Newsletter — April 25, 2024







Advancing retail workforce development remains top priority

Successful retail career advancement stories are not uncommon. Ron Vachris and Nichole Hart exemplify those compelling success stories, showcasing the potential for upward mobility within the retail industry. Vachris, who started as a forklift driver, eventually became the CEO of Costco, while Hart rose from a part-time employee to a Walmart store manager, demonstrating the power of retail careers through internal promotion.

These are the stories that compelled Representative Mari Leavitt and Senator Matt Boehnke’s bipartisan backing of SB 6296. Last week, Leavitt visited with supporters of this legislation - Ryan Reygers, a long-time instructor at Clover Park Technical College, and Rose Gundersen, WR’s VP of Operations and Retail Services, to learn the transformative impact of the Retail Management Certificate offered in her Legislative District.

The conversation focused on exploring the program's success metrics, revealing its effectiveness in enhancing future wages, education, and career prospects for participants. With the primary interest focused on supporting students and entry-level workers to pursue stackable micro-credentials, the discussion also focused on expanding educational offerings, such as RISE Up's micro-credentials, which empower entry-level workers with stackable credits for career advancement. Additionally, Gundersen explored strategies with Leavitt to improve access to training resources for small and medium-sized retailers, aiming to enhance skill development and career opportunities within the industry.

The visit to Clover Park College underscored the collaborative efforts between policymakers, educational institutions, and industry stakeholders to cultivate talent and drive workforce development in the retail sector. With data highlighting the substantial benefits of short-term certificates—including longer job tenure, increased promotions, and higher wages—opportunities are available and investments in retail education hold promise for both workers and employers in the long term.

Supply chains demonstrate resilience after Baltimore bridge collapse

Following the Baltimore bridge collapse, transportation modes are adapting to alleviate pressures on supply chains, showcasing resilience amid challenges. Despite delays and congestion, stakeholders are swiftly responding to maintain cargo flow.

The Port of Virginia has seen a surge in handling twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), with plans to accommodate additional containers through April. Railroads are increasing train services between Baltimore and New York, while truck lanes are meeting capacity demands. Although some trucks are experiencing longer trip times, overall capacity is managing the aftermath effectively.

Jonathan Eisen from the American Trucking Association's Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference reassures that while import logistics face hurdles, they are not insurmountable disruptions. Former Federal Maritime Commissioner William Doyle notes minimal impact on retail inventory, highlighting the flexibility of supply chains.

In the face of adversity, Baltimore's resilience shines through, echoing in its supply chains. As stakeholders collaborate and adapt, the impact of the bridge collapse on cargo categories remains minimal, emphasizing the enduring strength of the supply chain.

Seattle's Delivery Pay Ordinance: Retailers and delivery workers grapple with losses

Seattle's retail landscape faces a harsh reality as the city's Delivery Pay Ordinance continues to wreak havoc on revenue streams and earning opportunities. DoorDash reveals a staggering $7 million loss in merchant revenue just six weeks after the law's enforcement, with projected annual losses potentially reaching $40 million. Meanwhile, app-based delivery workers are feeling the pinch, with 300,000 fewer orders placed through DoorDash in February and March alone, leading to a projected loss of over 1.7 million orders annually.

Renée Sunde, President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association, highlights the dire consequences, stating, "These numbers are tough to ignore, and paint a fuller picture of the unintended consequences that have resulted from implementing such an aggressive, untested new ordinance." 

Marcos Wanless of the Seattle Latino Chamber of Commerce echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the urgent need for the City Council to address the issue promptly.

Tammie Hetrick, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, emphasizes the impact on small, family-owned businesses, urging the council to act swiftly. With proposed changes to the ordinance on the horizon, the city faces a pivotal moment in rectifying the detrimental effects on retailers, customers, and delivery workers.

Read more: Door Dash Press Release

Mark your calendar for July 17: Washington State Organized Retail Crime Task Force meeting

Save the Date!

The Office of the Attorney General invites you to the sixth Washington State Organized Retail Crime Task Force meeting on July 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 12 p.m., in Seattle. A hybrid option will also be available. WR will provide RSVP instructions and meeting details closer to the date.

Don't miss this opportunity to collaborate and tackle organized retail crime in Washington State. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for more information!

Washington State funds non-armed pursuit tech for law enforcement

Washington State is allocating $1.4 million to equip law enforcement agencies with non-armed pursuit technology as restrictions on such pursuits tighten. The initiative, part of the state's efforts to address firearm safety and violence prevention, aims to provide alternatives for apprehending suspects without resorting to firearms. Eligible equipment includes GPS tracking, license plate readers, aircraft, and drones.

Last year, $1.5 million was allocated for similar grants, with Spokane Sheriff's Office receiving a significant portion for thermal imaging cameras. While the move is welcomed by law enforcement, Steve Strachan of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs emphasizes the need for additional measures like tougher penalties and increased use of technology to deter fleeing suspects.

The funding opportunity comes amid growing concerns over firearm violence, with the state aiming to curb such incidents through innovative approaches.

