Newsletter June 29, 2023







NOTE: The IWR newsletter will not publish next week due to 4th of July celebrations and will return to your inbox on July 13.

Membership with WR offers new added benefits

The benefits of WR membership are twofold. First, joining gives members a voice and influence with the association’s representation with state, and local lawmakers. It also makes available a broad trove of value-added services to strengthen our members’ businesses, helping retailers stay on top of state business requirements. A membership with WR also adds to the bottom line with free safety programs, cost-effective group 401k plans, and free HR support. WR membership has its privileges! Learn more about WR membership benefits and join today.

Upcoming dates and deadlines

June 27: The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act – or the INFORM Consumers Act, went into effect requiring “online marketplaces“ where “high-volume third-party sellers“ offer new or unused consumer products must collect, verify, and disclose certain information about those sellers, including banking information, Tax ID, and verified contact information. See the in-depth overview from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA.)

July 1: Employers must begin collecting WA Cares premiums (Washington’s long-term care tax) from Washington Employees' payroll checks and submit them as they do for Paid Leave. The Paid Leave reporting system has been updated and can now accommodate reporting for both programs simultaneously.

July 1: The state 2023-25 biennial budget goes into effect, including a $2.265 million provision to fund an internal Organized Retail Crime Unit in the Office of the Attorney General. The unit will hire investigators, data analysts, and prosecutors to target major ORC crime rings.

July 1: Thousands of Tukwila workers will see a significant raise in their paychecks. The city will join Seattle and SeaTac in raising its minimum wage to $18.99 an hour. The change comes after Tukwila voters approved an initiative to increase the minimum wage by more than $3.00.

July 17: L&I’s Outdoor Heat Exposure permanent rulemaking update is now final, with a July 17 effective date. The rules are in effect year-round. Heat rule-related resources: Rules, Heat Smart webpage, and heat rule factsheet.

August 15: The Attorney General is convening the 4th ORC Task Force meeting in Seattle. This meeting will be a hybrid, allowing both in-person and attendance via the Zoom platform. Registration details are not available as of yet but will be announced soon.

Washington My Health My Data Act – Part 5: Consent Requirements

By Mike Hintze, Hintze Law

Welcome to the fifth installment of our blog series focusing on the Washington My Health My Data Act. Part 5 breaks down the law’s consent requirements.

Under the My Health My Data Act law, businesses must pay particular attention to how they implement opt-in consent requirements for the collection, use, and disclosure of consumer health data. This blog post will delve into this critical aspect of the Act and shed light on how it will impact retailers.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to explore this topic and highlight additional blog posts examining other components of the Act and the critical issues they raise.

Read Mike Hintze’s blog post here

Seattle seeks path forward on criminalizing public drug use after failure to pass Council

On June 6, the Seattle City Council was expected to pass legislation to incorporate the state’s new drug criminalization law into the City’s municipal code. But, at the last moment, Councilmember Andrew Lewis surprised his colleagues by voting “no,” killing the legislation by a 5-4 vote. Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen sponsored the legislation in consultation with Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison.

The Seattle City Attorney is only empowered to prosecute crimes enumerated in the Seattle Municipal Code. Currently, drug possession and public use are not crimes under Seattle’s code. This legislation would have made public use and possession of controlled substances illegal under the City’s municipal code, thereby authorizing the City Attorney to prosecute those offenses.

Councilmember Nelson insisted that the goal is not to put offenders in jail. “The central goal of this legislation is to provide a tool to incentivize treatment,” explained Nelson.

Councilmember Lewis expressed frustration with a recent decision by the City Attorney to discontinue working with the community court as a diversion option for misdemeanor offenses. Lewis stated, “I was prepared to [vote for the bill]. I think it is generally proper for us to do it. But with the ending of community court without any additional process, I just can’t do it today. I just can’t.”

While Lewis expressed optimism that the Council could soon amend and reconsider the legislation, the Mayor announced the creation of a 24-person task force to develop recommendations for the bill, which likely means the legislation will not be before the Council again for several weeks. The Mayor took this action after The Seattle Times editorial board criticized the Mayor and City Attorney for their roles in the Council’s failure to pass the drug law.

Recent polling shows strong public concern about drug use and violent crime in Seattle. A Seattle Times/Suffolk University poll found that 48% of Seattleites listed drug use as their top public safety concern, followed by violent crime (33%). In that same poll, Mayor Harrell enjoyed a 57% job approval rating, well above the Council’s 34% approval.

