Newsletter — May 16, 2024

Recognizing Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Join us in celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Washington State! With over 604,000 Asian Americans and 70,000 Pacific Islanders, our state boasts the seventh largest Asian American population and third largest Pacific Islander population in the nation. From the vibrant Puget Sound area to communities in Yakima Valley and counties like Clark, Whitman, and Spokane, their contributions are felt statewide. This year's theme, "Advancing Leaders Through Innovation," recognizes the pioneering spirit and lasting contributions of AANHPI leaders in Washington's economy and culture.









Rulemaking: Battery extended producer responsibility and what you need to know

In 2023, the Legislature passed a law establishing a product stewardship program for batteries. This new law mandates battery producers to implement a statewide collection system for portable batteries by January 1, 2027, and for medium format batteries by January 1, 2029. Portable batteries include those found in phones, laptops, flashlights, and power tools. Medium format batteries are used in items such as lawnmowers and electric bikes.

The Department of Ecology (DOE) is currently in the rulemaking process. To advise the agency during the rule development process, DOE has convened the External Battery Rule Advisory Committee, which includes WR’s Local & State Government Affairs Manager, Crystal Leatherman. The committee's inaugural meeting covered introductions, meeting format, and an outline of the rulemaking procedure. Scheduled to convene regularly throughout 2024 and into 2025, all committee meetings will be open to the public for observation and commentary.

Stay Informed:

Rulemaking: Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act could affect more than just makeup

In 2023, the Legislature passed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act (TFCA). Starting January 1, 2025, the TFCA will restrict the manufacture, distribution, and sale of cosmetic products containing certain chemicals in Washington. Cosmetics include makeup, lotion, hair products, and more.

Under the TFCA, companies are prohibited from intentionally including chemicals such as formaldehyde, ortho-phthalates, and methylene glycol in their products. Additionally, the law establishes a maximum allowable lead concentration of 1 part per million, making Washington the first state to enact such a limit. While designed to safeguard consumers, the TFCA carries unintended consequences, notably the potential banning of most color cosmetics. Many of these products utilize natural coloring sources like micas, which naturally contain lead.

The Department of Ecology has announced its intent to begin rulemaking. WR’s Local & State Government Affairs Manager, Crystal Leatherman, will be monitoring the rulemaking process and collaborating with a larger coalition to advocate for retailers and mitigate the impact on consumers.

To learn more about TFCA and its implications for you or your business:

Rising temperatures activate heat regulations in Washington

The first heat wave of 2024 in Washington triggered essential heat rules to safeguard outdoor workers. Regulated by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), these rules mandate frequent breaks, access to shade, and cool drinking water to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Protections activate at 80°F and intensify during higher heat. Employers must provide paid cool-down rest periods, adequate shade, and sufficient water. Close monitoring of workers is mandatory, especially during heat waves. Updated last year, the rules now activate at a lower temperature threshold and apply year-round, ensuring workers' safety during extreme weather.

Recognizing symptoms of heat stress is vital, with heat exhaustion and heat stroke posing serious risks. Vigilance, hydration, and shade are key in preventing heat-related illnesses.  

Employers and workers must prioritize safety during the summer heat.

Learn more: Be Heat Smart

Contrasting economic signals: Confidence dips as consumers stay resilient

Recent economic data and surveys indicate a mixed outlook for the US economy. A Gallup survey revealed a decline in economic confidence for the first time in five months, with rising inflation being a top concern for 55% of Americans. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported a 0.3% increase in Personal Consumption Expenditure index, while the federal Consumer Price Index showed a 0.4% rise in prices. This drop in confidence, reminiscent of levels seen during the 1992 election, suggests a potential shift in voter sentiment.

Contrastingly, the National Retail Federation's analysis highlights consumer resilience amidst economic challenges. Despite a slowdown in GDP growth to 1.6% and unexpected inflation reaching 3.4%, consumer spending remains strong, supported by a robust job market and rising wages. Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz emphasized the resilience of consumer spending, which increased by 2.5% year over year. Though job openings slightly decreased, solid job growth persists.

Despite signs of economic deceleration, NRF's analysis suggests that the economy remains in good shape, bolstered by consumer confidence and steady spending, which increased by 2.5% year over year.

