January 16, 2023 - The Legislature is closed today in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday
3 charts that explain what’s happening with US inflation

The latest inflation data released on Thursday showed that price increases continued to slow. Inflation has slowed for six straight months, which is good news for both consumers and economic policymakers.

In December, consumer prices rose 6.5 percent from a year earlier, down from 7.1 percent in November, according to a Consumer Price Index report released on Thursday. The index fell 0.1 percent from the month before after prices picked up by 0.1 percent in November.

The slowdown was mostly a result of declining energy costs as gasoline became less expensive. Used cars and airline fares also fell in price, while gains in food prices slowed. Housing costs, however, continued to climb.

Because it showed inflation slowing down, the report is positive news for Federal Reserve officials, who have been raising interest rates for months to rein in stubbornly high inflation. By lifting rates, the central bank is making borrowing costs more expensive in an attempt to curb consumer demand. That should translate to slower price increases over time as consumers spend less, business investment cools, and firms hire fewer workers.

The Fed is on track to raise rates again at their next meeting at the end of the month, though economic forecasters expect the size of that increase to be smaller than last year’s rate hikes.
Free website accessibility webinar January 24; Understanding the law, responding to demands, & practical steps to reduce risk for retail websites
Demands and lawsuits against retailers for allegedly "inaccessible" websites and apps continued to explode in 2022, with no end in sight. Unfortunately, courts and laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) fail to provide clear guidance for operating a compliant retail website. On the positive side, 2022 included some significant "wins" for website operators.

On this webinar, we will cover:

  • Describe what "accessibility" means on a legal, technical and human level
  • Talk about where the ADA is going & what the Department of Justice (DOJ) is doing 
  • Real cases, what's going on inside other MN retail companies
  • Tactics for responding to demand letters from plaintiff firms
  • Demonstrate electronic screen-reader technology in-action
  • Show common accessibility failures along with actionable items to improve your site & reduce risk


Steve Helland represents national and local retailers in responding to website accessibility demands and in pro-actively implementing information technology ADA compliance and accessibility programs. He is a partner at Fredrikson & Byron and founder of the firm's Accessible Technology Defense Group.

Just added>> Michele Landis is Co-Founder & CRO of Accessible360, a court-certified digital accessibility auditing firm, now the digital division of Allyant.

Tuesday, January 24, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
No-cost to attend.

This seminar is offered via Zoom.
Getting used to getting used: The resale outlook for 2023
From the Retail Brew, Andrew Adam Newman, January 10, 2023

This is the first of two stories about what’s in store for the resale market next year. There are countless metrics for the unprecedented growth of resale in recent years, but none more whiplash-inducing than this one: Among The Recommerce 100, ThredUp’s list of the hundred brands with the most active resale programs, 72 launched in 2022.

If most of those successful secondhand stores were humans, in other words, they’d still be banging their spoons against their high chairs and speaking gibberish. And like those onesie-wearers, the resale market is boisterous, thriving, and growing fast. But it is not, by any measure, mature, and growing up—if our eighth-grade school photos are any indication—is not always pretty.

So to prepare for resale’s Kodak moments and growing pains in the upcoming year, we asked some insiders for their predictions.

Revenue will grow…

It’s booming:

  • The US fashion resale market grew from $13.6 billion in 2018 to an estimated $28.1 billion in 2022, according to a December report from Coresight.
  • It will grow by almost 15% in 2023, to $32.3 billion, Coresight predicts
Join MnRA for our Annual Meeting + Holiday Gathering January 19
Join MnRA for our brief annual meeting featuring the election of Board members and officers, followed by a time to connect with retailers and key business partners at a holiday gathering, as well as see Boulay's new offices.

MnRA Annual Meeting + Holiday Gathering
Thursday, January 19, 2023
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Boulay - Eden Prairie
11095 Viking Drive, Suite 500, Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Pre-registration requested.
No cost to attend.
Members and invited guests only.

