July 2, 2018
Golfers at MnRA's 2018 Chair's Glow Golf Invitational at Island Lake Golf Course last week.
Momentum Builds For $15 Minimum Wage In St. Paul
From the Star Tribune, Emma Nelson, June 28, 2018

St. Paul leaders say they’re still deciding the details of a proposed citywide minimum wage, but one big detail appears to be settled: St. Paul will have a $15 minimum wage.

The momentum comes from Mayor Melvin Carter, who said at a recent community listening session on the minimum wage that “Fifteen is just the headline” and the specifics still need to be figured out.

At the same time, activist groups are organizing rallies and flooding city meetings to push for a $15 minimum wage without exemptions.

“Everybody is pretty sure that $15 is going to pass,” said Fernando Nuñez, communications director for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha, one of the groups pushing for a wage hike in St. Paul.

The nonpartisan Citizens League, which the St. Paul Foundation brought on to study the potential effects of a citywide minimum wage, has convened a committee to discuss what the minimum wage should be, if any exemptions should be made, how tipped workers will be affected and how the increase should be phased in. They’re expected to make recommendations to the city by the end of the summer.

The committee could recommend an hourly wage other than $15, but it’s unlikely, said B Kyle, committee co-chair and president and CEO of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
Consumers Want A More Personalized Shopping Experience, But Some Of The Related Solutions Still Creep Them Out
From Chain Store Age, Deena M. Amato-McCoy, June 25, 2018

Wearables and artificial intelligence were ranked as the top “creepy” technologies among consumers in the fourth annual “Creepy or Cool” report from RichRelevance. The study surveyed 1,037 consumers in the United States.

Clothing and wearables with sensors/tracking devices that allow retailers to track users in exchange for a discount ranked as the most creepy technology (according to 76% of consumers), followed by artificial intelligence (69%). Consumers (61%) were also put off by facial recognition technology that identifies a loyal customer as soon as they enter, and relays preferences to the in-store salesperson.

The top cool technologies are robots that can guide shoppers to specific products within store aisles upon request, according to the report. Also cool: fingerprint scanning that allows shoppers to pay for items, and get automatic home delivery, all from the store floor.

Younger shoppers (ages 18-29) are more willing to embrace some of the newer technologies. For example, younger shoppers feel that AI-based personalization is valuable (66%), and are less likely to find innovation creepy than older shoppers. In related findings:

• When it comes to computer programs (such as chatbots) that use AI to help users answer customer service questions rather than a real person, overall 41% of customers find these creepy, compared to a mere 27% of Millennials.

• Thirty-six percent of consumers consider augmented reality apps that allow them to view products in a store, and then display associated information and recommendations, including whether to replenish what you have at home, as creepy. Only 26% of Millennials agree.

• Similarly, 41% are creeped out by home-based voice assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) that provide personalized product information and suggested products. Only 32% of Millennials agree.
5 Products You'll Pay More For Without NAFTA
From the National Retail Federation, June 27, 2018

U.S. retailers and consumers have access to a wide variety of affordable products thanks to free trade. After China, Canada and Mexico are the second- and third-largest exporters to the United States; the two countries are also the leading importers of American goods. The retail industry imports $182 billion worth of goods from NAFTA partners.

As NAFTA negotiations stall, however, there’s a lot at stake: American consumers could face $5.3 billion in higher costs if the agreement is terminated. Countless products that U.S. consumers use every day would be impacted, including chocolate, asparagus, watermelon, beef and jeans.

U.S. retailers import $2 billion worth of chocolate from Canada and Mexico. But without NAFTA, 10 percent of all chocolate consumed in the U.S. would be hit by tariffs at a total cost of $261 million annually. On Valentine’s Day alone, tariffs could cost U.S. consumers an additional $13 million.
Shopping Via Voice Gains Momentum
From the Retail Dive, Dan Alaimo , June 27, 2018

Expectations for voice shopping via smart devices have ranged from enthusiastic to restrained. For example, while consulting company Capgemini predicted that 40% of consumers will use a voice assistant as an alternative to a mobile app or website within three years, a study by Episerver pointed out that very few consumers now use the devices to make purchases. According to Episerver, 39% of consumers own a smart speaker, but 60% never browse the internet with one, and fewer use it to buy anything.

The new report from Voicebot and Voysis stakes out a middle ground, noting that the potential for voice commerce was originally downplayed, but its use has achieved significant success and there is ample room for it to grow. A study by OC&C Strategy Consultants reported that it will increase to $40 billion in 2022 from $2 billion today.

By using voice assistants on their mobile devices, consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of purchasing by voice. The Voicebot/Voysis report noted that 76.6% of iPhone users have tried Siri, while 42.7% of Android smartphone users have tried Google Assistant, with that number increasing quickly. Among consumers who use voice search to shop, Google Assistant was more popular with 14% of respondents to a survey by RichRelevance compared to 9% for Amazon's Alexa.

"We're seeing consumers gravitating towards the platforms they're most comfortable using to shop, which are mobile and web," Ryan MacInnis, director of marketing at Voysis said in the press release. "Our research showed that although the majority of news has covered smart speakers, most voice commerce activity is happening on the devices that over 90% of the world has access to." Brands need to start thinking about their voice strategy, which is a much bigger opportunity than just creating skills for Alexa, he added.

Nearly 22% of U.S. adults now have access to a smart speaker, with a total of smart speaker users has risen to 54.4 million U.S. consumers that now have access to such a device, according to the report. Consumers owning an average of 1.8 devices, although two-thirds of households only have one such unit. They are most commonly located in the living room or kitchen, followed by bedrooms. Amazon's installed user base is more than double that of Google's, although Google is making inroads rather quickly with 26.9% of installed devices made by Google, up from 18.4% in January.

This trend has captured the attention of retailers, with 53% saying they plan to invest in voice search over the next 12 months, according to digital marketing agency QueryClick, as reported by Internet Retailer. Of the CMOs surveyed, 75% said their company will make a change in its search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to ensure high placement in voice search results.
Minneapolis Minimum Wage Increase July 1
From the City of Minneapolis. June 15, 2018

On July 1, 2018, the Minimum Wage in Minneapolis is going up. At the same time, the city’s Sick and Safe Time Ordinance enters year two of enforcement.

As Director of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, I am writing to help ensure you are fully aware of these two important workplace regulations affecting businesses across the city. I hope you are already familiar, but if not, I include highlights below.

We all want to make it as easy as possible for you to understand what is required. Linked here is a copy of the employee notice poster required to be displayed in workplaces and a quick reference checklist of sick and safe time requirements for compliant leave policies. Please feel free to reach out to our office or print your own copies if you need more. 

Additional information and resources (including a new sick and safe tracking spreadsheet) are available at http://minimumwage.minneapolismn.gov and http://sicktimeinfo.minneapolismn.gov.

Minneapolis Minimum Wage Ordinance:
Effective July 1, 2018, employers with over 100 employees must pay them at least $11.25 per hour.
Effective July 1, 2018, employers with 100 or fewer employees must pay them at least $10.25 per hour.