Newsletter June 22, 2023








WR board of directors map out future strategies for a thriving marketplace and political influence

The Washington Retail Association 20-member Board of Directors met this past week at the beautiful Suncadia Lodge in Cle-Elum, Washington. The association’s board, led by President & CEO Renée Sunde, and chaired by Kent Wilson, Target, is comprised of a strategic mix of Washington-based retailers and multi-state retailers who represent hundreds of thousands of employees in all regions of the state.

In addition to important association business– leaders representing retail storefronts in all 49 legislative districts met to discuss two primary goals.

As we set the stage for Washington’s future, a focus on creating the necessary long-term political infrastructure that will support a free enterprise marketplace, maintain fiscal responsibility, and support personal accountability is a critical place to start.

We also recognize that setting the stage for Washington Retail Association’s future means retailers may be better positioned than other business interests to highlight policies that are strongly aligned with the current political majority. These include positions on sustainability, community engagement, employee education, and reskilling opportunities through our diverse and inclusive workforce.

These goals helped to set the stage for two days of dynamic speakers and focused strategic planning. Sally Poliak, Co-Quarter back of Project 42, and Executive Director Kaitlyn Virtertun of League of Our Own shared the many “capacities” established over the past years to help build a durable infrastructure for Washington’s future. Newly elected state representative April Connors (D-8) from the Tri-cities is an excellent example of League of Our Own’s success in electing moderate, consensus-building, pro-business candidates.

Senator Mark Mullet, (D-5-Issaquah) gubernatorial candidate in the race for Washington State Governor, spoke about his commitment to pragmatic leadership and reasonable, balanced governance necessary to accomplish things in Olympia. The newly elected deputy Republican House leader, Representative Mike Steele (D-12 Chelan) spoke about a similar commitment to bring together both parties to work towards common sense solutions. Both leaders spoke about their commitment to making Washington State a welcoming environment for citizens and businesses alike.

A facilitated work session focused on preparing for WR’s future was facilitated by Doug Mah of Mah & Associates. The outcomes included discussing how WR will sustain successes while developing top priorities to meet the many identified challenges. The role of WR’s Board of Directors has never been more important and timelier - as we meet both challenges and opportunities ahead.

Pathways to WA CARES benefits

As employers are busy preparing for deducting and remitting WA CARES premiums from their employees to Employment Security Department, many employees are inquiring about ways to qualify for benefits, especially those nearing retirement. The premium deductions will affect payrolls beginning July 1.

The WA CARES website states that there are two primary options for beneficiaries to obtain full benefits - Lifetime Access and Early Access.

Lifetime Access is for Washington employees who have paid into the program for at least ten years. They can receive up to $36,500, the full benefit amount. This route ensures permanent access to full benefits for long-term contributors to the fund. To be eligible, individuals must have made contributions for at least a decade without any break of five consecutive years. Beneficiaries under this category can use care services costing up to $36,500 (subject to inflation adjustment) at any point during their lifetime.

Early Access, on the other hand, is an expedited route for Washington employees who have contributed for three out of the previous six years and unexpectedly need care. It allows access to the full benefit amount of up to $36,500 for workers requiring care during their employment or shortly after exiting the workforce. These individuals are eligible for benefits even if they haven't contributed for at least ten years. To be eligible, they must have made contributions for at least three of the last six years when they apply for benefits and demonstrate an immediate need for care due to conditions, including injury, illness, or disability. Beneficiaries can use care services costing up to $36,500 (subject to inflation adjustment) for the duration of their care needs.

Those nearing retirement may find it challenging to meet either the Lifetime Access or Early Access criteria. However, workers born before 1968 can accrue 10% of the benefits ($3,650) for each year of work and contribution. These workers can access the plan's benefits for a lifetime until their partial benefit is exhausted.

For more information, see the WA Cares fund website.

FTC urges online marketplaces to comply with INFORM Consumers Act

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sent letters to 50 online marketplaces across the United States, notifying them of their obligation to comply with the new Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act — AKA the INFORM Consumers Act. The FTC’s letter was purposed to proactively ensure that online marketplaces understand and fulfill their responsibilities by the time the act takes effect on June 27.

Under the INFORM Consumers Act, online marketplaces must take measures to protect consumers from counterfeit, unsafe, and stolen goods. This includes verifying the identities of their high-volume third-party sellers and making it easier for consumers to report suspicious activity on their platforms.

The FTC included copies of the act and a clear outline of the responsibilities online marketplaces must adhere to along with the letter. The agency emphasized the importance of carefully reviewing the statute and taking all necessary steps to ensure full compliance by the June 27 due date. The FTC also urges online marketplaces to communicate with their third-party sellers to inform them about the information required for collection, verification, and disclosure per the act.

