Newsletter January 5, 2023









Landmark federal legislation passes in fight against retail theft

On December 23, the U.S. Congress passed the federal budget bill, which contained the bi-partisan backed INFORM Act – Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces. WR applauds the supporters of this landmark bill.


This is one of the association's top strategies in fighting retail theft, organized retail crime, and protecting public safety. Retail thieves often “fence” or monetize or sell their stolen and counterfeit goods in the darkness of the web on legitimate and unsuspecting third-party platforms. The INFORM Act will require these high-volume websites to provide information to help consumers know that the items they buy are not stolen or counterfeit. It will also assist law enforcement in investigating suspected criminal elements using these websites to sell stolen and fake goods.


Washington Retail, along with many of our state and federal partners, have worked tirelessly and diligently to pass a national standard that is a crucial strategy in the fight against retail theft and organized retail crime while at the same time making our communities safer.


The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general will enforce the INFORM Act. WR believes this new law will disincentivize the theft of goods in the first place however, more action is needed on this growing problem. The INFORM Act is one piece of the puzzle. Other key elements include:

  • Communicating the impacts this growing issue has on our communities, retailers, and their employees.
  • Providing resources to retailers, such as the WR Guide to Navigating Public Safety and Retail Crime which can be downloaded free of charge from our resources page.
  • Supporting the efforts of the Washington Organized Retail Crime Association.
  • Supporting the Attorney General-led ORC Task Force to increase communication among national, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and retail loss prevention and asset protection officers. 


Public safety, retail theft, and fighting organized retail crime will be the primary focus of WR as we begin the 2023 State Legislative Session. We are encouraged Congress chose to take swift action and set the example of addressing this massive problem facing our country.

Wenatchee Valley Chamber presents public safety and retail crime forum to tackle impact on businesses

The Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a luncheon event featuring Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and Renée Sunde, President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association. The event scheduled for January 27 at the Wenatchee Convention Center will be focused on the timely topic of public safety, retail theft, and organized crime impacting businesses.

According to a December 2021 report by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 60% of the 8.9 million crimes reported in 2020 were property crimes, including larceny-theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, and vandalism, costing businesses $17.2 billion in annual losses, according to

Business owners, loss prevention officers, law enforcement, and other interested parties throughout the region are invited to attend. 

Register Here

New employment laws in 2023

On January 1st, the minimum wage in Washington state increased from $14.49 to $15.74 per hour, an increase of $1.25. Learn more.

New requirements for workers who are exempt from overtime pay are also in effect. For small employers with 1-50 employees, overtime-exempt workers must make at least 1.75 times the minimum wage, or $57,293.60 per year. For large employers with 51 or more employees, overtime-exempt workers must make at least two times the minimum wage, or $65,478.40 per year. Learn more.

Additionally, a new pay transparency law took effect this week, requiring businesses with 15 or more employees to include wage scales or salary ranges in job postings, as well as other information.

Proposed legislation will expand equitable access to Return to Work and Stay at Work reimbursements

WR has developed a proposal to expand access to light-duty offerings and the Stay-at-Work (SAW) reimbursement program. The proposal will allow more workers and employers in Washington State to benefit from the program.

Trend data since 2012 suggests that the SAW program has been successful in reducing long-term disability claims and improving the mental well-being of workers recovering from injuries. However, the current statute that governs the program has a limitation: to be eligible for reimbursement for light-duty offerings, workers must be employed by the company where they sustained the injury. This limitation can create inequitable access to the Return to Work (RTW) program for certain groups of employers and workers. For example:

  • Small businesses are less likely to have light-duty jobs suitable for RTW.
  • Frontline workers, particularly in small businesses, are less likely to have remote light-duty work positions available and a high percentage of them are in lower-wage brackets.
  • Injured workers who move out of state are less likely to access RTW, especially when their employer of injury cannot offer remote work options. 

Read the entire article

Three stats to watch in Seattle in 2023

Gene Balk, the FYI Guy at The Seattle Times, shared his views on three critically-important statistics to track in Seattle over the coming year.

We've been tracking two of these spotlighted issues in this newsletter. One is the return of workers to their offices downtown. While tourism is virtually back to pre-pandemic levels, the downtown office workforce in November 2022 was only 42% of 2019 levels. Will 2023 see a significant increase in workers' return to downtown offices?

The second issue covered extensively in this newsletter is population growth in Seattle. In the 2010s, Seattle was the fastest-growing large city in the U.S., adding more than 100,000 people. However, the pandemic stalled that growth as the city lost almost 4,300 people from July 2020 to July 2021 (a drop of .6%). Will population growth return to Seattle in 2023?

The third issue is inflation and the cost of living in Seattle. The cost-of-living index cited by the reporter identifies Seattle as one of the ten most expensive cities in the country. How will inflation impact the affordability of life in Seattle in 2023?

The coming upheaval in presidential election politics

With swing states no longer influencing the national presidential election process, newer ones are taking their place and changing the landscape—aka battlefield— of the 2024 election.

Swing states, also known as battleground states, are states in which the outcome of an election is not a foregone conclusion and could go either way. Historically, these states have proven important because they have swayed the outcome of elections with their high number of electoral votes.

With New Hampshire holding the first presidential primary, and Iowa holding the first caucus, these two states and have led the influencer process of choosing the next president for over 50 years. However, if Biden and the Democratic National Committee succeed in making changes, the powerful effect of these two states will be replaced by the sway of South Carolina. Voters in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin will also have significant impact on the final election outcome.

