March 15, 2021
Last chance to register for Retail Day At The Capitol tomorrow
Your story meets legislators at the Minnesota Retailers Association's virtual Retail Day at the Capitol. Our program for 2021 offers a chance to hear from and interact with key legislators on issues impacting Minnesota's retailers, consumers and workers. Due to COVID restrictions at the State Capitol this year's event will be conducted via Zoom with a modified format.

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. RSVP requested ASAP. This is a members and invited guests only event and is not open to the public. Pre-registration required.
Minnesota’s unemployment rate at 4.5% in January; deepest pandemic impacts felt by BIPOC community
From the the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, March 11, 2021

Rate falls as people leave labor force; Minnesota gains nearly all jobs lost in December.

Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.5% in January, down from a revised 4.7% in December, according to numbers released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Once again, the decline was due to people leaving the labor force from both employment and unemployment. The number of unemployed fell 7,652 and the number of employed fell 14,851 for a total decline of 22,503 in Minnesota’s labor force on a seasonally adjusted basis. The national unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January from 6.7% in December.

The deepest impacts of the pandemic are felt by Minnesotans who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Based on 12-month moving averages, the unemployment rate for Black Minnesotans was 9.5% in January, up from 9.0% in December and up from 4.9% one year ago. The Latinx unemployment rate was 7.3% in January, the same as December and up from 4.9% one year ago. White Minnesotans were at 5.8% in January, 5.6% in December and 3.0% a year ago.
Retailers support new federal privacy bill
From Chain Store Age, Marianne Wilson, March 10, 2021

A newly introduced bill would establish uniform national standards for privacy law, a goal long sought by retailers, particularly national chains that operate in most if not all states.

The Information Transparency and Personal Data Control Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, would give consumers new control over the use of their sensitive personal information while providing businesses with a uniform framework on the collection, processing and disclosure of data. The National Retail Federation welcomed the bill, saying it offers a balanced approach that has been missing in earlier measures considered in Congress. 

“The principles embodied by this legislation are critical to ensuring enactment of a balanced federal privacy law that benefits consumers and businesses alike,” NRF senior VP for government relations David French said. “By standardizing comprehensive privacy rules, the Act protects consumer data no matter where a consumer lives or which business handles the data.”

Under the terms of the bill, consumers would have the right to opt out of the use of non-sensitive personal information in a way that would allow businesses to continue to provide products and services consumers expect. For sensitive personal information, businesses would be required to obtain a user’s opt-in approval, which processors and third parties would also be required to honor downstream.

The bill would also apply to all entities that handle sensitive personal information, unlike past privacy legislation that has routinely exempted some of the nation’s largest handlers of consumer data. Those “pitfalls of past federal privacy bills” would have allowed such businesses to avoid “the same standards that applied to Main Street businesses,” French stated in a letter of support sent to DelBene, who chairs the pro-innovation New Democrat Coalition.

A uniform and comprehensive federal law would protect consumers everywhere while ensuring that nationwide businesses can apply those protections equally for consumers regardless of the state where they live, the NRF said.
Minnesota businesses join mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign
From the Star Tribune, Jim Spencer and Hunter Woodall, March 13, 2021

If you work at UnitedHealth Group, the company won't force you to get a COVID-19 vaccination. But the company tries hard to make it easy to get the shot.

UnitedHealth gives workers paid time off to get vaccinated and more paid leave if they suffer vaccine side effects.

It matches eligible employees with vaccination opportunities that it hears about from state and local health departments.

Equally important, in a country where three in 10 Americans still balk at getting the shot needed to overcome a worldwide pandemic, UnitedHealth offers employees in-house education that address "vaccination hesitancy."

Most of Minnesota's biggest companies do not require employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations. But like thousands of businesses across the country, they have pushed COVID inoculations to the top of their agendas. Collectively, across every business sector, American corporations have largely accepted an integral role in the success of the vaccination effort.

Mary Kaul-Hottinger, the senior vice president of human resources at Minnesota-based CHS, spoke for thousands of personnel professionals when she noted: "Encouraging our employees to get the vaccine is one of the critical tools allowing us to move to the next normal." In that spirit, CHS, which operates primarily in rural areas in multiple states, is exploring how it might offer its facilities as vaccination sites when vaccine "distribution meets demand."

Examples of corporate cooperation in vaccine distribution abound.

Target Corp. not only provides time off to get vaccinated, it pays employees up to $15 each way for Lyft rides to vaccination sites.

General Mills executives have shared their plans to get vaccinated with their workforce, hoping to inspire employees to follow the example.

Best Buy produces a regular series of videos in English and Spanish that features its medical director, Dr. Daniel Grossman, an emergency-room physician at Mayo Clinic, talking about the safety and effectiveness of COVID vaccines.
Retailers express concern about OSHA emergency regulation regarding COVID-19
From the National Retail Federation, March 11, 2021

The National Retail Federation today expressed concern about a possible Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard regarding COVID-19. NRF urged OSHA to continue to issue industry-specific guidance concerning COVID-19.

“Over the past year, retailers have taken extraordinary precautions to protect the health and safety of customers and employees during this global health crisis,” said NRF Senior Vice President of Government Relations David French. “NRF has worked extensively with the CDC, OSHA and state and local health agencies to ensure that retailers continue to utilize safety protocols and standards that in many cases exceed government-issued regulations.”

In January, President Biden issued an executive order directing OSHA, which is responsible for establishing workplace requirements, to issue emergency temporary standards for COVID-19 by March 15.

NRF is concerned about the possibly of OSHA issuing a rigid, one-size-fits-all emergency regulation, particularly during a global pandemic that has already imposed substantial economic hardship on businesses. An OSHA regulation — especially one promulgated without the benefit of the normal notice and comment process — could distract from retailers’ existing safety efforts that are effectively protecting employees and customers from the dangers of COVID-19.

