February 10, 2020
Confident Consumers And Broader Buying Lead To Record Valentine's Day Spending Plans
From the National Retail Federation, January 30, 2020

Coming off a strong holiday season, Americans are expected to set another record for Valentine’s Day spending this year as they continue to widen the range of those they’re buying for, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“Valentine’s Day is a sentimental tradition, but gift-giving can be driven by the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers spent freely during the 2019 winter holidays and they appear ready to do the same in the new year. The same strong employment numbers and higher wages that boosted holiday sales should make it easier to spend a little extra to say ‘I love you’ this year and to spread the gift-giving beyond just your significant other.”

Those celebrating the holiday said they plan to spend an average $196.31, up 21 percent over last year’s previous record of $161.96. Spending is expected to total $27.4 billion, up 32 percent from last year’s record $20.7 billion.

The unusually large increase in average spending appears to be due to strong consumer finances and a continued trend of consumers buying more gifts, cards, candy and flowers for friends, family, co-workers and pets. The increase in total spending comes as the number of people celebrating Valentine’s Day returned to 55 percent, about average for the past decade, after a dip to 51 percent last year.

The biggest share of Valentine’s spending still goes to spouses and significant others at 52 percent of the total, or an average $101.21 this year, up from $93.24 in 2019. But their share of the spending is down from 61 percent a decade ago. The share spent on most other recipients has gone up over the past decade, with the amount spent on co-workers, for example, more than doubling to 7 percent of the total from 3 percent. The share for pets has also doubled, to 6 percent from 3 percent in the same time period.
State Retail Agenda Set For Legislative Session Starting Tuesday
The Minnesota Legislature kicks off tomorrow. The 2020 session is a shorter session with borrowing for state infrastructure projects (called boding at the Capitol) at the core. However, with a budget surplus of $1.3 billion and an election in November the session concluding by May 18 will be filled with big ideas, many policy proposals, and undoubedtly some politics.

After a statewide conversation with retailers, the Minnesota Retailers Association is asking the Legislature to consider the following priorities:

  • Ensuring a fair, competitive sales tax environment
  • Promoting product and workplace consistency across the state
  • Combating Organized Retail Crime
  • Aligning alcohol regulation with today's marketplace
  • Reducing prescription fraud and drug abuse
  • Enhancing renewable energy options for retailers

This Friday MnRA resumes its weekly members-only e-mail report from the State Capitol. Not a member? It's a great time to join us!

MnRA looks forward to working with members and the retail community again this year with the goal of making Minnesota a stronger place for consumers, team members, retailers and our communities.
Meet The Minnesota Retailers Association's Government Relations Team
MnRA is proud to represent Minnesota's diverse and vital retail industy. Here is your team dedicated to helping you connect with elected officials and telling the story of retail:

Savannah Sepic
Government Relations Manager,
Minnesota Retailers Association
Tom Freeman
Government Relations Consultant,
Faegre Drinker
Bruce Nustad
Minnesota Retailers Association
Legislative Preview: What’s Coming In 2020
From the Star Tribune, Jessie Van Berkel, February 9, 2020

Minnesota lawmakers will convene at the Capitol on Tuesday and spend the next few months sparring over government basics — like how to pay for road, building and bridge upkeep — while at the same time dueling in the polarizing arenas of gun regulation, drug prices and voter ID requirements.

The 2020 election, with all 201 House and Senate seats up for grabs, will hang over every decision.

Facing elections in November, the two political parties have signaled they will use part of the 2020 legislative session to highlight campaign issues and underscore their different visions for the state’s future. With divided government, leaders in each chamber can be expected to craft and pass partisan, aspirational bills that may ultimately never get to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz.

“You can expect that the Minnesota Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-led House will make it clear to Minnesota what kind of policies would become law if either of us had the other chamber,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.

Republicans’ top priorities include school choice, a tax break on Social Security benefits and protecting gun rights while addressing crime. On the Democrats’ list is paid family and medical leave, climate protections and gun restrictions such as universal background checks on firearms sales.

Walz and legislators on both sides of the aisle want to ensure access to low-cost insulin for diabetics, an issue where Democrats have sought to put Republicans on the defensive. Both sides also are looking for ways to repair management problems that have emerged over the past year in the sprawling Department of Human Services, state government’s largest agency. Meanwhile, the two sides must come together on a bonding bill authorizing borrowing to address the state’s growing transportation and public works infrastructure needs.

Walz kicked off the public borrowing debate last month by proposing more than $2 billion for repairs and improvements to state buildings, college and university campuses, roads, bridges and water systems. Legislators have not yet laid out their borrowing plans, but House Democrats anticipate their plan will be significantly bigger than Walz’s. Republicans have said they would support an infrastructure bill about half the size of the governor’s.

“It’s the number one thing that I think we should get done, and therefore let’s not lose sight of that,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

That infrastructure bill likely will be the most significant financial issue this session — though, unlike biennial budgets the Legislature must pass, there is no constitutional requirement that lawmakers pass a bonding bill if they can’t cut a deal. This year’s negotiations will play out against a debate over how to use a projected $1.3 billion surplus. Ideas for the cash are plentiful.