Read more from Axios

Balance between inflation and interest rates key to avoiding recession 

No one knows with certainty whether the Fed’s efforts to mitigate inflation will ultimately lead to a recession, but continued interest rate hikes may increase the likelihood.


Efforts to decrease rising prices while avoiding negative impacts on the labor market are no simple tasks. It’s a financial balancing act, and a slowing economy increases its fragility.

The Fed increased interest rates another one-half percentage point in December even though year-over-year inflation rose 7.1% in November.


As the dust settled from 2022 holiday sales, it has become clear that even though consumers don’t like higher prices, they were able and willing to pay them, with sales increasing 7.6% over the previous year.

Target raises hourly wage to as much as $24 while increasing access to benefits

With a tight labor market among retail employees, Target is stepping up its game. Target announced it is expanding its hourly pay range from $15 to as high as $24, making it easier to qualify for health benefits for employees working as few as 25 hours a week. This change in health benefits will bring eligibility to approximately 20 percent of its workforce.

The increased hourly pay and access to health benefits are part of Target’s plan to spend up to $300 million to boost employee wages and benefits at stores, supply chain facilities, and corporate offices. Medical plans will include “additional benefits, including virtual physical therapy at no cost, enhanced fertility benefits, and other new wellness offerings.

Retailers need new strategies amidst discounting pressures

Retailers were expecting the Saturday before Christmas to be a blockbuster day, with winter clothing in demand. No one counted on winter storms to dampen the momentum.

Larger department store chains with outlet stores benefitted from their ability to move merchandise that didn’t sell as expected through their clearance centers, avoiding overstocked clutter in their primary stores. Another approach some retailers used was to focus on multi-tier loyalty programs that provide exclusive benefits that rewards members’ engagement with their brands, motivating action.

As large retailers sell off excess inventory at low prices, smaller retailers can still complete at higher prices. They can:

  • Offer personalized experiences with technology, such as personalized recommendations and tailored email campaigns, to offer customers a more personalized shopping experience. This can help build customer loyalty and set a business apart from low-price competitors.
  • Offer excellent customer service to stand out from the competition by offering free shipping, easy returns, and a knowledgeable sales staff. Price is important to many shoppers, but excellent customer service can be a crucial differentiator for a retail business and create loyal customers willing to pay a little more for a better overall shopping experience.

Read the rest of the story

Cannabis retail armed robberies at 10-year high 

Washington State cannabis retailers experienced at least 100 armed robberies last year—a ten-year high—according to an unofficial crime tracker hosted by Uncle Ike’s, a Seattle area cannabis retailer.

The ten-year high comes amidst multiple failed efforts to pass the SAFE Banking Act. If enacted as currently written, some of the protections in the law would:

  • Prohibit federal banking regulators from penalizing banks that provide banking services to a legitimate cannabis-related business.
  • Prohibit deposits from a legitimate cannabis-related business from being considered proceeds from unlawful activity.
  • Prevent banks from being liable or subject to asset forfeiture for providing loans or other financial services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses.

“It’s certainly a sobering figure,” Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said of the increased number of armed robberies at pot shops in Washington. “With crime on the rise and our industry disproportionately affected due to outdated federal banking regulations forcing state-licensed cannabis providers to operate cash heavy businesses, it’s absolutely shameful that another year is passing with Congressional failure to pass the SAFE Banking Act.”

Read more from The Center Square

Big-box retailers will expand this year

Despite the struggle for over a decade to compete with online retailers, the bookseller Barnes & Noble is now planning to open 30 stores this year, expanding their real-estate footprint. Thanks to the pandemic forcing many people to be stuck at home, more consumers are returning to printed materials, and demand for discount and bargain shopping is rising.

Other big-box retailers following suit include Burlington, which plans to open 87 new stores, and Ross, which expects to add 92 new stores. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls plan to add 104 new locations this year and another 1,500 in the coming years.

Big-Box retailers are conducting more extensive research on potential locations before signing leases. Using more intelligent technologies and sales tracking statistics will help their growth build at a steadier pace.

Many of the new Barnes & Noble locations will be smaller, with an increased focus on creating spaces where shoppers can linger.

Read more

Business planning and preparation can prevent unrecoverable disasters

Following significant disasters, 40% of businesses do not reopen, and another 25% fail within one year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reveals that this number rises sharply to 43% when businesses do not have formal emergency plans. Even more eye-opening is that 75% of businesses that do not have business continuity plans fail within three years of a natural disaster.

The weather over the last few weeks has thrown snow, ice, and flooding at us. Having a plan can help to get your business back up and running quickly, so it can continue providing products and services to your community.

Disaster plans must encompass how employees will communicate, where they will go and how they will keep doing their jobs. The details can vary greatly, depending on the size and scope of your company and the way it does business. Some businesses might prioritize power outages as the most critical, while others focus on data recovery, such as restoring data from an offsite backup.

Don’t wait until disaster strikes. Be proactive and begin researching options for resuming operations as quickly as possible in the aftermath. The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA provide excellent resources for businesses on a broad spectrum of disasters for planning and preparedness. We also have videos on RASI SafetyTV about planning and preparation.

Our safety team is ready to help members with safety plans and topics for safety meetings. Contact us at (360) 943-9198 x118, or

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 & Government Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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