NRF submitted a statement ahead of today’s House Committee on Education and Labor hearing on “Clearing the Air: Science-Based Strategies to Protect Workers from COVID-19 Infections.”
Businesses damaged in riots after death of George Floyd still fighting for assistance
From the Star Tribune, Neal St. Anthony, March 7, 2021

Ahmed Muhumud, co-owner of Midtown Eye Care, sought refuge for the business last fall in the Midtown Global Market after it was burned down in the aftermath of George Floyd's death last May.

Muhumud is unsure whether his former landlord can or will rebuild along E. Lake Street.

"He terminated my lease and I haven't heard anything about plans," Muhumud said last week. "Business is still slow, but we're happy with our rent and to be at the Global Market."

At Hiawatha Avenue and E. Lake Street, pharmacist Elias Usso is back in business in a once-trashed building among hundreds of small businesses, disproportionately minority-and-immigrant owned, that were damaged and displaced by the riots in Minneapolis and St. Paul last May.

"We are one of the few lucky ones," said Usso. He raised about $250,000 to refurbish Seward Pharmacy from family funds, insurance proceeds and a grant from the Lake Street Council.

"There are small businesses that want to reopen but can't," he said. "Parts of Lake Street still look like a ghost town. We have to get Lake Street back."

Usso plans to testify soon before a state legislative committee that is considering a request by Minneapolis and St. Paul for up to $300 million in state bond proceeds to help cover more than $500 million in property damage.

Many of the old properties were underinsured. The Minnesota Commerce Department reported this winter only $163 million of $293 million in commercial-property claims were paid.
Kwik Trip's Dave Ring Brings People Together In His Board Chair Role
David Ring has been elected chair of the Minnesota Retailers Association (MnRA). Late last year at a meeting of the MnRA membership Ring was selected to lead the organization representing 1,200 retail stores across Minnesota.

Ring--who was born in Albert Lea--is community and government relations manager at Kwik Trip, Inc., where he has worked with community leaders and elected officials across the Midwest since 2010. Kwik Trip employs over 6,700 co-workers and operates nearly 200 convenience stores in Minnesota, with over 750 total stores when including Wisconsin and Iowa.

“I’m honored to be selected Board chair and look forward to working with our members to continue to tell the story of the importance of retail across Minnesota,” Ring said. “Over the course of my career I have learned firsthand that the closer we work together, the better the opportunities are for each and every community. Our work at the Minnesota Retailers Association has never been more vital and we will be laser focused on shared goals as we do our part to help in Minnesota’s pandemic recovery.”  

Ring succeeds Lisa Nelson with Walmart, who chaired the Board for 2020.

“As an organization we are pleased to have Dave’s leadership at this critical time in our economic recovery. Dave has spent a lifetime bringing people together to work on areas of common interest. That type of work and culture at Kwik Trip is core to who Dave is, and his service as Board chair could not come at a better time,” said MnRA staff president Bruce Nustad. “And we thank Lisa for her strong and decisive leadership during one of Minnesota’s most challenging economic periods due to the pandemic. Lisa brought important Walmart insights and her own perspectives working across the country to her role as Board chair, and we are so grateful.”
Governor loosens restrictions as virus situations improve
Governor Walz announced big “dial turns” this past Friday, loosening work from home requirements beginning April 15 as well as removing some restrictions March 15 as COVID cases continue to decline and more Minnesotans get vaccinated.

Changes announced today include:

  • Masking and social distancing remains in place.
  • Restaurant capacity moved to 75 percent with bar seating allowed for groups of four beginning at noon on March 15.
  • Workers previously required to work from home may return to work in person April 15. Remote work is "strongly encouraged".
  • Capacity limits on places of worship are lifted with social distancing and masking.
  • Household gathering of 50 permitted outdoors and 15 indoors with no limit on number of households at noon on March 15.
  • Gym capacity moved to 50 percent at noon on March 15.
  • Capacity limits at salons and personal services are removed with social distancing and masking beginning at noon on March 15.
  • Indoor events and entertainment at noon on March 15 can be open at 50 percent capacity, no more than 250 people. On April 1, 2021, venues with occupant capacity greater than 500 may increase capacity per state guidelines.
  • Outdoor events and entertainment at noon on March 15 can be open at 50 percent capacity, no more than 250 people. On April 1, 2021, venues with occupant capacity greater than 500 may increase capacity per state guidelines.


This Thursday: If you plan to sell your business someday, don't miss our webinar featuring Manuel Santana
Join the Minnesota Retailers Association for a session on planning for your future and that of your business featuring Manuel Santana with Sunbelt Business Advisors.You aren't ready to sell, but what should you pay attention to as you think about a future exit plan.

MnRA Webinar – Via Zoom
Thursday, March 18, 8:30 - 9:15 a.m.
Connection information will be sent 24 hours before the event

Featuring:
Manuel Santana, Sunbelt Business Advisors
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 31: Know an amazing retails or key business partner?
When innovative retailers and their partners gather, learn and celebrate at Retail Rally in October, we'll roll out the red carpet to recognize ten Minnesota organizations and individuals for being champions of the industry.

Help recognize the retail industry by nominating a Minnesota Retail Champion in one or more of these categories today:

  • Best Place To Work
  • Customer Experience
  • Advocate of the Year
  • Outstanding Achievement
  • Retail Community of the Year
  • Retailer of the Year
  • Retail Employee of the Year
  • Retail Innovation
  • Social Responsibility
  • Vendor Partner of the Year

Nominations are open through March 31 and are easy at www.mnretail.org/champ!
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.