Newsletter — November 30, 2023








Congress passes temporary funding to avoid shutdown, delays budget debate into New Year

Congress recently approved a temporary funding measure to avoid a government shutdown and postpone the federal budget debate into the new year. The bill passed the Senate with an 87-11 vote and had previously secured overwhelming bipartisan support in the House. This stopgap funding maintains current government funding levels for about two months, setting two deadlines—January 19 for certain federal agencies and February 2 for others. At this point, there may be a risk of a partial shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the avoidance of a government shutdown this year. The bill’s passage, however, faced some opposition. Senator Patty Murray supported it but expressed concerns about doubling the shutdown risk. The bill excludes the White House’s $106 billion wartime aid request for countries like Israel and Ukraine, a topic likely to be addressed after Thanksgiving.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has called for deeper spending cuts and is against further stopgap measures. His stance has caused friction within the GOP, as some members wanted to use a shutdown threat to demand cuts and policy changes. This discord led to an early break for Thanksgiving, highlighting internal challenges in the House GOP.

The focus is expected to shift to the Biden administration’s funding requests for Ukraine and Israel when Congress reconvenes. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has emphasized the need for policy changes, particularly regarding the U.S.-Mexico border crisis. Some Republicans are considering linking Ukraine funding to border policy changes.

Despite these tensions, most Senate Republicans support Ukraine funding. However, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby noted that U.S. aid to Ukraine is dwindling. Senator Michael Bennet voted against the funding package due to the exclusion of Ukraine aid.

Schumer urged bipartisan cooperation for upcoming legislation on funding and border issues, highlighting the need for compromise in the face of diverse political agendas.

Credit card ‘swipe’ fees drive up holiday costs

Rising credit card “swipe” fees are significantly impacting holiday expenses. These hidden fees charged by the credit card industry are piling onto the cost of holiday meals and presents under the tree. These fees, often unknown to consumers, average 2.24% of the purchase amount, sometimes reaching 4%, and have doubled over the past decade. This increase is attributed to Wall Street banks and card networks like Visa and Mastercard. The fees, costing families over $1,000 annually, are the second-highest operating cost for grocers after labor and rent.

The impact of swipe fees extends to all aspects of the holidays, including groceries, dining out, and travel. A home-cooked meal for ten people averages $61.17, with swipe fees constituting $1.37 of the total cost. For those dining out, the expense can reach over $1,000 for a party of ten, including over $22 in swipe fees at high-end restaurants. Travel expenses also include these fees, with AAA noting a 7.5 cents per gallon cost due to swipe fees for gasoline and airfares having swipe fees averaging $6 per ticket.

In response to these rising costs, Congress is considering the Credit Card Competition Act, aiming to create more competition over swipe fees. The legislation proposes that banks with assets over $100 billion enable cards to be processed over competing networks, potentially saving merchants and customers $15 billion annually and enhancing security. Visa and Mastercard, controlling over 80% of the market, currently set swipe fees centrally and limit processing to their networks. This act could allow merchants to choose the processing network, fostering competition over fees, security, and service. Make your voice heard! Tell your congressperson to pass the Credit Card Competition Act.

Consumer spending drives another $191 million in expected state revenue growth

Washington State's economy is experiencing a slight slowdown, with consumer spending remaining steady but the housing market not as robust as last year. The latest revenue forecast, announced on Monday, estimates state tax collections to hit $66.9 billion for the current two-year budget cycle, up $191 million from the previous forecast in September. This increase brings the total revenue growth to about $1.2 billion since April, providing Governor Jay Inslee and the Legislature additional funds to allocate in the upcoming 2024 session.

Republican Senator Lynda Wilson, a key figure in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, argued against new taxes, citing sufficient government revenue to maintain current services and programs. Governor Inslee is expected to present his supplemental budget in December, while lawmakers will develop their own version after reconvening in January. Both parties will then work to resolve differences before the session's end in March.

Steve Lerch, the chief economist, noted that while personal income and retail spending have increased, the pace of growth is slower compared to the previous fiscal years. He highlighted a $269 million increase in consumer spending compared to September's forecasts and a slight rise in employment and personal income levels. However, revenues from real estate transactions have declined, and fewer housing permits are expected in the coming years.

Lerch, who is retiring after nearly 12 years, emphasized the trend of moderate growth in the future. It's important to note that these revenue forecasts, issued quarterly, do not account for funds generated from the state's new cap-and-invest program, which has raised approximately $1.6 billion to date.

