Newsletter — May 23, 2024

Celebrating Bruce Nordstrom: A Retail Icon


WR celebrates Bruce Nordstrom, whose visionary leadership propelled Nordstrom from a family shoe store to a retail giant. Bruce's passion for retail, evident from his youth, led to unprecedented growth. As president from 1963, he guided Nordstrom through expansion, taking it public in 1971 and launching Nordstrom Rack in 1973. His hands-on approach and commitment to customer service set a high standard in the industry. Beyond business, Bruce's values of integrity and family were paramount, influencing his sons and the company culture. His legacy of innovation and community service leaves an indelible mark. WR honors Bruce Nordstrom for his transformative impact on retail, celebrating a life dedicated to excellence and inspiration.

Honoring our heroes


As we commemorate Memorial Day, WR stands in solemn gratitude for the brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation's freedom. Their courage and sacrifice will forever be etched in our hearts and memories. We honor and remember these heroes who selflessly served our country. Let us also extend our deepest appreciation to all veterans and active-duty members for their unwavering commitment to protecting our liberties. Wishes for a reflective and meaningful Memorial Day.

IN THIS ISSUE

POLICY


ON THE LOCAL FRONT


POLITICAL NEWS


RETAIL THEFT & PUBLIC SAFETY


IN THE NEWS


TRENDS

2024 Legislative Law Review released to WR members


WR has finalized and distributed its 2024 Legislative Law Review to all dues-paying members. This comprehensive 45-page guide, produced after each session, highlights the bills that passed, what retailers need to comply with, and when the new laws become effective. Additionally, a crucial component of the Law Review is the bills WR successfully blocked, particularly those that would have imposed unnecessary regulations and costs on retailers. For example, WR successfully led the effort to defeat a proposal that would have required retailers to send any unused portion of gift cards to the state after just three years. Furthermore, WR testified in support of banning state or local income taxes.


If you are interested in becoming a WR member to receive this Law Review and the many other resources and services available to members, please contact Brittany Shannon, Business Development Manager at (360) 429-0017 or email her at bshannon@waretailservices.com.


If you are already a member and did not receive your Law Review, please contact kdavies@washingtonretail.org to obtain your copy.

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program faces fiscal challenges again


Washington’s PFML program, enacted in 2017 and implemented in 2020, is facing a potential deficit for the second time in four years. The program allows people to take paid time off from work if they have a serious health condition, are caring for family members, or have a new child. Employers and employees share the tax burden to cover program costs and benefits. Maintaining this shared tax responsibility, as originally negotiated, has been a key priority for the association.


The PFML program launched during the pandemic and incurred significantly higher costs than anticipated. Initially, the tax rate was 0.6%. In 2022, the Legislature increased the tax rate to 0.8% starting in 2023 and appropriated $200 million of federal COVID relief funds to the program.


The tax rate is determined by a formula that considers recent program usage and the amount in the PFML fund. Benefits are also adjusted annually to reflect overall wage growth in Washington State. Under the tax rate formula, the $200 million appropriation led to a tax rate adjustment from 0.8% to 0.74%. However, benefit costs continued to increase beyond expectations.


The number of people approved for benefits increased from 112,737 in 2020 to 210,268 in 2023. In 2023, the PFML program paid out $1.5 billion in benefits, a 24% increase over the previous year. Approved applications increased by 14% from 2022 to 2023, and the average weekly payment to eligible workers rose by 7%.


Rose Gundersen, Vice President of Operations and Retail Services, was recently appointed to the Paid Family and Medical Leave Advisory Committee. This committee, which includes representatives from business, labor, the Legislature, and state agencies, is tasked with reviewing operational data from the PFML program and making recommendations for legislative and/or administrative actions to address fiscal and policy issues. 


WR will closely monitor and provide input to the committee as it scrutinizes PFML data and develops recommendations for the 2024 Legislature.

Seattle City Council approves a partial new police contract


The Seattle City Council passed legislation approving a new police contract that covers 2021 through 2023 and Mayor Bruce Harrell quickly signed it into law. Negotiations are ongoing for a contract to cover 2024 and future years. The previous contract expired in 2020.


The contract raises the starting salary for police officers from $83,000 to $103,000, with officers earning $110,000 after six months. This contract makes Seattle police officers the highest paid in the state. Officers will receive back pay of up to $60,000 for the years in which they worked under the expired contract.


While the City of Seattle hopes this contract will boost officer hiring, the retroactive pay could trigger a wave of retirements by officers who postponed leaving until the contract was approved.


The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is still subject to the 2012 consent decree with the federal government that is overseen by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart. Although SPD has met many benchmarks in the consent decree, Judge Robart has insisted on stronger accountability standards. The new contract strengthens the police chief's authority in firing decisions, shifting much of this authority away from independent arbitrators who review such cases.

