Newsletter — March 28, 2024

Happy Easter

from the Washington Retail Association


As the Easter celebration quickly approaches, may the hope that accompanies this festive occasion fill your hearts with joy and gladness.

IN THIS ISSUE

POLICY


ECONOMY


ON THE LOCAL FRONT


POLITICAL NEWS


IN THE NEWS

Governor signs bill cracking down on catalytic converter theft


Tuesday, March 26, Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) signed into law HB 2153 – cracking down on vehicle catalytic converter theft. The legislation, prime sponsored by Representative Cindy Ryu (D-32), takes effect April 1, 2025, to allow businesses to increase compliance.


WR supported the legislation in response to the significant impact on our members, their employees, and customers caused by widespread catalytic converter theft. Victims not only face the expense of replacing the converter but also endure the inconvenience of being unable to use their vehicle or delivery truck. WR actively participated in the Catalytic Converter Theft Task Force, contributing to a report and recommendations submitted to the legislature.


WR is optimistic that once fully implemented, the new law will effectively deter these types of crimes and hold accountable those who persist in committing them.


Special thanks to Rep. Ryu (D-32) and Senator Jeff Wilson (R-19) for their diligent efforts in bringing this important legislation to realization.

SB 5774 improves childcare access and hiring


Governor Inslee signed SB 5774 bill into law on Tuesday, March 26, which will go into effect immediately. The bill, introduced by Senator Andy Billig (D-3), will make background check services more accessible and speed up hiring for childcare providers.


Retailers recognize one of the greatest barriers for employees and those looking for employment is access to quality, affordable, and accessible childcare.


According to a 2023 report, the lack of affordable childcare ends up costing the United States $122 billion per year.


WR strongly supported SB 5774 throughout the 2024 session, advocating the measure as a meaningful step forward to improve Washington’s economy and help working families.

WR supports human trafficking legislation with nexus to organized retail crime


WR joined Senator Manka Dhingra(D-45) Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and prime sponsor for the Governor’s signing of 2SSB 6006.


WR’s support of this anti-trafficking legislation is rooted in its known nexus to organized retail crime (ORC). The three essential elements of human trafficking are recruitment, force/fraud/coercion, and receiving benefits financially or anything of value. According to the Department of Homeland Security and Loss Prevention experts, there is a clear link between ORC and human trafficking.


The ORC ecosystem varies enormously when it comes to the scale of operations. Boosters are the people who steal products intending to resell them. Fencers are those who recruit boosters, and receive/buy stolen goods with organized operations to resell them to unsuspecting buyers – often on the internet. Boosters are often individuals looking for a quick fix to get by for the day or in some instances are victims of human trafficking.


2SSB 6006 includes provisions to allow human trafficking victims to file for civil remedies for human trafficking under the Criminal Profiteering Act and to receive benefits under the Crime Victims Compensation Act.


This bipartisan legislation will help to protect vulnerable human trafficking victims. WR is committed to employing a multi-pronged approach to protect retail workers, customers, and retailers.

Legislature provides limited aid for King County's budget challenges


Last autumn, King County Executive Dow Constantine cautioned that without assistance from the Legislature, the County would be compelled to shutter nearly all its public health facilities. Constantine, alongside other King County officials, underscored that the 1% cap on property tax collections' increase, lacking voter consent, has failed to match inflationary pressures. The bulk of King County's general fund expenses rely on property and local sales taxes.


The County Executive implored the Legislature to raise the 1% cap on property tax collections without voter consent. Despite declining to lift the property tax collection cap to 3%, the Legislature did adopt two modest changes tailored to King County.


State legislation permits counties to establish new levies, pending voter approval, to alleviate budget shortfalls. However, counties with over 1.5 million residents were barred from enacting such levies. The Legislature removed this restriction for King County, allowing the County to pursue voter endorsement for levies to address its budget deficit.