Interested agencies have until May 28 to submit proposals, with funding expected to be disbursed between July 1, 2024, and June 30, 2025.

California and Washington take aim at retail theft

California's commitment to public safety and combating retail theft, particularly through its efforts to crack down on Organized Retail Crime (ORC), is evident in recent statistics. Since January, California's ORC task force, overseen by the California Highway Patrol, has made 474 arrests and recovered more than160,000 stolen items valued at nearly $4.2 million. Since its inception in 2019, the task force has apprehended over 2,500 suspects and recovered more than 770,000 stolen items, amounting to approximately $42.3 million.

Washington State established its own ORC Task Force, operating under the attorney general's office. WR supported efforts to fund the task force, which went into effect July 2023. The attorney general's office has been actively recruiting investigators, prosecuting attorneys, and data analysts to bolster its operations, with additional positions yet to be filled.

To date, two significant ORC cases have already been filed by the task force, with several more in the pipeline.

WR is collaborating closely with the ORC Task Force, helping channel cases and resources to them. Additionally, WR remains engaged with Washington's non-profit Washington Organized Retail Crime Association (WAORCA), which hosts regional meetings and is contemplating a statewide conference. WR commends the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) for its "Vibrant Communities" initiative, aimed at streamlining the reporting and prosecution of retail theft.

In this election year, WR is encouraged by the attention candidates are giving to public safety, retail theft, and the fight against ORC. WR is committed to working with both potential and current legislative candidates to raise awareness and emphasize the significance of these issues.

Combatting gift card fraud: A call to action

Gift card fraud has become an evolving threat, spanning from victim-assisted scams to sophisticated digital attacks and now to the emerging trend of gift card tampering. Recent prosecution cases highlight the severity of online criminal activity, with Richard Verret's indictment revealing a scheme worth over $22 million.

Furthermore, gift card tampering, a subset of Organized Retail Crime (ORC), poses a new challenge. Fraudsters compromise card packaging, stealing sensitive information before the cards reach consumers, resulting in significant losses for retailers and brands.

Despite preventative measures such as secure packaging, the adaptability of fraudsters demands consistent collaboration with law enforcement. However, challenges persist in prosecuting card tampering criminals, necessitating education for local law enforcement and clarity on charges.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) urges national awareness and immediate reporting of suspicious activity to combat this growing threat. By fostering collaboration and enhancing awareness, stakeholders can protect the integrity of the gift card industry and safeguard consumers against fraud.

JCPenney's simplified rewards program enhances shopper satisfaction

JCPenney unveiled a revamped rewards program, promising to give back $500 million to customers and doubling the rate at which members earn rewards. This initiative aligns with JCPenney's strategy to invest $1 billion in improving customer experience and operational efficiency.

The updated program offers significant enhancements:

  • Members earn CashPass points at almost double the previous rate, receiving a $10 CashPass Reward upon reaching 200 points.
  • New members receive a $10 CashPass upon sign-up, while all members get $10 on their birthdays.
  • CashPass Rewards can be stacked with coupons and used for any purchase.
  • JCPenney cardholders earn rewards 50% faster and enjoy an extra 35% off their first purchase with the JCPenney Credit Card.

The simplicity of the CashPass system is emphasized, removing the necessity for customers to track points. The primary focus remains on delivering tangible value to shoppers. With over 20 million Rewards members, JCPenney endeavors to boost customer loyalty and satisfaction through this updated program.

Michaels slashes pricing on over 5,000 products to 2019 levels or lower

Michaels, the arts and crafts giant, has embarked on a pricing revolution, slashing costs on over 5,000 items across various categories like arts, crafts, DIY, and home decor. The price cuts are substantial, with discounts of up to 40% on items such as paint, markers, pens, papers, stickers, canvases, and T-shirts. This move, highlighted through in-store displays, ads, and emails, aims to bring prices down to 2019 levels or even lower, catering to customers seeking value amidst economic strains.

The company emphasized the importance of offering exceptional value in the current climate, making creativity more accessible and providing customers with more reasons to choose Michaels. The price drop aligns with Michaels' broader transformation, including initiatives like MakerPlace, birthday party planning services, and an expanded fabric assortment.

The company's efforts have been recognized with an upgrade from S&P Global Ratings, reflecting improvements in operating margin and cash generation. Michaels' pricing strategy echoes recent moves by other retailers like At Home, Ikea, and Fly by Jing, signaling a broader trend in the retail landscape. As Michaels aims to support customers in stretching their dollars, its pricing reset promises a boon for DIY enthusiasts and budget-conscious shoppers alike.

Target serves up exclusive pickleball collection in collaboration with Prince

Target Corporation has hit the courts with a bang, announcing its exclusive collaboration with tennis brand Prince for a limited-edition pickleball collection. With pickleball becoming America's fastest-growing sport, Target is diving into the game, offering nearly 80 items ranging from apparel to accessories and sporting goods, starting at just $9.99.

Available in most Target stores and online, shoppers can enjoy hassle-free shopping with Target's fast and free fulfillment options, including Drive Up and Order Pickup. Plus, Target Circle Card holders can save 5% on purchases, making pickleball shopping a breeze.

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