Newsletter October 20, 2022









Join the WR Annual Meeting on November 15 - Register now

The Washington Retail Association will host its virtual annual meeting on November 15 from 11am-12pm/PST.

2022 has been an impactful year for the retail industry and Washington Retail has been working hard on behalf of our members and stakeholders.

Join us as we discuss industry advocacy, resources, trends, and the association's strength as we navigate post-pandemic realities and economic uncertainties in the coming year.

Hear from special guest, economist, Dr. Bill Conerly on the state of Washington's economy. Learn how to prepare and adapt your business, taking a "flexible stance" when facing future economic uncertainty.

The event is free to members, potential members, stakeholders, and retail partners.

Register here!

Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program could require significant premium increases to regain solvency

Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program, enacted in 2017, provides paid time off for family and medical leave. Family leave may be used to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to bond with a new child; medical leave may be taken for the employee’s own serious health condition. Premium collections to fund the program from both employees and employers took effect in 2019. Benefits payments began in 2020.

During the 2022 legislative session, the Employment Security Department (ESD) alerted the Legislature that Washington’s PFML program was projected to go insolvent before the end of the biennium. In response, the Legislature appropriated $350 million to prevent program insolvency, with a caveat that the funds could only be used to pay benefits in the event of a deficit. Additionally, the Legislature authorized actuarial studies and task force reviews of the program intended to inform the Legislature on reforms necessary to maintain PFML solvency.

On October 7th, the legislative task force received an independent actuarial analysis completed by Milliman Company. Key conclusions reached by Milliman include:

  • Between April 2020 and June 2022, the PFML fund balance declined by $462 million.
  • The fund balance will be in a deficit position of $9 million by December 2022.
  • The current premium rate of 0.6% will not cover benefit payments and expenses in 2023.
  • Premium rates need to increase to 0.79% to cover benefits and expenses and regain a 3-month fund balance by 2025.


ESD, however, believes rates need to increase to 0.9%. Their reasoning includes:

Read the rest of this article

Government Procurement Workshop registration

Congressman Adam Smith is holding his Government Procurement Workshop to explain how to bid on government contracts and meet with government agencies on October 26 in Tukwila from 10:00am to 2:00pm.If your business would like to do business with the government, there are several opportunities for businesses to sell goods and services to local, state, and federal government agencies.


The event will cover the essentials of government contracting and a panel of government agencies will provide an update on contracting opportunities. Attendees will also have the chance to network with government agencies during a tabling session at which time the agencies will distribute resources for business owners.


This event is free, but space is limited. If you would like to attend, you must RSVP prior to the event. See the Facebook event page or the website for additional information. For accessibility requests or translation/interpretation services email at least seven days prior to the event. Food and beverages will be served.

New SOC code reporting required

In 2020, the Legislature enacted Substitute House Bill 2308, which requires employers to include the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code of each worker in their quarterly tax reports to the Employment Security Department.

SOC code reporting becomes mandatory for employers starting in the fourth quarter 2022. SOC stands for Standard Occupational Classification, a federal coding system that helps government agencies and private businesses compare occupational data.

Additional information on all of ESD’s rulemaking activities can be found on their agency rulemaking homepage.

Important links:

WR team tours amazon fulfillment center

WR Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs Mark Johnson and Vice President of Operations Rose Gundersen toured the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Kent last week. The tour highlighted part of the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) education plan on supply chains and retail distribution. 

“The 850,000 square foot facility was impressive,” said Johnson. “Their extensive use of robotics and computerization worked to make the flow of products efficient and fast.” The WR team learned of the safety measures deployed to keep employees from injury and about the free training and education Amazon offers to help further workers’ careers in retail and other fields. 

The center was a beehive of activity fulfilling customers’ orders from around the region and country, with many processed on the same day. This tour gave evidence of Washington state’s supply chains returning to pre-pandemic norms as manufacturers and suppliers continue to deliver goods. 

The tour guide explained how Amazon continually upgraded and improved processes to remain agile and competitive through technology and employee-helping practices. 

The WR team left with an appreciation for Amazon’s considerable undertaking to provide products to customers in a cost-effective and meaningful manner that is purchaser-centric.

Seattle city leaders launch Storefront Repair Fund to support small businesses

To help Seattle businesses that experienced storefront damage since the start of 2021, the City will make nearly $2 million in federal funds available in $2,000 increments. The announcement was made last week by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, Director of the Office of Economic Development Markham McIntyre, and Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen. The grant program will open later this month.

Nelson has supported the grants as a way of improving businesses and neighborhoods as a whole. “It goes beyond simply helping the individual business because when you when you see a bunch of storefronts that are boarded up in a neighborhood, it brings down the character, the morale,” Nelson said. “And so, what we’re really talking about today is revitalization. It’s about bringing our city back.”