Additionally, King County received authorization to increase property taxes without voter consent to support the operation, expansion, and modernization of Harborview Medical Center. Although the legislation technically extends to any county-owned hospital, Harborview stands as the state's sole county-owned hospital.

NRF predicts $5.23 trillion in sales for 2024


Retail sales are predicted to climb steadily in 2024, reaching between $5.23 trillion and $5.28 trillion according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).


This forecast, announced during the State of Retail & the Consumer virtual discussion, reflects a 2.5% to 3.5% increase compared to the previous year. Non-store and online sales are expected to particularly thrive, with a projected growth of 7% to 9%. Despite a slightly slower GDP growth rate and moderate inflation, consumer spending remains resilient, supported by robust job growth and healthy consumer balance sheets. While the labor market may cool in 2024, NRF anticipates continued optimism among consumers, contributing to sustained spending.


The NRF's forecast isn't just a glimpse into the future; it's a culmination of extensive economic analysis. As consumers navigate uncertainties, these insights provide a guiding light for retailers, policymakers, and stakeholders alike.

Pictured from left to right: Crystal Leatherman, Local and State Government Affairs manager, Mark Johnson, Sr. VP of Policy and Government Affairs, Kathie Davies, Executive Legislative Assistant, Renée Sunde, President & CEO, Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations and Retail Services, Bruce Beckett, The Becket Group, Brittany Shannon, Business Development Manager, and John Engber, Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle Director.

WR Policy and Government Affairs team talks strategy at post-session retreat


With the 2024 legislative session behind us, the WR Policy and Government Affairs team (PGA) spent a productive day this past week in Olympia discussing legislative outcomes, lobbying effectiveness, and strategies for the interim.


The PGA team represents over 130 years of combined experience working at the local, state, and national levels on policy and government relations. As primary stewards of Washington’s retail experience, the core mission of WR and the PGA team is to safeguard the interests of members. Representing approximately 3,500 storefronts throughout Washington State retailers of all sizes and retail sectors, from small businesses to regional retailers and multi-state and global retailers, have joined together to form a more powerful voice on behalf of the retail industry.


The PGA team strives to advocate for the broader interests of retailers and is committed to bi-partisan engagement with legislators and retail stakeholders alike. The strategic planning efforts completed by the WR Board of Directors during the 2023 interim and baseline advocacy report recommendations produced by Strategies 360 provided a framework for the facilitated discussion.


With campaign season upon us and the election primary set for August 12, 2024, the summer/fall interim will provide ample opportunity to engage in rulemaking, stakeholdering, and in-district grassroots strategies including retail store tours planned around the state.

Burien City Council approves minimum wage legislation


On March 18, the Burien City Council passed its minimum wage legislation, following a year of stakeholder meetings with the business community and worker advocates. The new wage standard takes effect on January 1, 2025.


Under the Burien minimum wage law, businesses are broken down into three categories:


  1. Large employers (“Level 1”) employ more than 500 FTEs in King County or franchisors who employ more than 500 FTEs in total. These employers will pay $3 above the Washington state minimum wage (currently $16.28 per hour).
  2. Medium-sized employers (“Level 2”) that employ 21 – 499 FTEs in King County. This group, which also covers franchisees, will pay $2 above the state minimum wage.
  3. Small employers (“Level 3”) that employ 20 or fewer FTEs in King County are exempt from the City’s wage standard.


Level 1 employers whose total compensation (including tips and medical benefits) is at least $3 per hour (or $2 per hour for Level 2 employers) can apply that amount to meet the minimum wage requirement. In other words, a Level 2 employer whose total non-wage benefits are $2 per hour (or above) can continue to pay at the state minimum wage level. The goal of this total compensation credit is to preserve employer-provided health care and other benefits.


The legislation includes a private right of action but provides employers 45 days to “cure” before any enforcement action or lawsuit can be filed.


WR Board member Marisa Wulff and John Engber of the WR government affairs team testified in support of the wage law at the Council’s February 26 meeting.


