January 18, 2021
Retail workers are ready to help move MN forward--watch the video
With the federal government’s announcement last week that states should expand COVID vaccination to those 65 and older, Minnesota’s vaccine plan is changing. Before a Minnesota House and Senate hearing last week the Minnesota Department of Health announced it is nearing the end of vaccination in long term care facilities. With the change in federal guidance, Minnesota is retooling its plan moving forward.

MnRA sent a letter recently to the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Advisory Group advocating that the State follow federal guidance relative to the prioritization of essential workers including front-line retail workers for the COVID vaccine. In addition, MnRA communicated that retail pharmacies and retailers in general look forward to being partners with the State as we are strongly connected to each Minnesota community. Click here to read the letter.

Also on Friday we rolled out a video communicating that front-line retail workers are ready for the vaccine and should receive their shots as soon as practical. See below for the full video. We extend a special thank you to MnRA Board member and 36 Lyn Refuel Station owner Lonnie McQuirter and his team for their work on delivering this important message!

Our retail workers are ready to help move Minnesota forward!

Test program to expand COVID-19 vaccinations to elderly, teachers in Minnesota
From the Star Tribune, Jeremy Olson, January 18, 2021

Minnesota is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination efforts with a test program allowing for limited doses to be provided in nine sites to people 65 and older as well as teachers and child care providers.

A news release from Gov. Tim Walz called this test a "foundation for mass vaccination clinics in Minnesota communities once the federal government increases vaccine supply."

Until now, vaccine had been reserved for a priority group of roughly 500,000 health care workers or long-term care staff and residents.

"By beginning to serve those age 65 and older, educators and child care workers, we are immunizing for impact," the governor said. "It's a step in the right direction on this long road to recovery."

The Minnesota Department of Health on Monday reported 194,462 people, or 3.5% of the state population, has received first doses and that 38,025 have received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the next priority group include people 75 and older, and workers in front-line essential industries, but the Trump administration last week gave states flexibility to expand beyond these groups.

The Walz announcement is only a limited move to expand vaccination into this next priority group of more than 1 million people, which includes other essential workers such as utility crews and police officers, and to people 65 and older.

The nine test sites will begin offering vaccinations to the elderly and teachers by appointment only, starting on Thursday. Eligible people can make appointments on a state website starting at noon Tuesday for vaccinations at the sites in Anoka, Brooklyn Center, Fergus Falls, Marshall, Mountain Iron, North Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls. Available doses are expected to be a "fraction" of the demand, according to the state website.

Last chance: Take our pandemic holiday quick survey now
The Minnesota Retailers Association is fortunate to be looked to for information on the holiday season. Please take a quick moment to provide your holiday season observations as a Minnesota retailer.

For the purpose of this survey we consider the holiday shopping season beginning the week before Thanksgiving and ending December 31.

Note: This is a non-scientific survey and all responses will be considered anonymous.

Thank you, and Happy New Year!
Minneapolis delays "Bring Your Own Bag" ordinance enforcement to 90 days post pandemic emergency
According to staff at the City of Minneapolis, the "Bring Your Own Bag" ordinance requiring retailers to charge a 5 cent fee on to-go bags remains in place, however enforcement of the ordinance has been further delayed. The ordinance will not be enforced until 90 days following the expiration of the State peacetime emergency.

Retailers should note that the ordinance is in effect, however the City is not enforcing the ordinance in order to offer retailers flexibility.
MnRA partner advertisement:
MnRA 30 minute legislative update calls each Monday during session
For members seeking an insiders look at the legislative week, MnRA hosts a weekly 10:00 a.m. Monday conference. 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. To obtain dial-in information for these calls contact Savannah Sepic at savannah@mnretail.org or call us at (651) 227-6631.
Duluth Chamber advocates for more recovery support
From KBJR6, Emma Quinn, January 15, 2021

COVID-19 will be front and center at the Minnesota legislative session as local business owners say they need more support.