John to provide necessary edits to Seattle articles

Seattle’s is highly concentrated payroll expense tax shaping up to be a volatile revenue source

By: Washington Research Council

The City of Seattle adopted the payroll expense tax (PET) in July 2020. The rate of the tax varies from 0.7%–2.4% depending on the total payroll expense of a business and the amount of an employee’s compensation.

The PET is the city’s fourth-largest tax source, behind property, business and occupation, and retail sales taxes. In 2021, the first year of collections, PET revenues totaled $295.4 million (about the same amount as the retail sales tax). PET revenues declined to $253.1 million in 2022, which is a 14.3% reduction from 2021 and 9.5% below what was assumed for 2022 in the city’s current budget. The city’s April 2023 revenue forecast estimates that PET revenues will be $263.3 million in 2023 and $279.7 million in 2024. Although revenues are expected to grow in 2023 and 2024, the current estimates for those years are lower than what was assumed in the adopted budget.

City data show that a small number of taxpayers with the highest payroll expense pay the vast majority of the tax. In 2021, the 48 taxpayers with $100 million or more in payroll expense (9.9% of all taxpayers) were responsible for $245.0 million in revenues (83.4% of all PET revenues). Further, according to the city’s Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasts (OERF), “The largest 10 taxpayers account for 70% of total revenue, and essentially all the revenue decline in 2022 is accounted for by these top 10 taxpayers.”

Additionally, the largest taxpayers are concentrated in a few economic sectors. Together, the information, trade, and professional and business services sectors account for 55% of taxpayers and 85% of taxes paid. The information sector accounts for the largest share of taxes paid (38.6% in 2021 and 38.3% in 2022).

With a deep revenue decline in 2022, the PET is shaping up to be a volatile tax source. This should concern the city, as revenue volatility compromises budget sustainability. The OERF notes, “Revenues are generated from relatively few firms and depend on their individual financial performance.” As they go, so go the PET revenues. Consequently, it would behoove the city to foster a business climate that—despite the PET—encourages businesses to grow in the city.

Read the full report

Recent poll reveals Seattle residents favor Mayor Harrell but seek City Council shake-up

Seattle citizens are generally positive about the city, and a large portion endorse the work of Mayor Bruce Harrell, though the City Council's approval ratings lag behind, as indicated by a recent survey.

A poll conducted earlier this month by Seattle Times and Suffolk University demonstrates that voters are yearning for a philosophical shake-up in the council, considering that seven out of nine seats are up for election this year.

In response to a query about their view on Seattle as a residential city, 40.8% of those surveyed considered it 'good', with 25.8% rating it as 'excellent'. 23% labeled it as 'fair', while a minor 9.2% deemed it 'poor', and a mere 1% were either undecided or chose not to respond.

Views on city officials, however, varied. The majority of respondents displayed an optimistic outlook towards Mayor Harrell's leadership, roughly halfway through his term, with 57.2% approving of his performance to date. 23.8% were undecided, and 18.6% expressed disapproval.

Combating Organized Retail Crime Act gains momentum in Congress

Organized retail crime (ORC) persists as an escalating challenge within the U.S. retail sector, and recent data suggests its scale and complexity are on the rise, as disclosed in a new report titled "Organized Retail Crime: An Assessment of a Persistent and Growing Threat."

The legislative effort to counter the ORC threat is gaining traction in the U.S. Congress with the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act (S. 140 in the Senate and H.R. 859 in the House.) The House bill has garnered 42 cosponsors, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, while its Senate version has drawn the support of three cosponsors—two Democrats and one Republican.

This wave of support follows the recent House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime ORC hearing. WR urges Congress members to throw their support behind this legislation.

To ensure this bill's success, advocates of the retail sector must communicate with their respective congressional representatives and urge their endorsement of this bipartisan legislation. This unified initiative is paramount to curbing the growing issue of retail crime.

WR presents at Burien Business Association’s public safety meeting

On June 22, over three dozen Burien business leaders, city council members, staff, police, and nonprofits gathered to address homelessness and public safety. Robyn Desimone, Executive Director of the Burien Business Association, opened the meeting, followed by a WR presentation on public safety and crimes affecting retailers in the city and across the state.

Kristine Moreland, Director of The More We Love Organization, told the attendees about the successes her team and other volunteers experienced in helping the area’s unhoused. Moreland’s stories of intervention and her organization’s individualized approach to moving tent campers from their brokenness and onto paths of restoration were moving and hopeful.