King County Council approves new minimum wage


The King County Council has voted to create a new minimum wage for unincorporated areas of the county, aligning with Tukwila’s highest-in-the-nation wage standard. This wage standard will take effect on January 1, 2025.


Employers with 500 or more employees will be required to pay $20.29 per hour. For smaller businesses, the minimum wage will be phased in over several years:


  • Small businesses with fewer than 15 employees and under $2 million in gross revenue will have a $17.29 minimum wage.
  • Businesses with 16-499 employees will start with a minimum wage of $18.29.


These small business wage breaks would decline over time until all businesses are paying the same minimum wage in 2030.


In public comment before the vote, John Engber, lobbyist for WR, urged the Council to adopt Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s amendment for total compensation credit. This amendment would have enabled employee benefits and tips to count toward the minimum wage. The Council rejected the amendment on a 7-2 vote and passed the legislation by

7-2.

WR releases 2024 Legislative Report Card


WR recently released the 2024 Legislative Session Report Card to members, which tracks and evaluates lawmakers’ votes on key issues affecting retailers. The report card assesses how lawmakers voted on critical issues related to public safety, the environment, and employment law during the 2024 session.


How Scoring is Determined

Each piece of legislation is assigned a point value based on its significance to the retail industry. Lawmakers earn points based on how they vote on these high-priority bills. The more critical the legislation, the higher the points allocated. This scoring system ensures that legislators who consistently advocate for retail interests receive the recognition they deserve.


Celebrating Top Retail Advocates

Out of 147 legislators, WR is proud to recognize the 36 representatives and 16 senators who achieved a perfect score of 100% during the 2024 Legislative Session. WR extends its deepest gratitude to the following 52 lawmakers for their dedication and strong advocacy. Their efforts help protect the industry and create a more favorable environment for retailers to thrive.

View the 2024 Legislative Session Report Card

Major organized retail crime bust seizes 74,000 stolen items


Reneé Sunde, President and CEO, and Mark Johnson, Sr, VP of Policy and Government Affairs recently spoke to the media about the significant retail theft operation uncovered in Burien. Speaking with KIRO7 and Fox13 Seattle respectively, they highlighted the growing issue of organized retail crime in the state.


Authorities seized 74,000 suspected stolen items from a Burien storefront, an adjacent warehouse, and a Federal Way home. This operation, detailed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington, revealed a scheme to sell stolen merchandise globally through platforms like Amazon and eBay.


Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the undercover effort, with Deputy Special Agent in Charge Steven Schrank explaining, "On multiple occasions, we had undercover officers portray themselves as individuals seeking to sell stolen merchandise." The investigation uncovered vast quantities of healthcare products, beauty aids, and tools stolen from major retailers.


Sunde emphasized the calculated nature of these crimes, saying, "It’s not just coming into a store and stealing something for individual use; we’re seeing a growing increase of organized crimes throughout Washington." She warned consumers to be cautious of unusually low prices online, as these could indicate stolen goods.


Johnson echoed these concerns, describing the crime as "premeditated, planned, organized retail crime." He urged the public and policymakers to recognize the severity of organized retail crime rings affecting communities.


Both Sunde and Johnson stressed the importance of consumer vigilance and reporting suspicious activities to help combat retail theft. The investigation is ongoing, with authorities accepting tips at 1-877-4-HSI-TIP.

Successful retail theft sting apprehends more than 20 shoplifters


WR applauds the recent success of Gig Harbor Police in their ongoing efforts to combat retail theft. Over a two-day sting operation, law enforcement apprehended more than 20 shoplifters at various stores. While most offenders were issued citations and given future court dates, two individuals were arrested. One suspect was caught reoffending after an initial citation, and another, with a $150,000 warrant for identity theft from Kitsap County, was also detained. Often, retail thieves are connected to organized retail crime rings who recruit them to commit the offenses to fund their other criminal activities.


This operation, which involved a coordinated effort of uniformed and plain clothes officers, loss prevention personnel, and an investigator from the Pierce County Sheriff's Department, is a testament to the dedication of local law enforcement to protect retailers and the community. 

WR was a strong advocate of Initiative 2113, a significant legislative victory that reinstates law enforcement's ability to safely pursue retail thieves and property criminals in their vehicles.


Effective June 6, 2024, this initiative corrects a previous legislative error that had banned police pursuits, leading to a surge in crime. By enabling officers to pursue and apprehend criminals, Initiative 2113 sends a strong message that retail theft will not be tolerated.