Applications can be submitted starting Oct. 18 and will continue to be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are gone. Small businesses will be defined as businesses with less than $7 million in revenue and fewer than 50 employees. To support underserved small businesses, the Office of Economic Development says it will prioritize supporting businesses from the following communities:

  • Small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color
  • Woman-owned small businesses
  • Small businesses located in a highly distressed census tract with a minimum of 30% poverty or not exceeding 60% median income, meeting the definition of “low-income communities” set by the federal Small Business Administration.

WR Retail Action Council PAC finalizes endorsements 

The Washington Retail Association Retail Action Council Political Action Committee voted on its final recommendations for endorsements and contributions for the 2022 Election—scheduled for November 8. With ballots arriving in mailboxes soon, WR encourages Washington’s citizens to be sure to vote.


WR’s PAC focuses on supporting candidates, both incumbents, and challengers, that support the retail industry and often go out of their way to champion its priority issues. 


We are pleased to announce the following endorsements and encourage voters to support them. These endorsements are in addition to our endorsements made earlier in June:



  • Senator Simon Sefzik (R-42 Ferndale)
  • Rep. Amy Walen (D-48 Kirkland)
  • Rep. Greg Gilday (R-10 Camano Island)
  • Rep. Mike Chapman (D-24 Port Angeles)
  • Rep. Larry Springer (D-45 Kirkland)
  • Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-28 University Place)
  • Senator John Lovick (D-44 Mill Creek)


Challengers and open seats:

  • Rep. Drew MacEwen for Senate (R-35 Union)
  • Former State Rep. Kristine Reeves for House (D-30 Federal Way)
  • Former State Rep. Linda Kochmar for Senate (R-30 Federal Way)
  • Stephanie McClintock for House – (R-18 Vancouver)
  • Former State Rep. Chad Magendanz for House – (R-5 Tiger Mountain)
  • Susanna Keilman for House – (R-28 Dupont)
  • Former State Rep. Mark Harmsworth for House – (R-44 Mill Creek)
  • Casey Jones for House – (R-30 Federal Way)
  • Kent Councilman Bill Boyce for Senate – (R-47 Kent)
  • Kyle Christensen for House – (R-42 Bellingham)
  • Travis Couture for House – (R-35 Allyn)
  • Spencer Hutchins for House – (R-26 Gig Harbor)
  • Mayor Jim Ferrell for King County Prosecuting Attorney (D-Federal Way)


WR appreciates each candidate running for public office and encourages voters to do there part by learning about the candidates. Make your vote count on November 8.

Outgoing house majority leader to serve as governor’s new labor adviser 

Washington’s House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan will join Governor Inslee’s team as the Senior Policy Advisor for Labor starting Monday, October 17.

Sullivan’s resignation from his seat in the House of Representatives was announced in an email from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office to state reporters on Friday.

Sullivan announced in March that he would not seek re-election to his 47th District seat. The Covington Democrat was first elected to the House in 2004, and in 2010 he was appointed as the House Majority Leader. He also has been serving on the Appropriations Committee.

“With his passion for building a strong economy by creating good paying jobs with benefits and affordable health care, Pat will continue to serve the people of Washington well and we’re excited to have him join the team,” said Nick Streuli, executive director of policy and outreach for the governor’s office.

Read the entire article

Year-over-year retail sales growth continues

On a monthly basis, retail sales remained strong in September and had another year-over-year gain despite an interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve and continued inflation.

“September retail sales confirm that even with rising interest rates, persistent inflation, political uncertainty and volatile global markets, consumers are spending for household priorities,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “As we enter the holiday season, shoppers are increasingly seeking deals and discounts to make their dollars stretch, and retailers are already meeting this demand. However, the Biden administration must enact policy measures to relieve inflationary pressure and lower costs for American families.”

“Consumer demand remained intact during September and continues to be a key contributor to economic activity,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “But sales were uneven across retail categories and inflation is the main factor that is determining how much shoppers are willing to spend. Households are tapping into savings, accessing credit and reducing their savings contributions as they meet higher prices head on. Shoppers are looking for bargains and value in the current economic environment and even more so as we head into the holiday season.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said last week that overall retail sales in September were unchanged from August but up 8.2% year over year, compared with increases of 0.4% month over month and 9.4% year over year in August. On a three-month moving average, sales were up 9.2% year over year.

Read the rest of the story from the NRF

Retail real estate is enjoying its biggest comeback in years

Even though asking rents for U.S. shopping centers in the second quarter of 2020 were 16% higher than five years ago, U.S. retail vacancy fell to 6.1%, the lowest level in at least 15 years, per the Wall Street Journal.

Bricks-and-mortar store owners have continued to emerge from the pandemic with surprising strength and posting some of their best numbers in years, and many are planning expansions as more Americans continue to shop in stores.