Federal Reserve holds interest rates steady amid persistent inflation concerns

Despite hopes for a shift in monetary policy, the Federal Reserve has decided to maintain interest rates at a 23-year high, citing persistent inflation concerns. This marks the sixth consecutive meeting where rates remain unchanged, reflecting a significant departure from earlier market expectations. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell hinted at a reluctance to further hike rates, indicating a possible shift in strategy.

While inflation remains a concern, economists believe rate hikes are unlikely in the near future unless there are major global supply shocks. Market projections suggest a potential cut in rates by year-end, a stark contrast to initial expectations of rate increases. The Federal Reserve's decision impacts various sectors, from mortgages to corporate loans, and influences economic growth. Despite recent stock market resilience, concerns over inflation persist, prompting reevaluation of monetary policy strategies.

Read more:

WR delivers insights on retail and legislative successes to SnoValley Chamber

Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Policy and Government Affairs at WR, recently spoke at the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce in North Bend, addressing key topics such as the "State of Retail" and insights into the 2024 Legislative Session.

During his presentation, Johnson delved into the economic significance of the retail sector in our state, exploring career prospects within retail, and the ongoing transformation of the industry. He also outlined WR's priorities for the legislative session, highlighted expected developments, discussed both successful and unsuccessful bills, and anticipated issues for future sessions. Notably, WR's focus areas encompassed public safety, workforce development, product packaging, and artificial intelligence.

WR achieved success during the session, contributing to the passage of initiatives such as the police vehicle pursuit authorization, funding for organized retail crime deterrent pilot programs, workforce development initiatives, and the establishment of an AI study task force. Equally important was WR's efforts to thwart potentially damaging measures, leading a coalition to prevent the enactment of a harmful "gift card" regulation, which would have compelled retailers to remit unused gift card value totaling $250 million, along with collecting and submitting sensitive personal information on purchasers to the state.

Following the chamber meeting, Johnson enjoyed a personal tour led by Pete Nelson, a chamber board member known for his role as the Treehouse Master and founder/owner of Treehouse Point Bed and Breakfast and Nelson Treehouse Builders. Johnson was deeply impressed by the world-renowned and enchanting ambiance of Treehouse Point, situated in Fall City.

WR greatly values its close partnership with the SnoValley Chamber and Executive Director Kelly Coughlin, recognizing the importance of collaboration in advancing mutual goals.

Seattle City Council committee approves revisions to app-based worker compensation law

On May 9, the Seattle City Council’s Governance, Accountability & Economic Development Committee passed legislation to revise the city’s app-based worker minimum compensation law, which took effect on January 13.

Before approving the legislation by a 4-0 vote (with Councilmember Joy Hollingsworth abstaining, asking her colleagues for more time for additional stakeholder engagement), the committee unanimously approved a series of amendments. Among the key amendments was the restoration of the private right of action provisions, which had been slated for elimination under the proposed legislation. Additionally, some enforcement authority of the City's Office of Labor Standards was reinstated.

One notable adjustment in the amended legislation is the postponement, by one year, of immediate penalties for inadvertent violations of the law, excluding cases involving non-payment or retaliation against workers. During this grace period, businesses will have 30 days to rectify such violations to avoid penalties.

While the full Council was expected to vote on this legislation on May 21, Council President Sara Nelson, sponsor of the legislation, has opted to delay action by the Council until May 28. This extension aims to accommodate Councilmember Hollingsworth's request for further stakeholder consultations on the proposed changes.

Read related articles:

Backlash surfaces against Seattle’s new app-based worker compensation law

Seattle City Council begins work on revising app-based worker compensation law

2024 set for significant turnover in Olympia

2024 promises a political shake-up in Olympia, with key figures departing for new roles. Governor Jay Inslee, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are among those stepping down, sparking a frenzy of candidate filings.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and others from both parties bid farewell, leaving nine Senate seats vacant. Additionally, 16 House members exit, with some eyeing Senate seats.

Notably, the departure of Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz fuels further changes, as she seeks a congressional position. Meanwhile, Senator Karen Keiser's retirement prompts a mid-term seat appointment. Democratic and Republican senators alike pivot to new aspirations, including bids for attorney general and insurance commissioner roles, while others compete for congressional seats.