"What we're seeing is that small businesses are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, losing upwards or more than 50% of their revenue," said Chris Johnson, Director of Marketing and Communications for Duluth's Chamber of Commerce.

Duluth Chamber of Commerce officials are pushing for local lawmakers to bring more support to the regions struggling, while District 7 state Senator Jen McEwen says she hears them loud and clear.

"Our small businesses are in crisis right now because of COVID," said Sen. McEwen. "Which is why it's just so critical and so important to have that small business relief coming from the state."

The Chamber of Commerce is hoping the 24th annual Duluth and St. Louis County Days at the Capitol event will bring more attention to the issue.

"All of our local industries have benefitted from being a part of this event and having their voices being heard and connecting one on one with these legislators," said Kathleen Privette, Director of Events for the Chamber.
St. Paul’s ‘Green To Go’ ban on black plastic takeout containers on uncertain footing — again
From the Pioneer Press, Fredrick Melo, January 15, 2021

In St. Paul, new “Green To Go” regulations on takeout food containers are wobbling into the New Year on uncertain footing, much like everything else during the pandemic.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s office has officially asked the St. Paul City Council for another year-long delay before implementing a long-simmering ban on restaurant food containers that are difficult to compost or recycle. Council members, however, appear split on the mayor’s emergency declaration, and have said they need more time to consider next steps.

“So many of the restaurants I go to in St. Paul have already taken these steps to do this,” said City Council President Amy Brendmoen during a council meeting Wednesday, indicating she would not support delaying implementation of the new rules.

It’s a question of “trying to find a balance from not retreating from our climate goals but also understanding the very unique circumstances that nobody anticipated a year ago,” said City Council Member Chris Tolbert, in an interview. “(Compostables) can end up being cheaper, but a small business might not have the time to investigate all the different suppliers. But now, there’s more ‘to go’ than anyone ever imagined. Restaurants that never had ‘to go’ before are now relying on it 100 percent.”

The “Green To Go” regulations have a tortured history in St. Paul. In October 2017, despite a year of outreach to the business community by city staff, the city council voted 5-2 against a proposal that would have banned non-compostable and non-recyclable food takeout containers. With cities such as Minneapolis and St. Louis Park rolling out their own rules, the issue later resurfaced.
NRF says 2020 holiday sales grew 8.3 percent despite pandemic
From the National Retail Federation, January 15, 2021

Retail sales during 2020’s November-December holiday season grew an unexpectedly high 8.3 percent over the same period in 2019 to $789.4 billion, exceeding the National Retail Federation’s holiday forecast despite the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, NRF said today. The numbers include online and other non-stores sales, which were up 23.9 percent at $209 billion.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, consumers and retailers demonstrated incredible resilience this holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Faced with rising transmission of the virus, state restrictions on retailers and heightened political and economic uncertainty, consumers chose to spend on gifts that lifted the spirits of their families and friends and provided a sense of normalcy given the challenging year. We believe President-elect Biden’s stimulus proposal, with direct payments to families and individuals, further aid for small businesses and tools to keep businesses open, will keep the economy growing.”

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said consumers shifted into high gear in December, giving the holiday season a strong finish that could be a good sign for the continuing recovery of the economy this year. The 8.3 percent holiday season increase was more than double the 3.5 percent average holiday increase over the previous five years, including 2019’s 4 percent gain.

“There was a massive boost to most consumer wallets this season,” Kleinhenz said. “Consumers were able to splurge on holiday gifts because of increased money in their bank accounts from the stimulus payments they received earlier in the year and the money they saved by not traveling, dining out or attending entertainment events. Some families are still struggling, as are some retail sectors. But the promise of a new round of stimulus checks after a deal was struck before Christmas helped increase consumer confidence. Consumers were also encouraged by the news of COVID-19 vaccines becoming available, which helped offset concerns about increased infection rates and state restrictions on activity.”