Conferences pave the way for future partnerships
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
It’s been a busy six weeks for me attending numerous conferences and summits around the country. These valuable meetings have provided the chance to hear from top industry leaders, policymakers and association partners on topics that are important to sustaining and building a strong statewide association.
Last week, our executive team attended the WCCE (Washington Chamber of Commerce Executives) Leadership summit in Pullman. We presented on the “Ever-Changing Face of Retail” to an audience of chamber leaders representing communities across the state. As the industry continues to evolve, the need to advocate for the issues impacting our members at the local level continues to change as well.
This week I am in New York City attending the National Retail Federation’s Retail Works Summit, focused on job and career pathways in the industry. Right now, retail is an exciting sector for job seekers. We see an increase in the number and diversity of roles as the industry continues to respond to consumer expectations. Retailers are making significant commitments and investments focused on training and elevating workers through higher pay, better benefits, education and upskilling.
With unemployment at historic lows and an emerging skills gaps, the need for training and education is more important than ever. While retailers are addressing these challenges, effective solutions are all about partnerships. Strong partnerships between state retail associations, workforce boards, the National Retail Federation, chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, are what it’s all about.
The future of work is here! Jobs in the retail industry will change but the need for a trained workforce won’t. I look forward to building on these partnerships in the coming year as we work to meet the needs of our retailers.
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 summer retreat to explore the future direction of the association and take a closer look at key issues.
WRA members are encouraged to apply for a Board position any time during the year. The volunteer support of our board members provides visionary leadership, policy development and fiduciary oversight for the association.
The board will meet December 3 in Bellevue, with the Legislature during the 2019 session that begins in January and next summer in a retreat planned in the Tri-Cities area of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland in Eastern Washington. If you want more information or would like to be considered for a board position, please contact President/CEO Renée Sunde at 360-200-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New leadership for statewide alliance fighting retail crime
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Public Policy
The Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance has elected new leadership heading toward the 2019 Legislative session.
Congratulations go out to Robert Nelson of Lowe’s Loss Prevention, who was elected WSORCA President. A special thanks goes out to David Thornton of Kroger Loss Prevention, who served as the alliance President for several years.
Also elected were Brett Grieve of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, as Vice President. Leslie Dolan, Walgreen’s Loss Prevention, will continue on as Treasurer.
WSORCA is one of the oldest and largest anti-retail crime alliances in the United States. The group was founded to combat the ever-increasing instances of organized retail crime which in 2017 accounted for more than $45 billion in losses nationwide, according to the annual National Retail Federation Report. Alliance members share crime-fighting techniques, hold an annual conference and lobby on behalf of new laws to improve law enforcement tools.
Washington State is a leader in retail theft laws and enforcement. WRA will be working this coming legislative session in 2019 to add the term concealment of merchandise to the definition of theft in order to better apprehend thieves in retail establishments.
Legal seminar reviews current workplace issues
Business representatives who attended a Lane Powell legal seminar in Seattle Tuesday learned about key current workplace issues that require special care in addressing.
Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick attended and spoke about how Washington Retail Association is informing members about some of the issues covered during the seminar.
Much of the conversation had to do with drug testing policies and the threat of sexual harassment charges if company policies are unclear or absent.
Hetrick summarized four outcomes from the seminar:
- Companies that institute drug-free policies after accidents must rely on facts or evidence before doing drug testing. Policies need to be clear on what constitutes reasonable suspicion of drug use before testing can be done.
- Attendees learned that technology is under development that could detect marijuana use similar to how a breathalyzer can detect alcohol use.
- The #MeToo movement has raised concerns among male managers required to mentor female employees.
- These and other seminar issues confirmed that companies should have comprehensive policy manuals to educate employees before legal issues arise.
Washington Retail is collaborating with Lane Powell on assembling a comprehensive and updatable policy manual that would include details of state and local workplace laws. Hetrick said she expects it to be available for WRA members by the end of this year. Contact Hetrick if you have questions at 360-200-6452 or email@example.com.
Governor warns of the need for new state revenues
In a recent interview at The Everett Herald, Gov. Jay Inslee warned of state budget revenue shortfalls and the need for new revenues to address the state’s inability to treat enough mentally challenged patients.
