February 26, 2018

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NRF Forecasts Retail Sales Will Increase Between 3.8 And 4.4 Percent In 2018
From the National Retail Federation, February 7, 2018  
"The National Retail Federation today released its 2018 economic forecast, projecting that retail industry sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 percent over 2017. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the overall number, are expected to increase between 10 and 12 percent. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

Retail sales grew 3.9 percent in 2017 over 2016 to $3.53 trillion, according to the U.S. Census bureau's preliminary estimate for the year. The number is subject to revision but exceeded NRF's forecast for growth between 3.2 and 3.8 percent.

"A robust holiday season for retail sales is just one of many barometers that points to a consumer that is clearly feeling positive about their financial health," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. "Despite headlines to the contrary, the retail industry is strong, growing and meeting consumer demand with the products they want at the prices they expect and the shopping experience they want to have, online or in store. With consumer confidence high, unemployment low and wages growing, there is every reason to believe that retail sales will be robust throughout the year."

Legislative Session        
Legislature Convenes, Passes Funding For Its Operations, And Sets The Stage For The Next 12 Weeks

Minnesota's 2018 legislative session kicked off last week and with its return Minnesota Retailers Association members begin receiving this every-Friday Retail At The Capitol newsletter. This e-mail is designed to give retailers and their partners a look at what transpired at the Capitol over the past week and compliments our weekly Monday morning legislative update calls (see below for information on these calls). If you are a member and did not receive your Retail At The Capitol e-mail Friday, please let George Stoj know at george@mnretail.org.

In week one of the session both the House and Senate began discussing federal tax conformity. In addition to trying to align Minnesota's tax code with that of the federal government, the next 12 weeks are likely to be dominated with budget items, a potential state budget surplus, and a large construction (or bonding) bill.

While the state budget forecast will not be released until February 28, it is almost certain to be a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars, creating opportunity for tax relief in a year where the Minnesota House of Representatives is up for election as are statewide officeholders, including the Governor. While both parties are likely to agree to some type of tax relief, there may be stark differences in their approach.

Typically, in the second year of the biennium, one of the regular items for the Legislature is a state bonding or capital projects bill. Building and construction projects of statewide significance will be considered for funding this year, with the amount to borrow to pay for the projects at issue.  The bill typically funds fixes and upgrades related to government facilities, including colleges and universities.

The Legislature capped off the week by voting to restore its funding, which was vetoed by the Governor at the end of the last legislative session.

In addition to working on several proactive bills this session, MnRA will monitor bills and help retailers engage with their elected officials, including hosting our I Am RETAIL Day At The Capitol event March 27. See below for registration details.

MnRA is pleased to be working with the government relations team at Faegre Baker Daniels for the 2018 legislative session.  Tom Freeman serves as our lead lobbyist.  Tom has experience representing businesses, nonprofit organizations, and trade and professional associations before the Minnesota Legislature, state agencies and local units of government.

Mandatory adjournment of the Legislature is May 21.
AI Poised To Take Over More Customer Service
From Retail Dive, Dan O'Shea, February 22, 2018  
"Research firm Gartner forecasts that about 25% of customer service and support operations will employ virtual assistants or chatbot technology for customer engagement across multiple channels by 2020, according to an Information Age report.

Gartner estimated adoption of these technologies stood at just 2% in 2017. Adoption, however, is growing as companies see the potential benefits of self-service features and realize that many virtual assistants and chatbots can kick issues to human customer service representatives as needed, according to Information Age.

Regarding the benefits, the report noted that Gartner found the companies it studied experienced increases in customer satisfaction, along with an average 33% cost savings per voice engagement following their adoption of virtual assistant technology. The firm found that 84% of companies it surveyed expect to ratchet up customer experience technology investment, Information Age reported."

Hear Congressman Lewis At This Friday's Public Affairs Breakfast
On the heals of Congress passing the largest piece of tax reform legislation in more than three decades, ongoing debate on the budget, and many other issues impacting businesses, join us for March's Public Affairs Breakfast featuring United States Congressman Jason Lewis, representing Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District.
Congressman Lewis serves on the the Budget Committee, the Education and The Workforce Committees, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Invited members and guests only. $35 investment, includes breakfast.


Your Voice
Retail Day At The Capitol Scheduled For March 27: Registration Open!

Your story meets your legislators at the Minnesota Retailers Association's I am RETAIL Day at the Capitol March 27!

Our half-day begins with a breakfast reception featuring legislative leaders followed by conversations with legislators at the State Capitol.

With one in four jobs in Minnesota directly connected to retail, our elected officials now more than ever need to understand the impact of their decisions on retail businesses.

No cost to attend. Continental breakfast served. RSVP requested by March 13. This is a members and invited guests only event and is not open to the public. Pre-registration required.

Beginning location:
Minnesota National Guard St. Paul Armory - in the State Capitol complex area

Ending location:
Minnesota State Capitol

Breakfast-Only Option:
Interested in attending the breakfast only? Great! Just mark the "breakfast-only" option when registering. Breakfast concludes at 9:00 a.m.


Bar code
Minnesota Retailers Associaiton
400 Robert Street North, suite 1540
St. Paul, MN 55101
Tel. (651) 227-6631 - mnretail.org - mnra@mnretail.org