Not surprisingly, some worker advocates are already vowing to fight the new law. Raise the Wage Burien and others are beginning to collect signatures to qualify a higher-wage initiative for the November general election ballot. These groups successfully passed initiatives in Tukwila and Renton to establish the nation’s highest minimum wages (currently $20.29 per hour).


So, the effort to enact a fair wage that meets the needs of workers and small businesses might not be over. We will keep you informed on future developments in Burien.

Court-ordered boundary changes stir election dynamics


In 1983, Washington voters amended the state constitution, establishing a five-member bipartisan Redistricting Commission. Tasked with redrawing Congressional and Legislative District boundaries every ten years based on census data, this commission comprises two members appointed by both Republicans and Democrats. The fifth member, a non-partisan Chair, is selected by commission members. Before this constitutional amendment, the Legislature handled the redistricting every decade.


However, the Commission's work in 2022 faced challenges. The boundaries of the 15th Legislative District in the Yakima area were contested for violating federal law by hindering Latino voters' equal participation. In response, the majority party declined to reconvene the Redistricting Commission, leaving the final decision to U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik.


Last week, Judge Lasnik unveiled new district maps, altering 13 legislative districts and significantly impacting veteran members of the Legislature. Three Republican Senators and two House Representatives will be affected:


  • Members of the current 14th District delegation will need to run in different districts. Senator Curtis King and Rep. Chris Corry will shift to the new 15th District, while Rep. Gina Mosbrucker will have to run in the 17th Legislative District.
  • Senator Nikki Torres from the current 15th District can serve out her remaining two-year term but must either move into the new 15th district or challenge incumbent Senator Perry Dozier from the 16th District.
  • Senator Brad Hawkins of the 12th District will have to move from E. Wenatchee to Wenatchee across the Columbia River to run for his seat in the 12th Legislative District.


These new boundaries will take effect in the upcoming election cycle. Multiple parties are appealing Judge Lasnik’s decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Biden-Harris Administration bans asbestos to protect people from cancer


The Biden-Harris Administration has taken a significant step in protecting public health by finalizing a ban on ongoing uses of asbestos. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the ban on March 18, 2024, marking a historic milestone in the nation's chemical safety efforts. This ban, the first rule to be finalized under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), aims to halt the use of chrysotile asbestos, the only form of asbestos currently used or imported in the United States.


Asbestos exposure is linked to various cancers, causing over 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S. The ban aligns with President Biden's Cancer Moonshot initiative, aiming to end cancer's impact. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan emphasized the importance of the ban, highlighting the severe health impacts of asbestos.


The rule sets compliance deadlines for transitioning away from asbestos use, particularly in the chlor-alkali sector, where asbestos diaphragms are used in critical processes like water purification. EPA ensures a reasonable transition period while prioritizing public health.


Additionally, the final rule bans asbestos in various products and mandates workplace safety measures and proper disposal practices. EPA continues to evaluate other asbestos fibers to further protect public health. This decisive action signifies progress in chemical safety and underscores the administration's commitment to environmental justice and public health.


Learn more about risk management of asbestos

How Kohl’s is transforming the shopping experience


Once a modest player in home decor, Kohl’s is now ambitiously expanding its offerings. With a 40% increase in SKUs, it's set to redefine the shopping experience. Inspired by consumer trends, Kohl’s aims to captivate shoppers with curated collections in wall art, glassware, ceramics, and more. The focus on inspiration and affordability positions Kohl’s as a go-to destination for home decor.


In a strategic move, Kohl’s partnered with Sephora, heralding a new era. The success of the collaboration not only boosts sales but also attracts a younger, trend-focused demographic. Recognizing the need for constant innovation, Kohl’s introduces small-format stores, simplifying the shopping journey. The success of Sephora at Kohl’s underscores a paradigm shift, with sales exceeding $1.4 billion and poised to surpass $2 billion by 2025.