Inslee projected a $1.5 billion state budget revenue shortfall heading into next year, when the Legislature will meet to approve a new two-year state budget. While the state’s reserves are projected to be around $3.2 billion by June 30, not every one of those dollars can be tapped. Inslee was unspecific about how the state would attempt to raise revenues.
Roughly a third of state financial reserves could remain in a savings account that could only be spent if a Legislature supermajority of two-thirds approved. The remainder of the savings account is expected to pay for funding public schools under order of the state Supreme Court.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction already has proposed a tax on the sale of personal assets that some believe would be illegal under the state constitution. The Legislature begins meeting in January for a scheduled 105-day 2019 session.
Research Council studies two ballot initiatives
Newspapers oppose carbon tax
The Washington Research Council reports that Initiative 1631 (carbon tax) on the November ballot would do little to address the issue of a warming planet. This conclusion is in a newly-published policy brief on the issue.
The council also has studied I-1634 (a ban on local grocery taxes) and concludes that it is in keeping with the state’s history of banning sales taxes on food. Seattle has imposed a tax on sodas and other sugary drinks.
The I-1634 brief notes that Washington would not be the first state to ban local taxation of groceries. Michigan did so in 2017 while Arizona and California followed this year. Voters in Oregon also are considering a ban on new grocery taxes.
Washington Retail Association opposes 1631 because it would increase costs for consumers and retailers including for transportation costs to import and deliver merchandise. WRA favors 1634 to stop the spread of increased grocery prices.
Costs to the average Washington State household would increase $440 in 2020 and grow to $1,000 by 2035 if voters approve the proposed carbon tax, I-1631, this November. The study was completed by a firm commissioned by opponents of I-1631.
The No on 1631 campaign had no control or power of approval of the study’s methodology and NERA Economic Consulting has not taken a position on the initiative, according to a disclaimer in its report.
Washington Retail Association opposes I-1631 because it would place financial burdens on consumers and retailers alike. It’s a gasoline tax that will increase energy costs for consumers and retailers while increasing required transportation costs to import and deliver retail merchandise. At the same time, I-1631 would tax carbon emissions only from certain polluters while exempting some of the state’s largest carbon polluters.
Read more in The Lens.
Spokane newspaper reports on overtime rules changes
Changes in overtime work rules being contemplated by Labor & Industries would threaten many businesses by increasing payroll costs.
The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane carried a story this week that includes concerns of Washington Retail Association and other businesses about the possible rules changes. In short, they would make more employees eligible for overtime pay than currently qualify.
Business concerns have to do with piling more lenient overtime rules and corresponding costs on top of new government regulations in recent years including higher minimum wages. Taken together, these additional costs would make many businesses more marginal and could threaten their long-term livelihood.
The federal government also is studying similar rules changes. Washington Retail and others see no need for Washington State to act independently and are urging the state to slow down and wait for outcomes of the federal review. The public can comment to L&I on the issue by visiting www.lni.wa.gov/i1433rules . Comments are welcome through this Friday.
Safety tip of the week
Prepare for sales promotions and larger crowds
Special events and promotions are becoming regular routines for retailers including sidewalk sales, mall events, special vendor promotions, grand openings, etcetera. They’re great ways to stir up excitement and improve sales.
But even the best-laid plans can become huge challenges. Crowds can get pushy and injuries can result.
Contingencies should be created for the “what-if” scenarios that may arise, including:
- how to direct larger than expected crowds
- what is the backup plan for inclement weather?
- possible power outages
- is additional parking needed?
- Is their emergency inventory if merchandise sells out?
Contingency plans can also include alternative entry/exit routes for customers, celebrity guests and security/law enforcement. Business continuity and emergency preparedness plans give sales associates a foundation to handle an unexpected situation.
Retailers agree that the top priority in event planning is the safety of customers, employees, service providers and security personnel. Proactively planning and preparing for special events will help to increase the chances for a successful event.
When it comes to sales and shopping crowds that are bigger than usual, an old adage applies: plan for the worst and hope for the best.
For more ideas on this topic, see the National Retail Federation.
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 Rick at 360-200-6454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.