August 6, 2018
Register now for MnRA's new Retail+Policy Legislator Meet & Greet Dinner August 30 at the Mall of America.
79% Say Human Interaction Key To Digital Experience
From Fierce Retail, July 5, 2018

Despite how far technological advances have come in the way of customer service, 61% of consumers say human interaction, not digital, keeps them loyal. According to a new study from Calabrio, less than half, 45%, of those surveyed said that brand loyalty is driven by competitive prices.

And yes, many consumers are turning to digital channels to get help from a retailer, but 74% said they are more loyal to a company if they can speak to someone. In fact, nearly 80% think interaction with a human instead of a chatbot is an important part of the customer experience.

Still, consumers believe in new technology, and 54% do not think the investment is a waste of money for retailers. And of this 54%, about half believe that it's a waste of money because speaking with a person is always preferable for resolving issues. So much so that 43% of all respondents in the survey would consider switching to a competitor if speaking to a customer service rep was not an option.

“Innovation is key for businesses to stay competitive, but to build a lasting connection, new technology must meet customers where they are,” said Tom Goodmanson, president and CEO at Calabrio. “Given the growing volumes of customer interactions in today’s contact centers, companies have a tremendous opportunity to tap into customer preferences, needs and wants by capturing and analyzing interactions across service channels—phone, chat, email, social, etc. Those valuable insights drive the customer journey, and ultimately, brand loyalty.”
Retail Adds 66,000 Jobs In July
From the Retail Dive, Daphne Howland, August 6, 2018

While the jobs gains mark a slowdown from the pattern of the last few years, they also demonstrate a still-healthy economy, according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz​.

"While today's jobs release may appear disappointing after a string of monthly gains, the economy remains fundamentally strong," he said in a statement. "In the past, summer months tend to show large employment fluctuations due to the timing of seasonal hiring. However, consumer and business optimism remain elevated and paints a positive picture as we head into the third quarter."

E-commerce continues to shake up retail and retail employment, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. "Retail cuts have been inching up the last four years, as online shopping causes disruptions to business as usual," he said in a statement.

More worrying for many retailers is evidence that wage gains are slipping despite a movement in many cities and states to bolster the minimum wage. In July, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 7 cents to $27.05. Over the year, average hourly earnings increased by 71 cents, or 2.7%, according to the Labor Department — a number that fails to beat inflation. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 3 cents to $22.65 in July. ​

"Wage gains have ticked up over the past few years, but not at rates allowing consumers to turn on the spending spigots," according to a Retail Metrics report emailed to Retail Dive. "The Federal Reserve reported [in July] that consumer credit increased by $24.6 billon, which was almost double expectations and the highest level since last November. Revolving credit, which encompasses credit cards, spiked 11.4% year over year in May."
Department of Revenue: Minnesota To Begin Remote Seller & Marketplace Sales Tax Collection October 1
From the Minnesota Department of Revenue, July 25, 2018

The Minnesota Department of Revenue will require remote sellers and Marketplace Providers facilitating sales into Minnesota to begin collecting sales tax no later than October 1, 2018.

Minnesota law requires all sellers to collect sales or use tax to the extent allowed under the United States Constitution.

The June 21 U.S. Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair allows states like Minnesota to require remote sellers with no physical presence, such as online and mail-order companies, to collect and remit the applicable sales or use tax on sales delivered to locations within their state. The Court’s decision in Wayfair caused Minnesota’s existing law, which was enacted in 1989, to become effective.

Remote sellers that sell goods or services into Minnesota from other states must register and begin collecting and remitting Minnesota sales tax no later than October 1, 2018.

Minnesota has a Small Seller Exception, which does not require remote sellers to collect sales tax until their sales during a period of 12 consecutive months total either:

    • 100 or more retail sales shipped to Minnesota
    • 10 or more retail sales shipped to Minnesota that total more than $100,000

Minnesota law also requires certain Marketplace Providers to collect and remit Minnesota sales tax on all taxable retail sales made into Minnesota facilitated by the marketplace. Remote sellers do not need to collect sales tax when a Marketplace Provider is collecting and remitting.

The Court’s decision in Wayfair also caused Minnesota’s 2017 Marketplace Provider law to become effective.

Marketplace Providers must register and begin collecting Minnesota sales tax on behalf of remote sellers using their marketplace no later than October 1, 2018.
Signs Point To Increased Voter Interest, Turnout In Minnesota
From the Star Tribune, Judy Keen, August 6, 2018

A spike in absentee ballot requests and anecdotal evidence that more people are registering to vote suggest higher turnout in Minnesota’s Aug. 14 primary and beyond, election officials say.

The number of absentee ballots requested by state voters soared to 166,603 as of last Thursday. On the same date in 2016, the total was 95,582.

“People are just paying attention more than they have in the recent past,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said Monday, tracking what he called “enthusiasm across the political spectrum.”

That could reflect a preoccupation with divisions generated by President Donald Trump’s election two years ago and efforts by both parties to recruit new voters.

“There’s less apathy than there was in the past,” said Deborah Erickson, Crow Wing County’s election supervisor.

Simon forecast higher than normal turnout next week. Primary election turnout is usually considerably lower than in the November general election; the last time more than 20 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in a primary was in 1998.

“There’s definitely an uptick in voting” this year, and this week could be the busiest, said Mark Krupski, who oversees Olmsted County elections. Contested statewide and congressional races and a Rochester mayoral campaign with seven candidates are driving interest, he said.
Last Chance To Join MnRA In D.C. September 5-6 For NRF's Retail Advocates Summit
The Minnesota Retailers Association (MnRA) is leading a delegation of retailers to Washington, D.C. September 5-6 to attend the National Retail Federation's Retail Advocates Summit. The event includes visits with Minnesota's Senators and House of Representatives members.

MnRA has some limited scholarship funding available for smaller sized retailers. If you are interested in attending, contact Bruce Nustad at bruce@mnretail.org.