What online marketplaces must know is that violations of the INFORM Consumers Act can be treated as a violation of an FTC rule, potentially leading to enforcement actions and civil penalties of $50,120 per violation. In Tuesday’s announcement, the FTC did not disclose the names of letter recipients.

The INFORM Consumers Act signifies a significant step in protecting consumers from fraudulent and unsafe products in the online retail space. By enforcing stricter measures on online marketplaces, the FTC aims to safeguard consumers, helping to increase confidence when shopping online.

Washington My Health My Data Act – Part 4: Effective Dates

By Mike Hintze, Hintze Law

Welcome to the fourth installment of our blog series focusing on the Washington My Health My Data Act. Having presented a general overview, a description of the scope of covered data, and entities affected in the first three posts, Part 4 breaks down the confusing language of this Act relating to effective dates.

As the My Health My Data Act is now law, entities must adapt quickly for compliance. However, what appears to be a drafting error in the legislation has created uncertainty around the enforcement dates of certain provisions. Although most of the Act was supposed to come into effect on March 31, 2024, for regulated entities, and on June 30, 2024, for small businesses, the lack of specified effective dates for some sections could see them activated as early as July 2023. This blog post will delve into this critical aspect of the Act and shed light on its full implications.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to delve into 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

Retail sales increase again in May

Retail sales rose again in May as consumers continued to spend despite economic challenges. 

Consumers continued to spend on household priorities in May, supported by gains in the job market and wages. Retailers recognize the ongoing pressure on cost-sensitive consumers and are offering competitive pricing, a wide product mix, and convenient shopping options to help stretch family budgets.

Despite inflation and interest rate pressures, there are no signs of an abrupt slowing ahead. Shoppers have slowed purchases in some categories year-over-year, but these numbers confirm that consumers are still spending. Job growth and wages are providing support, although inflation continues to nibble away at consumer income. As spring shopping peaks, May has historically been a strong month for retail, but above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation have likely played a favorable role.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales in May were up 0.3% from April and up 1.6% year over year. In April, sales were up 0.4% month over month and up 1.2% year over year.

Core retail sales, which exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants, showed May was up 0.4% from April and up 4.4% unadjusted year over year. In April, sales were up 0.6% month over month and 1.4% year over year.

Port unions reach preliminary agreement on six-year labor contract

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) finally struck a tentative deal last week on a new six-year labor contract, marking a breakthrough after protracted negotiations that started when the previous contract expired in July 2022.

The positive progress is a relief for labor operations at the West Coast ports, bringing a much-needed close to over a year of deliberations and uncertainties. The new agreement offers stability to the supply chain and certainty to countless businesses and their employees, who depend on these West Coast ports' seamless and effective functioning.

The West Coast ports are a critical artery for retailers and other businesses into the U.S. market. Quickly ratifying the tentative agreement will bring certainty back to the West Coast ports. It is essential to begin the negotiation process early for the next labor contract and avoid a future lapse in continuity.

In a concerted move in March, the Washington Retail (WR) Association joined forces with over 230 associations in a collective letter to President Biden, pressing the administration to collaborate with the negotiating parties and expedite the conclusion of their discussions.

WR participates in chamber public safety forums in Ellensburg and Burien

Washington Retail recently spoke at the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce Retail and Hospitality Summit in Ellensburg. Mark Johnson, WR Senior VP of Policy and Government Affairs, highlighted the need to increase public safety and crack down on retail theft and organized retail crime.


The top issue facing Washington retailers continues to be public safety. Employees and customers need to feel safe and be safe when they go to work or shop in our establishments. However, public safety is in jeopardy with the rise in retail theft and organized retail crime.


Last year according to the National Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), merchants across the country lost over $100 billion due to theft. That equates to $2.7 billion in Washington state alone. Not only is there product loss, but our state and local governments lost nearly $300 million in sales and business taxes, forcing customers to endure higher prices and scarcities of products.


The financial effects of these crimes pale in importance compared to keeping the public safe. Retail thieves have become increasingly aggressive and violent. Employees and customers have been pepper sprayed, assaulted with bear spray, knocked over, threatened with weapons, and verbally attacked regularly.


Thankfully our elected officials are taking notice and responding from our nation’s capital down to the local level. The federal online transparency act, known as the INFORM Act, goes into effect on June 27. This law will make it less appealing for thieves to sell their stolen and counterfeit goods online in the darkness of the web. Congress has also just introduced impactful legislation to help take down organized retail crime rings.