Embracing agility, Kohl’s shifts to real-time inventory management, enhancing its responsiveness to consumer demands. From expanding home assortments to exclusive partnerships, Kohl’s is reinventing itself, catering to evolving consumer preferences. As the retail landscape evolves, Kohl’s emerges as a lighthouse of innovation, offering a dynamic shopping experience tailored to modern lifestyles.

Walmart exceeds supplier emission targets


In 2017, Walmart embarked on a monumental journey to combat climate change. With over 100,000 suppliers, Walmart's initiative, Project Gigaton, aimed to slash 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its vast supply chain. Remarkably, Walmart achieved this milestone six years ahead of schedule, setting a blazing trail for sustainability in the industry.


Rather than wielding authority, Walmart extended invitations to its suppliers, offering tools and platforms for education, financing, and recognition. Suppliers discovered that emission reductions weren't just eco-friendly but also enhanced efficiency and profitability. Walmart partnered with esteemed organizations to develop a toolkit, providing guidance for emissions reduction in various sectors.


Through innovative financial programs like sustainability-based supply chain finance and the Gigaton PPA program, suppliers gained access to renewable energy, facilitated by Walmart's robust infrastructure. Additionally, Walmart bestowed badges of honor upon suppliers, fostering a sense of pride and unity in the collective effort towards sustainability.


Despite achieving its initial goal, Walmart pledged to continue its sustainability crusade, aiming for net-zero emissions in its operations by 2040. This commitment not only cements Walmart's position as a sustainability leader but also sends ripples of inspiration throughout the retail landscape, inspiring other brands to join the eco-revolution. Walmart's eco-trail serves as a beacon of hope, illuminating a path towards a greener, more resilient future for all.

Nordstrom's innovative revamp: Introducing premium, style-forward essentials


In the realm of fashion, Nordstrom is making strides with its reimagined brand, offering a fresh assortment of high-quality, style-driven essentials. The collections, meticulously designed by Nordstrom's team, blend timeless classics with minimalist pieces suitable for everyday wear. With an emphasis on premium fabrics and versatile designs, Nordstrom's new line promises comfort and durability, ensuring each piece becomes a staple in your wardrobe.


From oversized blazers to sleek dresses, the launch collection boasts a range of items meant to be layered and mixed, featuring neutral tones and seasonal pops of color. Complementing the apparel line, Nordstrom's footwear collection offers simplicity, quality, and style, catering to various tastes and occasions.


Available both in-store and online, Nordstrom aims to provide ease and accessibility to its customers, with prices ranging from $29.50 to $179 for apparel and starting at $69.95 for footwear. In affirming the brand's commitment to delivering well-designed essentials based on customer feedback, Nordstrom promises to remain a cornerstone of style and quality in the fashion landscape.

Amazon stops 700K counterfeiters from creating accounts in the past year


Amazon reported that it prevented 700,000 counterfeiters from creating accounts last year, showcasing its ongoing battle against fake products. Although Amazon doesn't track individual counterfeit listings, it halted seven million counterfeit products from reaching consumers in 2023, a million more than in 2022.


With a significant investment of around 2% of net sales, approximately $1.2 billion, Amazon remains committed to combatting counterfeits, employing 15,000 staff for this purpose. Its efforts include employing AI for scanning, collaborating with law enforcement, and implementing measures like verifying sellers' identification. However, challenges persist, with counterfeiting rampant across digital platforms.


Counterfeiting not only harms brands but also poses risks to consumer safety, particularly in sectors like healthcare. While Amazon's actions play a crucial role in thwarting counterfeiters, collaborative efforts involving brands, governments, and regulators are essential for comprehensive solutions.


Amazon's partnerships with global law enforcement agencies and its initiatives to equip brands with proactive tools underscore its commitment to tackling the issue. Despite advancements in AI detection, the cat-and-mouse game with counterfeiters continues, necessitating ongoing innovation and vigilance to stay ahead.


Read more: ModernRetail.co

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