According to an analysis by Morgan Stanley, more stores opened than closed in the U.S. last year—the first time since 1995. Some analysts expect that trend to continue this year even as recession fears rise.

Over the past dozen years, construction of new retail has slowed significantly after many years of overbuilding. Instead, most developers are opting to renovate outdated properties rather than building new ones. Those that develop new projects have been more cautious, usually securing leases from tenants before breaking ground.

Read the entire article

WR updates crime guidance for small and medium-sized businesses

WR released its updated Guide to Navigating Public Safety & Retail Crime resource book this week and is making it available without charge to all retailers in Washington State.

While retail store thefts continue to increase, smaller businesses often lack the budget for a loss prevention team. Even with sophisticated security systems and personnel, large stores such as Lowes and Home Depot continue to lose millions of dollars annually. These losses are primarily from organized retail crime (ORC) rings with sophisticated systems of theft and online sales, which often fund drug operations, weapons and human trafficking, and illicit materials involving children.

As an association,  WR generally provides educational resources and focuses on policies prioritizing its members. In this case, WR is making a significant exception, and for a good reason.

According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), Washington State experienced over $2.7 billion in retail theft in 2021, the second highest in the nation per capita. “Large companies with multiple stores can absorb losses for the most part. For a small business owner with narrow margins who is working hard to provide for their family, several thefts might mean taking food off the dinner table,” said Renée Sunde, President and CEO of WR. “As stewards of Washington state’s retailers, we must step forward and provide tools that help all retailers in our state.”

Retail fraud and theft losses up $3.7B 

Although the U.S. may be out of the pandemic, retail continues to feel the unforeseen impacts, with theft and shrink increasing to a nearly $100 billion dollar problem.

According to a recent study, the industry-wide shrink was 1.4% last year. The factors contributing to retail shrink have multiplied in recent years, and organized retail crime (ORC) is a burgeoning threat within the retail industry.

Surveyed retailers confirmed that the COVID pandemic had created increased business challenges. Specifically,

  • 87.7% of respondents said the pandemic had increased the overall risk for their organization
  • 89.3% of retailers specifically cited an increase in violence
  • 73.2% reported more shoplifting
  • 71.4% citing increased organized retail crime and employee theft

Research indicates ORC groups target easily concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable, and disposable items. According to the study, crime experts said apparel, health and beauty, electronics, accessories, food and beverage, footwear, home furnishings, eyewear, office supplies, infant care, and toys, are the most targeted by ORC.

The survey also revealed that large and small retailers are ramping up their loss prevention teams. The largest retailers, including Walmart, Costco, and Home Depot, average more than 2,000 employees working in their loss prevention teams. About one-third of the surveyed retailers plan to add up to 10% more employees for loss prevention this year.

The survey found retailers attribute the most significant portion of shrink to external theft, including organized crime, averaging 37% of their losses. Employee theft averaged 28.5% of the total shrink, and 25.7% is blamed on process or control failures, including bad checks, fraudulent returns, and usage of fake coupons.

Retail ranks highly among best workplaces with advancement opportunities

A new study ranked more than 200 of the largest companies in the U.S. by economic and job opportunity based on nine criteria, including access to employment, wages, job growth, and promotion opportunities.

The top 50 companies ranking as “best overall” included WR members Costco and AutoZone. The top 10 companies ranked as the “10 best companies to advance within” included WR members AutoZone, Gap, Lowe’s, and Macy’s.


The retail industry fared well in the report to the millions of inexperienced and first-job workers that start at entry-level associate and cashier jobs.


The study, The American Opportunity Index: A Corporate Scorecard of Worker Advancement, was a joint Project of the Burning Glass Institute, the Harvard Business School Project on Managing the Future of Work, and the Schultz Family Foundation. Additional resources are available on their website.

Pushing a pallet jack is safer than pulling

Pallet jacks are often used for moving merchandise, but how they are operated can significantly affect employee safety and productivity.


Pushing a pallet jack could mean moving four times more weight than pulling! 


Rick Means, WR's Director of Safety and Education, reminds us that when moving weight, a worker is at their strongest when pushing with their legs. The physics follows the same principle as in lifting: use the legs for balance, not the back.


Swiftly stopping a load pulled with a pallet jack can increase the risk of collision between the load and the worker. Additionally, the body mechanics required to pull a pallet jack puts the body into an anatomically compromised position, which can lead to lower back injuries. Pushing enables a person to have better steering control, load maneuverability, and the ability to stop quickly.


Train your employees to start pushing pallet jacks instead of pulling them, and the improvement in productivity should be immediately noticeable.


Check out SAFEME's Material Handling lesson for more ideas to help you safely move merchandise.


Rick Means, Director of Safety and Education, is available to help members with safety. Contact Rick at 360-943-9198, Ext. 118 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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