Hortman wants to expand prekindergarten and pay for meals for students in need. Gazelka and House Assistant Deputy Republican Leader Anne Neu said the surplus should be used to cut state taxes on Social Security income. Susan Kent, the new Senate minority leader who ousted Sen. Tom Bakk from leadership, suggested matching grants for schools to add counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Walz, meanwhile, cautioned against too much spending and said maintaining strong budget reserves is critical. The Legislature dipped into the reserves last year and used $491 million to finalize a budget deal.

Clashes quickly emerged over what to do with the money during a session preview Wednesday at the Capitol. As lawmakers jousted over who would actually benefit from eliminating the income tax on Social Security, Gazelka cut through the tension with a joke.

“I think we disagree on this one,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what, governor. I’ll do the $491 [million for the] reserve, you do the Social Security, we’ll call it good.”

Gazelka has said he is trying to find “stuff in the middle.” But Hortman said much of the Senate Republicans’ platform sounds like “a broken record” of familiar conservative agenda items such as voter ID requirements, highlighting urban crime and tax credits for private school scholarships.

To get much done, legislators will need to break through partisan divisions — a tall order in an election year with control of the Legislature at stake heading into the 2020 census and redistricting process. Breakthroughs will need to happen fast. The Legislature is convening for 14 weeks, substantially shorter than last year.

“It will feel like it’s going at breakneck speed … What we will be telling our members is if want to get bills passed, go find a Republican senator who also wants to get that bill passed,” Hortman said.
Register For Retail Day At The Capitol March 10
Two great ways to participate in Retail Day At The Capitol:

  1. Breakfast with legislative leaders, 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
  2. Breakfast + comfortable, prearranged meetings with your specific legislators, 8:30 -12:30 p.m.

Four good reasons to attend:
  1. Get the latest on the happenings at the State Capitol impacting retailers.
  2. It's all on the Capitol grounds--no moving your car or taking a shuttle!
  3. No cost to attend, thanks to our sponsors.
  4. This event is a solid opportunity to connect with Minnesota's innovative retailers and learn about the Minnesota Retailers Association!

Click here to register, or contact us at (651) 227-6631 to learn more! Please RSVP your spot by March 1.
Leading Retailers Are Pro-Worker — Why Isn't The PRO Act?
From The Hill, Evan Armstrong, opinion contributor, February 1, 2020

It is unfortunate that labor issues are so controversial in the United States. All too often these issues, particularly in Washington, are framed as pitting workers against employers. Harsh lines are drawn, and elected officials are forced to choose a side or risk being unfairly labeled by their supporters as anti-union or anti-business.

This division will be on full display when the union-backed H.R. 2474, The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), is brought to the House floor. Their goal is to frame the legislation as pro-worker, falsely implying that job providers are somehow anti-worker. The not-so-subtle “corporations are the enemy” storyline is pervasive, and the talking points for the bill center around driving an unnecessary and harmful wedge between workers and employers.

Ironically, the bill doesn’t strengthen worker rights at all. On the whole, it is actually harmful to workers because it unequivocally takes many of their rights away. The bill tramples on employee privacy rights by forcing employers to give unions sensitive private information about employees, eliminates an employee’s right to cast a private ballot in union elections, and limits the ability of employees to receive important information by unnecessarily chilling employers’ right to communicate with their workforce on the pros and cons of unionization.

But most chilling will be the PRO Act’s impact on our economy and society. Over 70 years ago when Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, lawmakers rightly prohibited certain kinds of intimidation involving union “threats,” “coercion,” and “restraints” against neutral employers. The PRO Act, if enacted, will turn back the clock and return us to a potentially far more violent and unrestrained era.

Evan Armstrong is the vice president for workforce at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade association.
Starting Next Week...
For members seeking an insiders look at the legislative week, MnRA hosts a weekly 10:00 a.m. Monday conference call starting on February 17 and ending May 18. This members-only activity takes place each week of legislative session through its conclusion and includes opportunities for retailers to get involved in the policy making process.

There is no cost for these calls; simply dial in for the calls that interest you and work with your schedule. Calls last approximately 30 minutes.

To obtain dial-in information for these calls, register now or contact at savannah@mnretail.org or (651) 227-6631. Following registration you will be sent a calendar invite with dial-in information.
Smart Speaker Shopping Falls Short Of Projections
From the Retail Dive, Tatiana Walk-Morris, February 5, 2020

An eMarketer report found that smart speaker adoption is not nearly as high as once expected. The report predicts that 21.6 million people will have made a purchase using a smart speaker by the end of 2020, a projection that was lower than the firm's second quarter 2019 estimate of 23.6 million consumers.

Though consumers' smart speaker adoption was lower than anticipated, the report also projects that 10.8% of all American digital consumers will buy goods this year via a smart speaker. By 2021, the report estimates that 23.5 million consumers will make purchases via smart speakers.

The majority of smart speakers users (81.1%) are projected this year to use them to listen to audio, and 77.8% will use smart speakers to make inquiries, per the report. Only 26% of smart speaker users will make purchases through the device, though 35% will shop on them, the report also indicated.