Moreland’s advice to the community on solving the growing issues with the unhoused was clear: Providing the unhoused with a place to live should only be followed by detox, recovery, and addressing physical and mental health, diet, exercise, and vocational training so they can return to being a productive member of society.

“We cannot overlook the connection between substance use disorders and ties to individuals being preyed upon by organized retail crime rings,” said Mark Johnson, WR VP of Policy and Government Affairs. “Addressing these issues among the vulnerable unhoused is necessary to solve this complex crisis.”

Police bust nationwide retail theft ring, recover $1.5M in stolen goods

The Renton Police Department (RPD) recently broke up a large-scale retail theft operation run from a residential location in Washington. A 32-year-old Federal Way individual alleged to have led the operation utilized a network of experienced shoplifters to source stolen goods.

The leader used his residence as a makeshift storage facility, methodically organizing stolen goods for distribution. The buyers of the items were likely unaware of their illegal origin. Detective Brian Jordan from the Special Enforcement Team of RPD successfully traced the stolen goods, leading to a breakthrough in the case.

Hundreds of thousands of the stolen items had been sold on eBay, and a subsequent executed warrant led to the recovery of approximately $1.5 million worth of stolen merchandise. The haul was so substantial that it took four 20-foot U-Haul trucks to remove everything, and authorities are still working to categorize all the recovered goods.

The stolen merchandise came from numerous locations, with origins as far away as Snow Country and as near as Auburn, encompassing the entire western Washington area. The goods were stolen from a variety of major retailers, including Fred Meyer, Lowe's, Walmart, Home Depot, and Target.

A diverse range of items were recovered, such as over-the-counter medications, personal care items, laundry detergents, power tools, vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances, plumbing fixtures, computer hardware, audio equipment, Lego sets, and printer cartridges. Detectives also discovered a significant amount of goods already packaged and ready to be shipped out to buyers nationwide.

The scope and scale of the operation was unprecedented, even for seasoned members of the RPD, who noted the significant financial impact of the thefts, far exceeding a mere pack of gum. [RS1] In 2021, shoplifting is estimated to have cost retailers in Washington state around $2.7 billion.

In their press release, the RPD expressed their gratitude to retail representatives who played a crucial role in identifying and recovering the stolen goods in this case. They also urged the public to be vigilant and avoid purchasing merchandise if not certain of its origin.

US retailers targeted with bomb threats, seeking bitcoin and gift cards

US law enforcement and retailers are investigating an escalating series of bomb threats against grocery stores and other retail outlets across the country. Companies including Whole Foods Market have reported threats at numerous locations from New Mexico to Wisconsin, with some criminals demanding gift cards, bitcoin, or cash and threatening to detonate bombs if payments were not made. While evacuations have been carried out with police assistance, no suspicious items have been found so far.

The wave of bomb threats demanding ransoms is an emerging form of extortion targeting retailers and appears to have commenced earlier this year, according to security and industry experts. “It’s yet another evolving scam,” Lisa LaBruno, Senior Executive Vice President of Retail Operations at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, told the WSJ. In response, retailers are cooperating with local and federal law enforcement agencies while sharing information about threats and their responses within industry associations.

Kroger said it is working with local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that the safety of the company’s employees and customers is its top priority. “Every single day, we worry about safety and take everything extremely serious,” said Rodney McMullen, chief executive of Kroger. 

The FBI, while working in conjunction with local and state law enforcement, has urged public vigilance and reporting of any suspicious activities.

Unfortunately, tracking the origin of these threats has been challenging due to the use of blocked phone numbers. While it remains unclear whether these threats are organized, or where they originate, no individual store has received more than one threat, and not all calls demanded payment. Industry insiders and law enforcement have advised against conceding to ransom demands and have recommended gathering as much information as possible during these calls to aid identification efforts.

These threats pose a significant disruption to retailers who must close stores, evacuate customers, and engage law enforcement in response. While specific safety protocols vary, most retailers encourage employees to report threats to leaders and inspect the premises for any unusual objects. This increasing trend of bomb threats compounds existing safety concerns for retailers, including theft, shootings, and other security issues.

Can pickleball help revitalize some shopping malls?

As some of the country’s shopping malls are in decline, a potential savior might be pickleball, a racket sport invented by Washington State congressman Joel Pritchard. The sport’s popularity is surging in the U.S.