What is the incremental expense of your next energy efficiency project?
From Kevin Zickert, Energy Smart Program Coordinator, CEM, CBO, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, January 16, 2023
Capital investments at your store are contingent on a few parameters that must align in the Venn-diagram of decision making - budget, life expectancy of equipment, and competitive bidding. These can pose challenges for successfully implementing energy efficiency measures (EEM) at your facility. Here are additional considerations to help stakeholders justify the investment in high efficiency, high performance equipment.
1. The cost of energy is increasing
The cost of energy is increasing due to a combination of increased demand, an increase in extreme weather events, and rate increases as utilities build and maintain infrastructure for power generation and distribution. At the end of the day, we can expect the price of energy to continue to increase, making it cost prohibitive to not invest in EEMs. Unlike other recurring bills that are fixed, such as rent, energy consumption and expenses can be managed and reduced through EEM investments.
Benchmarking your facility's energy use and bills, month-to-month, season-to-season, year-after-year, establishes a necessary baseline to review building performance and how your EEMs are stabilizing or reducing energy use and billing, over time. Benchmarking is especially useful if you have multiple locations, such as franchises.
2. Purchase the highest efficiency equipment you can afford
The cost of operating equipment over its lifespan will far exceed the one-time upfront cost of purchasing the equipment. It's cost prohibitive to purchase anything other than the highest efficiency model you can afford. Effectively, you're losing money if you do not invest in your next EEM. Mechanical systems have a conservative operational life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. Therefore, your facility will be operating at this performance for that timeframe. It is imperative to pair high efficiency equipment with automation components and operational setpoints to optimize performance.
3. Making the case for cost competitiveness between standard and high efficiency equipment

So, what is the incremental expense of efficiency? Incremental cost is the difference in expense between one option versus another. For example, the cost difference between a basic model or a higher end model.
Typically, the low bid with a basic model wins the job, which means you're already planning to invest that amount of capital into the project for a baseline / standard efficiency scope of work. Consider how your facility can optimize performance for the next generation of the building and its occupants. Ask your contractor and design team to package a high efficiency solution to evaluate the incremental expense. Incentives such as utility rebates, grant funding, and tax deductions can be leveraged in combination with energy cost savings to cover the incremental expense, making your next EEM as cost competitive as baseline efficiency projects. The added time making the comparison is worth it in the long run. And you want your business to be in it for the long run.
If you're interested in completing an energy assessment and developing an energy action plan, contact Energy Smart here.
What is price gouging? Minnesota legislators search for a definition
From the Star Tribune, Brooks Johnson, January 12, 2023

When prices quickly rise, so do consumer suspicions — especially amid a natural disaster or public emergency like a global pandemic.

But when are price increases justifiable and when is it price gouging by a bad actor? Legislators are working this session to find a legal definition for "unconscionably excessive prices" during emergencies that they hope will appease consumer advocates as well as businesses.

"It's a lot of different groups coming together to help define what a super irregular price increase would be," said Tamara Nelsen, executive director of AgriGrowth, a nonprofit advocate for the state's food and ag industry.

A bill introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate states: "During an abnormal market disruption, a person is prohibited from selling or offering to sell an essential consumer good or service for an amount that represents an unconscionably excessive price."

The bill would set a $10,000-per-sale civil penalty for those violating the law, with the state Attorney General's Office in charge of pursuing claims.

The "abnormal market disruption" is described as a state of emergency and "an increase in the price for an essential consumer good or service that exceeds 30% within a seven-day period."

Prices are considered excessive if the disparity between the cost of the item and the price charged "is not substantially attributable to significant additional costs outside of the seller's control," among other factors.

"Everyone is trying to constantly adjust to the price increases they're seeing in their own supply chain — and the increase in wages and shortage of workers," Nelsen said. "The bill language really sets guardrails on what the requirements are for price gouging."

A similar measure passed the House last year but failed to advance in the Senate; those tracking the bill says it has a better chance of passing this year.