On a state level, the legislature approved $2.265 million to bolster the organized retail crime task force under the office of the Attorney General. This funding is available starting July 1. The funds are expected to support prosecutors, investigators, and a data analyst to piece together and support charges against these large, sophisticated criminal operations.


To effectively address this community-wide problem, we must once again allow the police to chase criminals. Our legislature failed to restore the ability of police to chase after property crime suspects – even during active car thefts. WR and a large coalition will be pushing for expansion of the police pursuit laws come January 2024 when the legislature convenes.


WR will present at the Burien Business Association public safety meeting from 10:00 am to noon today at the Burien Toyota. Educating the public and our elected officials on how important it is to address retail theft, organized retail crime, and public safety is critical.

How commercial real estate owners can combat organized retail theft

The widespread issue of organized retail theft is creating substantial challenges across the United States, particularly impacting retail tenants, landlords, and customers in Washington state. This form of criminal activity, which involves multiple individuals stealing goods to fund various illicit pursuits, has been expanding in magnitude and intricacy. In response, property owners and retailers are on a quest to find effective ways to safeguard the welfare of their customers and staff while also trying to mitigate the economic impact of such crimes on their businesses.

In a recent episode of The Property Line podcast, an enlightening discussion on this rising problem took place. The guests on the show, Alesha Shemwell, WR Vice Chair, and Carl Kleinknecht from the Kemper Development Company and the Bellevue Collection, joined hosts Brian Atherton and Eric Greenberg to share their encounters with organized retail theft. They also discussed various technological solutions and resources that landlords and retail tenants can leverage to deter these criminal activities.

Carl Kleinknecht mentioned the ‘Guide to Navigating Public Safety & Retail Crime.’ This guide is a complimentary resource WR offers on its Public Safety and Retail Crime webpage. It is designed to equip retailers with knowledge and tools to effectively respond to and prevent such theft.

This engaging and insightful 16-minute podcast will give listeners a better understanding of organized retail theft’s scale, impact, and practical methods to counteract it. The discussion sheds light on an increasingly prevalent issue, offering practical guidance for those in the retail industry striving to create safer and more secure shopping environments.

Most consumers dump a brand after one bad experience

Walmart, the largest retailer in the U.S., is planning a significant overhaul of its packaging to curb waste. One significant change will be replacing plastic mailers with recyclable paper versions, a move expected to remove over 2,000 tons of plastic from circulation in the country by next January. Walmart also intends to deploy technology that creates custom-fit boxes at around 50% of its fulfillment centers, reducing material usage and optimizing truckload efficiency.

The retail giant will also offer customers the option to skip using plastic bags for curbside pickups by the end of the year, demonstrating a continued commitment to environmental responsibility. Walmart's new initiatives align with a growing business focus on digital sales, representing about 13% of the company's total annual sales.

Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Walmart, Jane Ewing, stressed that the aim is to make sustainability an effortless choice for customers, with eco-friendly products not carrying a higher price. This approach is expected to resonate with environmentally conscious consumers and those frustrated by accumulating packaging waste at home.

Walmart's move to more sustainable packaging mirrors initiatives by other major retailers, including Amazon and Target. Amazon has also adopted custom-fit packaging and encouraged vendors to use their own containers, while Target has introduced recyclable paper cushioning and returnable bags at select stores.

The sustainability drive isn't just for appealing to consumers. It also brings cost benefits. Custom-fit packaging, for instance, not only lessens the use of materials but also makes transportation more efficient and simplifies labor tasks. By championing sustainable practices, Walmart hopes to meet customer demand and reduce its environmental footprint.

Safety training for employees working different shifts

Taking the time to discuss the safe use of tools and equipment specific to your operation is crucial. It is also important to document these discussions. Making a log to verify those who attended is tangible evidence of your proactive approach to safety. According to L&I, a lack of documentation verifying regular employee safety meetings was the second most cited item during workplace inspections in 2022.

Employers with workers on different shifts or aren’t scheduled on safety training days often wonder how to offer flexible ways to ensure training for all employees. Thankfully, there are alternate methods for employees to make up for the missed training while satisfying L&I’s requirements:

  1. After safety meetings, make detailed topic notes available in designated areas for workers to review on their next shift.
  2. Provide a convenient method for workers to ask questions on the subject matter to ensure comprehension.
  3. Ensure workers sign off, confirming their review of the training content upon completion.

Our Retro members can find a variety of safety topic ideas in our safety packet which we send to members monthly. These packets are also available on our web portal here. Another tool is RS SafetyTV, which contains a variety of video topics to assist you with your safety meeting.

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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