Mix of short-term challenges and long-term optimism for the state's fiscal health

The latest financial updates from the state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) show an interesting mix of short-term challenges and long-term optimism for the state's fiscal health. On the one hand, the ERFC has revised its revenue forecasts, promising an additional $752 million in funds over the current and next bienniums. This adjustment reflects a positive trend in the state's earning potential, with anticipated revenue growth rates of 21.8%, 3.3%, and 6.9% for consecutive biennium periods.

On the other side of the coin, the latest monthly report presents a hiccup in the state's revenue collection. The actual tax collections for a recent month fell short by $55.6 million compared to the forecasted amount, indicating a 2.2% dip from what was anticipated. This shortfall is attributed to lower-than-expected contributions from sales, use, utility, and business and occupation taxes, along with a notable decrease in real estate excise tax and property tax collections. Despite this, there were some areas, such as court fees and fines, where revenue exceeded expectations.

The ERFC also acknowledges the unpredictable nature of economic conditions by presenting alternative future scenarios. In an optimistic outlook, revenue could surpass baseline forecasts by almost $3 billion, while a pessimistic view could see a shortfall of over $3.6 billion. These scenarios underscore the inherent uncertainties in economic forecasting, prompting a cautious approach to financial planning.

Governor Inslee's upcoming budget proposal will be based on these latest forecasts, and the legislature will take into account an updated forecast due in March to finalize the budget. Although the recent revenue collection has been lower than hoped, the overall financial projection for the state remains positive, with expected revenue growth in the coming years. This blend of cautious short-term realities with a more hopeful long-term outlook underscores the complex nature of fiscal management and the importance of adaptable financial planning.

Census says October retail sales grew year over year, but growth continued to slow

It's expected that consumer spending will continue to show strength during the holiday season, according to recent data. Despite a slowdown in growth, retail sales in October sustained an upward trend compared to the previous year. Consumer spending in the fourth quarter began at a moderate rate, which was anticipated. Although financial conditions have become more stringent, which has affected buying potential that was previously boosted by employment and wage increases, the resilience of consumers is still predicted to prevail during the holiday season.

The Census Bureau reported a slight 0.1% dip in retail sales from September to October, but there was a 2.5% increase from the same month last year. This is a deceleration from September's figures, which showed a 0.9% monthly and 4.1% annual increase.

Core retail sales, not counting sales from auto dealerships, gas stations, and restaurants, rose by 3.1% on a three-month moving average up to October, with a 3.7% increase over the first ten months of the year. These figures match industry forecasts that retail sales for the entire year of 2023 will see around a 4% growth over the previous year.

October's cooling in sales was anticipated, and the most recent data from the Census aligns with predictions from the newly introduced CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor. This tool, which utilizes Affinity Solutions data, indicates that core retail sales in October slightly decreased by 0.03% from September but rose 2.63% compared to the same period last year. 

Record-breaking turnout over Thanksgiving weekend

The recent National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics survey reveals a record-breaking shopping spree over the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period, with 200.4 million shoppers, surpassing last year's 196.7 million. This turnout exceeded NRF's forecast by over 18 million. NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay highlighted this period as reflecting the robust resilience of consumers and the economy's strength. Retailers, both large and small, were prepared with safe, convenient, and affordable shopping experiences.

Physical stores attracted 121.4 million visitors, consistent with last year's 122.7 million, while online shopping saw an increase to 134.2 million from 130.2 million. Black Friday remained the most popular for in-store shopping, with 76.2 million shoppers, an increase from last year's 72.9 million. However, the Saturday following Thanksgiving saw a slight decrease in in-store shoppers, with about 59 million compared to last year's 63.4 million.

Black Friday was also the top day for online shopping, with 90.6 million consumers, up from 87.2 million in 2022. Cyber Monday, however, experienced a slight dip in online shoppers. Desktop and laptop usage for online shopping on Cyber Monday remained consistent with last year, while mobile device usage slightly decreased.

"The surge in shoppers this holiday weekend isn't just a win for Washington state’s retailers, said Renée Sunde, WR President and CEO, “it's a testament to the evolving consumer confidence and the innovative strategies businesses are using to meet shoppers both online and in-store."