Picklemall, a startup, is repurposing vacant mall spaces into indoor courts to meet the growing demand. With the first location set to open in Tempe, Arizona, in July, the company plans to present 24 courts. Since the pandemic, pickleball has gained popularity, with player numbers increasing from 5 million in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2022.

Picklemall founder and billionaire philanthropist Steve Kuhn, asserts the demand for more pickleball courts, as there is currently only one pickleball court for every 250 players compared to one tennis court for every 30 tennis players. The indoor concept of Picklemall offers benefits such as a controlled climate and championship-style courts. However, the indoor transition has also introduced noise challenges, as a solid pickleball hit generates about 70 decibels of noise. The company promises to address noise concerns through sound-dampening devices.

Despite skepticism regarding the longevity of pickleball, Picklemall plans to open 50 nationwide locations over the next two years. The startup uses Google queries to map pickleball players across the U.S. and guide decisions on future locations.

The venture aligns with the changing demands of mall goers, particularly millennials and Gen Z-ers, who seek retail, entertainment, and dining experiences with a difference. Despite some assumptions falling short about Gen Z expectations, Picklemall hopes to tap into a unique feature of pickleball: its ability to bring together multiple generations in one game.

Beware, however, that pickleball injuries are amounting to upwards of $500 million in medical costs annually, as estimated UBS analyst Andrew Mok after assessing data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association and studies about the sport.

Top eCommerce trends in 2023

The pandemic has fast-tracked eCommerce adoption, merging digital and physical experiences and altering customer expectations for speed, convenience, and personalization. This change is disruptive but offers new opportunities for retail and restaurant industries. Square partnered with Wakefield Research to survey consumers and business owners for key eCommerce trends. To adapt and thrive in the evolving market, see Square's 2023 Future of Commerce report.

1. Digital sales channels drive business

Capturing the 79% of consumers who make purchases via mobile devices is critical. With an average 22% of total purchases made while scrolling, businesses should emphasize their digital presence. Retailers now operate across an average of four sales channels, and over 80% plan to expand their digital channels in the next year. Utilizing mobile commerce tools to optimize a shoppable, mobile-friendly site is essential.

2. Customer engagement happens across channels

Consumers now buy an average of four products monthly from social media, a trend growing by 10% annually. Also, 19% prefer purchasing via text or chat, a slight but notable increase from 2021. These channels are altering consumer-business interactions, signaling the rise of conversational and mobile commerce. Businesses should, therefore, integrate social and text into their omnichannel strategies for consistency. Tools like Square Text Message Marketing and social commerce can facilitate this integration, enhancing exposure and sales.

3. Retailers understand the importance of omnichannel commerce

As businesses strive to engage consumers through new technology and sales channels, 96% of retailers find it challenging to manage these channels. Key difficulties include identifying suitable channels, ensuring information consistency, and determining meaningful engagement metrics. An integrated centralized hub, like an online store or point-of-sale system, can facilitate cross-channel sales, inventory tracking, and communication management. Despite initial costs, such digital systems effectively engage customers according to their preferences.

Read the rest of the article

Don’t leave it for the next person

Throughout the day, people often let housekeeping issues go unaddressed. Perhaps a spill on the floor that gets left for someone else to clean up, or an extension cord is left lying in the middle of the floor. For the sake of safety, most conscientious people will address a potential hazard the moment they encounter it rather than walking passed it.

While a child might make up a quick excuse by saying, “It wasn’t me,” helping to ensure everyone is safe is a full-time job for all of us. In some instances, hazards can be from a lack of general housekeeping, while in other cases, simple laziness can be the cause of injury. It bears repeating: If an employee sees something out of place or that could be a hazard, they should say something—or better yet, take care of it before it results in an accident.

In 2020, the country had 2.7 million non-fatal illnesses and injuries. The retail sector accounted for 341,100 accidents and 275 deaths. For every major injury, there are approximately 300 near misses, and many accidents can be prevented by not leaving a hazard for the next person who walks by.

Promoting safety involves proactive decisions and being accountable for maintaining a hazard-free workplace. Encouraging employees to report all potential dangers when encountering them and taking the necessary steps to rectify or mitigate them can significantly reduce the risks of accidents or injuries. Everyone can contribute to a safer work environment by fostering a collective commitment to safety.

Some helpful housekeeping videos are on RS SafetyTV, which are excellent for use as a safety meeting opener.

Our safety team is available to help members elevate their safety practices from simply meeting requirements to implementing quality safety measures. Contact us at to learn more.

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




Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services



Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Govt. Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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