits costs were the nation’s highest, according to a report by the Washington Research Council.
In a blog, the council was quoting from the latest National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) report comparing workers’ comp costs by state. Washington’s benefit costs per employee have been the nation’s highest since 2008 but the rate has been declining since 2010, according to the research council report.
Due to declining employee injury rates, Washington Labor & Industries has proposed an average 2.5 percent insurance rate decreased next year.
For the last available year of benefit costs, NASI estimated that Washington’s benefit costs were $788.62 per covered worker, followed by California at $751.70. Washington is the only state where employees share benefit costs with employers. The NASI report includes only the portion of benefit costs paid by employers.
WRA has long supported programs aimed at reducing workers’ compensation costs including independent medical examinations and providing employers incentives to encourage earlier returns to light-duty work.
Source: Washington Research Council
Use our calculator to estimate 2018 workers’ comp insurance payments
Once again this year, Retail Association Services has provided our website visitors with a spreadsheet to estimate 2018 workers comp insurance premiums.
You can download the form by visiting the Retail Association Service website and clicking the “premiums calculator” promotion at the top of the site.
“Every year, our staff is hard at work getting next year’s potential insurance premiums out to RASI members,” said Tammie Hetrick, WRA’s Chief Operating Officer. “The estimator is a handy tool so that our members can plan next year’s finances as soon as possible.”
Labor & Industries has proposed an average 2.5 percent decrease in 2018 insurance rates. Hetrick said it’s important to note that the proposed rates are averages, and not exact. She noted that while some claim costs are down, state pension costs have increased. WRA is awaiting more information to determine how much pension costs could affect next year’s rates for all retail risk classes, Hetrick said.
Times endorses WRA-backed Englund in state Senate race
The Seattle Times has endorsed Jinyoung Lee Englund in this fall’s 45th district state Senate race that will determine political party control in Olympia. WRA also has endorsed the Republican Englund.
An Englund win would maintain the Republicans’ one-vote Senate majority and a balance of power because Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives and hold the Governor’s office. The 45th district includes Kirkland, Sammamish, Duvall, Redmond and Woodinville.
The paper’s endorsement notes that maintaining the current balance of political power will be the only way to achieve fiscal restraint in the Legislature. It credits Senate Republicans with reducing college and university tuition while enacting a rule that requires the state budget to be balanced when projected over four years.
“Englund makes a persuasive case that her election will preserve a ‘balance of power’ that will better serve Washington State,” the Times concludes. “For that reason, voters in the 45th should elect her.”
Click here to read the entire endorsement.
Macy’s will again be open on Thanksgiving this year
Other stores will wait until Black Friday
Continuing a trend it began four years ago, Macy’s will open some of its stores this year for holiday shopping at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, CNBC reports.
Macy’s is the first chain to report its holiday shopping adjustments to address competition from around-the-clock online sellers.
Stores such as TJ Maxx, Costco and Home Depot have reported they are sticking with holding off on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Sears began the trend of stretching the holiday shopping season when it opened on Thanksgiving, 2010. Walmart did the same the following year and Target in 2012. When Macy’s first opened on Thanksgiving, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s quickly did the same.
Macy’s relies on volunteers to work on Thanksgiving. Footwear News reported that some Macy’s would be open a few hours on Thanksgiving while others would remain open overnight.
For more, visit CNBC.
Retail sales recover slightly from string of hurricanes
National retail sales results in September were up 0.5 percent compared to August, hurt by hurricane damage but helped by sales of rebuilding materials and supplies, the National Retail Federation reported.
Sales for September were up 3.2 percent compared to the same month a year ago, NRF reported.
“Retail appears to have navigated through some rough weather – literally,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Hurricane impacts were very clear, with a strong boost for building materials going a long way to offset downturns elsewhere.”
A 2.2 percent increase in building material and supply sales in September compared to August.
Monthly growth in online sales of 0.5 percent; they were up 5.8 percent compared to September of last year.
Clothing and accessories sales increased 0.4 percent in September compared to August. They were up 1.5 percent year-over-year.
Electronics and appliance sales led declines, down 1.1 percent from August and down 5.3 percent year-over-year.
For more on national sales results, click here.
NRF calls for modernizing NAFTA, not pulling out
The National Retail Federation supports current talks to modernize the 20-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
But in a commentary in The Hill, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay warns that proposals to allow the agreement to expire or for the United State to pull out of the agreement would lead to higher prices and limited choices for U.S. consumers.
Shay writes that a modernized agreement could eliminate digital trade barriers and improve customs procedures to promote more trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico. These are the nations that held talks this week to update the agreement.
“An end of NAFTA would not lead to a rush of jobs back to the United States,” Shay writes. “It would have the opposite impact, negatively impacting the U.S. economy.”
Click here to read Shay’s entire commentary.
Safety tip of the week:
Ladder safety can reduce lost time
Ladders are one of the major causes of fall-related fatalities, according to the National Safety Council’s statistics. It is estimated that in any given year, 65,000 individuals receive emergency room treatment due to ladder accidents.
Most ladder incidents happen at ten feet or less from the ground and usually on the way back down. Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, suggests that you:
1. Always take proper 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 tools and materials.
2. Keep in mind that the physical length of ladder is different from its usable length. Make sure that the ladder is long enough for the job. Never stand on the top step of a step ladder or the top three rungs of a straight or extension ladder.
3. Examine the ladder for any defects or features that can be potentially dangerous.
4. Protect your ladders by storing them where they are protected from the weather and other damage.
Remember, the key to preventing accidents is to take proper precautions. Always read and follow all instructions accompanying ladders, properly set up the ladders, and use good sense while working on ladders.
Rick is available to WRA members for safety advice or to help outline safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198, Ext. 18 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ballots arrive this week for the general election
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
Registered voters will begin receiving their General Election ballots in the mail this week. Being an odd year, the ballot will seem a little shorter than last year or the upcoming 2018 election.
However, there are many very important local government, and in some districts, state races in contention.
The biggest race is in the 45th Legislative District for state senate. It is a special election to replace Senator Andy Hill who passed away due to cancer while in office. The WRA Retail Action Council Political Action Committee has endorsed Ms. Jinyoung Lee Englund for the position. She will be a strong advocate for retail issues in Olympia.
As is frequently said, “All politics are local.”
The races you will see on your ballots will likely be for school board, port commissioner, city council, and other local positions. These positions, most of them unpaid, are incredibly important to our everyday lives. If you have children in school, it is important that the school board representatives reflect your best interests. If you live in a city or town, the councilmembers and mayor have a huge impact on your home, businesses and quality of life.
I encourage you to read about the candidates, meet them if possible and cast an informed vote for the ones you think will represent you best. Most of them are your neighbors. If you are not enamored by any of the candidates, consider running for office in the future. It will be an experience you will never forget and one you will find very rewarding. I commend all of the candidates running for office. It is a challenging endeavor.
I encourage you to exercise your right and fulfill your responsibility to vote in the General Election. Please be sure and mail your ballot by November 7.
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.