The primary shopping destinations included online stores, grocery stores, supermarkets, department stores, clothing, and electronics stores. Most shoppers (95%) made holiday-related purchases, with an average spend of $321.41, similar to last year. Top purchased items were clothing, toys, gift cards, and personal care or beauty items – a new entrant in the top five.

Consumers were significantly influenced by sales and promotions, with 55% stating that these factors drove their purchasing decisions, an increase from 52% in 2022. Retailers have adapted by offering earlier sales throughout the season, with over half of the consumers taking advantage of these deals. As of Thanksgiving weekend, 85% of consumers had started their holiday shopping, nearly halfway through their shopping lists.

30% Jump in Klarna's Black Friday sales as consumers opt for installment buying

In the face of rising inflation, many consumers are increasingly relying on installment payment services like Klarna to manage their budgets. Klarna reported a significant 29.5% increase in orders on Black Friday, compared to the previous year, indicating a growing trend in the 'buy now, pay later' (BNPL) sector.

This surge in BNPL usage aligns with a Klarna survey, which revealed that 81% of respondents find the option of interest-free installment payments particularly useful during the holiday season. This sentiment was even more pronounced among Gen Z shoppers, with 89% expressing a preference for this payment method.

The trend is not just a seasonal spike; it's part of a broader increase in BNPL transactions. Adobe's Analytics showed a 78% rise in BNPL orders and an 81% increase in revenue during a week in November 2022. Additionally, a PYMNTS report highlighted that over 10% of online Black Friday purchases last year were made using installment payment services.

Klarna's North America head, Kristina Elkhazin, noted the growing consumer concern over credit card debt, with many doubting their ability to fully pay off holiday credit card bills. This concern is driving more consumers toward BNPL options.

The BNPL industry is not just appealing for holiday shopping; it's gaining overall popularity. Bank of America Securities data shows Afterpay leading in U.S. monthly active users, followed closely by Klarna and Affirm.

The industry is becoming increasingly competitive, with major retailers entering the fray. For instance, Amazon announced plans to extend its installment payment service to other retailers through Amazon Pay, allowing shoppers to pay for purchases of $50 or more in monthly installments. This move signifies the growing importance and integration of BNPL services in the broader retail landscape.

From Left: WR Local & State Government Affairs Manager Crystal Leatherman, Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Samantha (Sammie) Le, President & CEO Annie McGrath, WR Business Development Manager Brittany Shannon)

Celebrating 35 years of success at Seattle Southside Chamber’s Business Awards Gala

Washington Retail recently joined the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce for their Business Awards Gala and Fundraiser.

The 2023 Business Awards Gala recognized outstanding individuals and businesses in the Seattle Southside, showcasing their dedication to excellence in various categories, from Public Servant of the Year to Best Place to Work.

Guest speakers and local high school students participated in the Chamber’s Success Foundation’s Workforce Discovery Lab. The Workforce Discovery Lab is a summer youth program that empowers students from underserved households, providing them with professional skills-building opportunities and hands-on career exploration workshops. Students from the 2023 cohort emphasized the Workforce Discovery Lab’s positive impact on their lives. Their stories helped encourage attendees to participate in the evening auction and contribute directly to the Chamber’s foundation fundraiser.

Congratulations to the Seattle Southside Chamber on 35 years, and cheers to 35 more!

If you are a business owner and not yet a part of your Chamber of Commerce, please consider joining. They provide a wide range of resources as well as networking and community engagement opportunities. To find your local Chamber, click here.

Seattle City Council approves 2024 budget

On November 21, the Seattle City Council approved a $7.8 billion budget for FY 2024, which begins on January 1.

Seattle has a biennial budget process, so this is essentially a supplemental budget to the FY 2023-2024 budget approved by the Council last year. In his budget transmittal in late September, Mayor Bruce Harrell suggested limited additional public safety spending, including funds for a new acoustic gunshot detection program.

The Council also added new spending, including a $300,000 drug treatment pilot program and $20 million for mental health services. The added mental health services will be funded by an increase in the JumpStart payroll tax, which is imposed on businesses with the highest payrolls in the city.

Big budget challenges lie ahead for Seattle, which is facing projected average deficits of $218 million for six years, beginning in 2025. The Council is expected to consider additional revenue sources, including a local capital gains tax, before leaving office at the end of the year.

AG-led Organized Retail Crime unit files its first criminal prosecution

In a landmark move, Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently announced the first criminal prosecution by the newly established Organized Retail Crime Unit. Shawn Nanez, a 33-year-old Bremerton resident, was charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree organized retail theft, a felony. This case marks a significant step in combating organized retail crime in the state.