"Minnesota is one of only 13 states that doesn't have a statute protecting consumers against price-gouging by businesses," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. "I'm urging the Legislature to quickly pass a much needed anti-price gouging law."

Business groups, while not explicitly backing the bill, said having a clarified definition can help business owners know what is expected of them during emergencies as opposed to executive orders that may impose varying standards.

"Having rules everyone can look at and live by is better than handling these situations on an ad-hoc basis," said John Reynolds, Minnesota director for the National Federation of Independent Business. "We want to make sure we are protecting small businesses. If the cost for a hardware store to acquire a piece of plywood goes up 20 percent, that has to be passed through or there isn't going to be plywood."

The group urged legislators to remain focused on "declared emergencies and flexibility to make price adjustments based on ... the emergency."

Bruce Nustad, head of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said the intent is to "provide protections against a bad actor."

"It's not a price regulation. It's a bill that relates to a state of emergency," he said.
Gov. Tim Walz pitches Minnesota paid family and medical leave program
From the Pioneer Press, Alex Derosier, January 10, 2023

Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials made their pitch Tuesday for a proposed paid family and medical leave program in Minnesota, a top priority for Democrats who assumed full control of state government at the beginning of January.

Addressing reporters at the Unity Cafe on Rice Street near the Capitol in St. Paul, Walz said the program would help a majority of Minnesotans who do not currently have paid leave for medical and family reasons.

He also argued that better leave options could help Minnesota become a more attractive option for employees as the state tries to address workforce shortages.

“The benefit to Minnesota is we don’t only improve individual lives, (but also) we improve the broader community and the workforce that’s there,” he said. “You hear stories, whether it’s work or injury or pregnancy or cancer treatments. It gets almost unimaginable that somebody would have to leave work and have it not have the capacity to be able to go and get the treatment they need.”

Unity Cafe owner Cherno “CJ” Jome, who works two other jobs in addition to running the cafe, said he suffered a pinched nerve a few years ago in a car accident, but does not have any good options to take time off for back pain treatment.

“Even though I’m in a lot of pain every day, I can’t afford to address my injury without serious thought about the consequences for my business,” he said, adding that short-term disability would not be enough to cover his needs.

Jome is a member of the Mainstreet Alliance, a progressive small-business owners group pushing for the leave program in the Legislature.

Current proposal

The current paid leave proposal being advanced by Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers would offer up to 12 weeks of partially paid time off for family reasons such as a new child or a seriously ill or dying relative. It would also provide up to 12 weeks of medical leave, including for pregnancy complications.

Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said the program would likely create a payroll tax of 0.7%, which could be shared by employers and employees. Taxes would go into a state-administered fund. That’s slightly more than the 0.6% split between employer and employee previously touted by Democrats.

Employers and employees would contribute about $3 per week, and the amount of pay a beneficiary receives would be based on a sliding scale tied to earning level. Workers could get up to 90% of their wages while on leave, depending on their income.

Past projections have shown the state would collect $840 million each year in new taxes to fund the program, though business groups estimated in December that it would be closer to $1 billion.
Program’s cost to be determined

Past estimates from nonpartisan legislative research estimate the program will initially cost about $1.7 billion to launch, though the governor may call for a different amount when he releases his budget later this month. Grove said his agency would have to create a new office and system to administer the paid leave program. It’s estimated the new division would require 300 or more employees.

Many other states have collected taxes for a year or so before launching their programs, Grove said, but with the state’s nearly $18 billion surplus, DFL lawmakers and the governor are discussing using those extra funds to help make benefits available sooner.
MnRA partner advertisement:
Make a difference and become a volunteer retail business champion today
The Minnesota Retailers Association (MnRA) is proud to partner with the Minority Business Growth Alliance (MBGA), an alliance of professionals, corporations and non-profits, working one-on-one with minority business owners, providing pro-bono strategic guidance and execution support to BIPOC business owners.

We are reaching out with an opportunity for members to volunteer as a business champion, supporting a BIPOC retailer through your expertise, your strategic guidance and your retail knowledge.