January 15, 2018

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Retailers met with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in late October, asking her to support an amicus brief encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an e-fairness case out of South Dakota. Last week the court agreed to take up the case.

Supreme Court To Hear Online Sales Tax Fairness Case
From the Retail Industry Leaders Association, January 12, 2018 
Twenty five years after the United States Supreme Court created the loophole that today allows Internet-only sellers to evade state sales tax collection, the Court has granted South Dakota's petition for certiorari in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., Overstock.com, Inc., and Newegg, Inc.  By taking the case, the Court can end the carve out created by Quill and validate efforts by states and the merchant community to create a level playing field for all retailers.
"The Court's decision to grant South Dakota's petition is an important signal for retailers that invest in storefronts and jobs in local communities," said RILA General Counsel and Retail Litigation Center President Deborah White. "Retailers have supported this case since the beginning, and believe it is the right case to correct the constitutional course set more than 50 years ago -- well before the advent of e-commerce -- that today gives online-only retailers an unfair commercial advantage at the expense of local retailers."

"The retail community is grateful that the Court has recognized the extraordinary importance of this issue," said White. "Retailers hope that the Court will ultimately conclude that the economic-nexus standard is a more appropriate way to decide today which retailers must collect sales tax than the physical-presence test created more than a half century ago.  In doing so, the Court will validate efforts by the states to treat community and absentee retailers equally when they conduct business with consumers in their state.

Holiday Retail Sales Increased 5.5 Percent In 2017, Exceeding NRF Forecast And Showing Strongest Gain Since Great Recession

From the National Retail Federation, January 12, 2018

"Holiday sales during November and December increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion as growing wages, stronger employment and higher confidence led consumers to spend more than had been expected, the National Retail Federation said today. The number, which excludes restaurants, automobile dealers and gasoline stations, includes $138.4 billion in online and other non-store sales, which were up 11.5 percent over the year before.

The results exceeded NRF's forecast of between $678.75 billion and $682 billion, which would have been an increase of between 3.6 and 4 percent, and marked the largest increase since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen in 2010 after the end of the Great Recession. NRF had forecast that non-store sales, which include online sales, would grow between 11 and 15 percent to between $137.7 billion and $142.6 billion.

December alone was up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from November and up 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year."

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The Epic Return Of Retail And The Journey Ahead

From Harvey Kanter on LinkedIn, January 4, 2018

"If you were to believe the prevalent narrative in some sections of the media, you'd think the retail sector is doomed. You'd also believe that marketers are withering away in the gloom cast by a looming retail apocalypse. In working with creative and talented marketers at some of the world's most loved consumer brands, we know that this narrative is not just deeply flawed, but also flat out wrong. This is in fact one of the most exciting times to be in retail. And consumer marketers who see this opportunity are chomping at the bit to make the most of it.

There are three key drivers of this amazing new opportunity. First, consumers now expect retailers to know their likes and needs, and to cater to them in a personalized fashion across channels - physical and digital. These expectations are high enough for many consumers to change their buying habits and to patronize businesses that best meet their needs. In fact, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group, the 15% of brands that get personalization right over the next 5 years will capture an additional $800 billion in market share. And Accenture reported that 41% of the 25,000 consumers they surveyed switched brands last year because of poor personalization and lack of trust. These expectations and preferences could serve as key drivers for growth. This is also perhaps where "commerce brands" have a leg up on many pure channels driven retailers, be it internet-first or brick and mortar brands.

Second, hand-in-hand with the trend of expecting personalized experiences, consumers are willing to share an unprecedented amount of information about their needs, wants, likes, and preferences with retailers. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Snapchat have given marketers the ability to track consumer preferences and needs at a highly granular and individual level. This data gives marketers the opportunity to create segments of "one" and move away from channel-based to people-based marketing. Getting personal is now a practical reality much more so than previously imagined, and we are at a point of no return. Long gone are the days when a retailer could aim for success by targeting the middle of a mass market. That approach now leads to retailers becoming an undifferentiated mess, a journey that often ends in bankruptcy or worse.

Third, there are technical solutions available that now make it possible for retailers to craft personalized experiences that can delight customers. There's been a cambrian explosion in innovation in the marketing technology sector, and there are now 5,000+ providers serving the needs of marketers."

Preparing For Digital Retail's Third Wave

From Fierce Retail, Jacqueline Renfrow, January 15, 2018

"Digital retail is entering its third wave: one of partnerships, said Steve Case, CEO and chairman of capital investment firm Revolution, during a session on how technology startups are shaping retail at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) BIG Show 2018.  

The first wave of the Internet was telling companies why they needed to be online. The second Internet wave was about apps, social media and building in a software-centric business age. Now retail is moving into the third wave, which requires a different mindset.
"It is not possible to do it on your own; you will need partnerships," Case said. He was joined by Oisin Hanrahan, co-founder and CEO of Handy, a platform for home handymen and plumbing services, and Tobin Moore, co-founder and CEO of Optoro, a startup for processing and managing customer returns. In order for these retailers to grow and continue to keep their focus on their core strengths, Case said that technology partnerships will be necessary to bring the companies to scale.   
For example, Tobin said that Optoro was started to help relieve the $380 billion headache that returns cause retailers every year. "And since the growth of e-commerce, we're seeing the amount of returns double or triple in brick-and-mortar," he added. Therefore, getting returns processed quickly and efficiently will give retailers of the future a competitive advantage.
Parceling out those pieces of the retail business could also improve the overall customer experience. That is why "companies need to be flexible" when it comes to working with startups that can help improve platforms within the retail organization, Case said."

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