This prosecution follows extensive lobbying and advocacy by Washington Retail for the creation of an Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Task Force. Renee Sunde, President and CEO of Washington Retail, played a pivotal role in this effort, traveling across the state to speak about ORC to hundreds of business owners. This grassroots campaign highlighted the rising impact of retail theft on businesses, ultimately contributing to the formation of the Task Force.

Nanez is accused of committing 11 thefts from Target stores in King and Kitsap counties over two months in 2022, amounting to over $50,000 in stolen merchandise. Security footage showed him breaking into cases to steal electronics and walking out without payment. Post-arrest, Nanez admitted to selling the stolen goods for cash.

The Organized Retail Crime Unit is also prosecuting Nanez in Kitsap County for similar charges. The thefts in King County are valued at over $30,000, while those in Kitsap County exceed $24,000. If convicted, Nanez faces a prison sentence of up to five years and eight months, along with a potential $20,000 fine per count. The Attorney General’s Office is seeking full restitution for the thefts.

Further bolstering the unit’s capability, Ferguson appointed Assistant Attorney General Kent Liu as its leader. Liu, a seasoned criminal prosecutor with over 15 years at the Attorney General’s Office, will steer the unit’s direction and operations. Ferguson emphasized the urgency of addressing organized retail crime, stating, “Our new unit is hitting the ground running and pursuing cases as we hire our team.” This proactive approach aims to bring accountability and curb a problem significantly impacting retailers and the community.

Washington’s foray into regulating autonomous tools

With the embrace of artificial intelligence as well as questions and concerns around it, many states, including Washington, are set to introduce related bills for the 2024 legislative session.

Representative Clyde Shavers (D, 10th LD) is considering a bill on autonomous decision-making tools. The bill's overall goal would be to require the development of assessments and protocols of these tools for use in business and other industries if they are used to make consequential decisions.

Autonomous decision-making tools are created from advanced algorithms that analyze vast amounts of data to make informed choices without human intervention.

The roots of autonomous decision-making can be traced back to the early 2000s, with the introduction of machine learning algorithms. Since then, it has become a critical tool in various industries.

A.I chatbots help streamline interactions in customer service, providing quick resolutions and freeing up customer service agents to focus on more complex queries. Retail businesses utilize demand forecasting systems to predict product demand throughout the year and optimize inventory levels. Automated content moderation identifies and filters inappropriate content across social media platforms. Regarding employee management, automated resume screening programs and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) manage a potential employee’s recruitment process, from job posting to resume submission to interview.

These examples are just a few of the many ways automated decision-making tools have become integral to customer service, employment, and business operations.

In preparation for A.I. bills that may be introduced in this coming legislative session, WR developed an A.I. Workgroup and held several meetings with members, including a meeting with Rep. Shavers, to learn more about the intent behind the autonomous decision-making tools bill. WR will continue to monitor this and other A.I. legislation closely.

If you would like to join the WR A.I. Workgroup, please email Crystal Leatherman at to be added to the distribution list.

‘Normalization of deviance’ in workplace safety

Whenever management’s workplace safety oversight diminishes, safety as a priority also loses its importance to the business. When this happens, and no one seems to notice, it is a condition called “normalization of deviance.” Two common factors contributing to “normalization of deviance” in workplace safety include:

  • Supervisors and safety leads that are not out in the field or on the floor as much as they should be. This lack of presence means employees do not have the oversight necessary to catch problems before they become issues. In many organizations, these leaders may be new in their positions and have minimal experience and training. A safety director’s insufficient knowledge and experience can often result in a lack of knowing how to work safely.

  • When coworkers stop following the company’s safety standards, others tend to conform to the behaviors of their peers. When the whole team stops paying attention to potential risks, it is not surprising to see incidents and injuries increasing. 

Recommended actions:

  • Positive safety behaviors among colleagues can create a social norm that promotes safety throughout the workplace. Bad safety performance often shows bigger problems in the workplace and how the organization works. If safety worsens, other things like quality, delivery, reliability, efficiency, or cost tend to go in the wrong direction.

Performing systematic and periodic reviews of safety trends with your leadership team is a vital practice. If you need help, contact us at to learn more about how WR’s Safety Ambassador program can help you.

Our safety team is available to help members improve their safety program beyond compliance and move toward quality safety practices.

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