This success in Gig Harbor, following similar operations earlier this year, underscores the importance of Initiative 2113 in enhancing store safety and deterring criminal activity. WR remains committed to supporting both retailers and law enforcement in their efforts to create safer, more vibrant communities across Washington.


Learn more: Fox13Seattle.com

Register Today: Join TVW for a community conversation on the fentanyl crisis


The death toll from the synthetic opioid fentanyl continues to climb, with 112,000 deaths nationwide in 2023. As the crisis builds, the debate over how to address it plays out in Washington state and in the nation’s capital.


Join TVW as they explore how lawmakers, federal agents, and those working in treatment are responding and how one family has turned their loss into action.


Event Details:

  • Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2024
  • Time: 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
  • Location: Lecture Hall at Olympia High School, 1302 North Street Olympia, WA 98501


This community conversation will be hosted by award-winning TVW journalist Jennifer Huntley. The event will include a special screening followed by a panel discussion featuring:

  • Senator John Braun
  • Representative Lauren Davis
  • Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders
  • Sean Soth, Director of Health Integration & Innovation for Evergreen Treatment Services


To be a part of this important event, reserve your spot today.

Walmart’s strategic focus yields growth and customer satisfaction


Walmart’s strategic emphasis on lowering prices and enhancing the shopping experience is paying off, as highlighted in its recent Q1 earnings report. The retailer reported a 6% year-over-year revenue increase, reaching $161.5 billion, surpassing analyst expectations. EVP and CFO John David Rainey praised the company's operational excellence, noting rising profits and customer NPS scores.


Key initiatives such as store remodels and enhanced pickup and delivery services have significantly boosted customer convenience and satisfaction. With nearly 70 store remodels completed in the quarter and a target of over 900 by year-end, Walmart is making substantial progress.


Walmart's focus on "perfect orders," ensuring customers receive the right products on time and in good condition, has shown a notable 900 basis point improvement. However, consumers are prioritizing non-discretionary spending due to economic pressures, impacting general merchandise sales.


Higher-income shoppers are increasingly choosing Walmart, with the retailer gaining market share among households earning over $100,000. Despite these gains, the company must continue to appeal to this demographic as inflation decreases.


Overall, Walmart's strategic focus on value and customer experience is driving consistent sales and profit growth, positioning the retailer for continued success.

Target reducing prices on thousands of items to combat inflation fatigue


Target is implementing massive price cuts on over 1,500 items to appeal to shoppers wary of inflation. The reductions, effective immediately, will include household staples and everyday goods, with up to 5,000 items expected to see price drops by summer. Notable reductions include Clorox wipes and unsalted butter. This move follows similar strategies by competitors like Michaels and Ikea.


Rising prices have deterred consumers, leading to stagnant retail sales growth. Target hopes these price cuts will reverse last year's sales decline and counter predictions of a slow 2024. The retailer's traditional customer base, the middle class, has been particularly affected by higher prices, impacting discretionary spending.


In response, Target has introduced a new budget-friendly house brand, Dealworthy, featuring 400 items ranging from phone chargers to underwear. The success of these measures will be revealed in Target's upcoming earnings report.


Read more: corporate.target.com

How Amazon, Poshmark, and Qurate Retail are using live streaming to redefine e-commerce


Live streaming is reshaping the landscape of e-commerce, catering to the interactive preferences of modern consumers. Recognizing this trend, industry giants like Amazon, Poshmark, and Qurate Retail are embracing live shopping experiences to enhance engagement and redefine digital retail.


Qurate Retail, with its new app and FAST channel, aims to infuse joy and surprise into the digital shopping journey, leveraging curated content and celebrity-driven programming. Amazon, on the other hand, expands its reach by integrating live shopping content into its Prime Video and Freevee streaming services, blending shoppable entertainment with traditional television formats.


Poshmark introduces Posh Shows, empowering sellers to host dynamic live stream auctions, fostering real-time interactions and community engagement. This innovative approach not only facilitates sales but also cultivates a sense of belonging within the platform.


These initiatives underscore a shift towards more immersive and interactive shopping experiences, driven by consumer demand for authenticity and connection. As live streaming continues to evolve, it presents a promising avenue for retailers to engage with customers in meaningful ways, bridging the gap between digital convenience and real-world engagement.

WR diversity statement


WR is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create a safe, welcoming environment in which these principles can thrive.


We value all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability, and that is the foundation of our commitment to those we serve.

Washington Retail Staff

Renée Sunde, President/CEO — 360.200.6450 — Email

Mark Johnson, Sr. VP of Policy & Government Affairs — 360.943.0667 — Email

Crystal Leatherman, State & Local GA Manager — 360.200-6453 — Email

Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services — 360.200.6452 — Email