Read more

Teens swipe $106,000 in high-end goods – WR warns of broader impact

Four teenagers allegedly swiped a staggering $106,000 worth of goods from a Bottega Veneta store in Bellevue, sending shockwaves through the community. Mark Johnson, WR’s Senior VP of Policy and Government Affairs spoke to King5, underscoring the broader impact of such thefts, emphasizing, "Retail theft eventually impacts everyone."

Johnson shed light on the motives behind such thefts, stating that stolen high-end items are usually sought after for quick monetary gain. He highlighted the ripple effects, noting increased prices for law-abiding customers due to losses absorbed by retailers. Additionally, he pointed out the loss of tax revenue for cities when products are stolen.

Looking ahead, Johnson anticipated a decline in retail thefts due to concerted efforts at state and federal levels. He also highlighted Initiative 2113, the impending relaxation of the police chase law, enabling law enforcement to pursue suspects more effectively. He recommended purchasing luxury items from reputable sources like The RealReal to mitigate the risk of purchasing stolen goods. Johnson emphasized the interconnectedness of organized retail crime, warning that proceeds often fund other criminal activities.

See the story here:

Macy's unveils Divine Nine menswear collection: A tribute to heritage and empowerment

Macy's, in collaboration with the National Pan-Hellenic Council, has unveiled a groundbreaking menswear collection honoring the Divine Nine fraternities. Scheduled for release between May and July, the collection pays tribute to the rich heritage of these organizations, dating back to the 1930s

Inspired by the signature colors of the fraternities, the collection offers a diverse array of garments suitable for various occasions, from formal events to business meetings. Designed by Montee Holland, the collection includes polos, blazers, cardigans, and accessories, showcasing vibrant colors and intricate detailing.

Macy's is also committed to supporting the educational and research foundations of the Divine Nine, pledging a significant donation of $3 million. This initiative underscores Macy's dedication to empowering communities and fostering representation.

Walmart is redefining retail waste management with AI

Walmart is pioneering AI solutions to combat retail and food waste. Their new in-store AI system advises employees on everything from ripe produce to timely markdowns on fashion items. This initiative aims to curb the millions of tons of waste generated annually and save billions of dollars lost to inefficiency.

The AI tool utilizes data-driven insights to recommend actions like price adjustments, returns, or donations, empowering employees to make proactive decisions. This technology, developed internally, scans products like bananas and clothing, providing real-time recommendations to optimize sales and minimize waste. Walmart's pilot program in Canada signals a broader commitment to sustainability, aligning with their goal to eliminate operational waste in North America by 2025.

By integrating AI into their operations, Walmart not only reduces waste but also passes on savings to customers, fostering trust and loyalty. As retailers increasingly prioritize environmental responsibility, AI emerges as a powerful tool to drive efficiency and sustainability in the retail sector.

Dispelling the myth of mall demise

In a world where the demise of the mall seems like an impending reality, Kevin McCrain, at the helm of Brookfield Properties, stands as a beacon of optimism. He doesn't just see malls as shopping centers but as living, breathing entities that evolve with the times. 

As the world shifted towards suburban living in the mid-20th century, malls emerged as more than just retail spaces; they became vibrant community hubs. But as times changed and anchor stores closed, many speculated about the end of an era.

Yet, McCrain disagrees. He sees malls not in flux but in transformation. He paints a picture of malls as adaptive entities, shaping themselves to fit the needs and desires of local communities. For him, the death knell for malls is premature.

In his view, malls still hold a special place in the hearts of shoppers, including the ever-important Gen Z. They're not just places to buy things; they're places to gather, to eat, to be entertained.

And while e-commerce has changed the retail landscape, McCrain believes in the enduring power of physical stores. He champions the idea of experiential shopping, where malls offer more than just products but an entire lifestyle experience.

Department store closures? They're not the end of the story but opportunities for reinvention. McCrain sees potential in mixed-use developments, breathing new life into old spaces. 

Despite challenges, McCrain remains unwavering in his belief in the future of malls. They may evolve, but their essence as community centers of commerce remains unchanged. In McCrain's narrative, the mall isn't dead; it's just getting started on its next chapter.

Read the full story:

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