April 26, 2021
Mother’s Day spending to total $28.1 Billion
From the National Retail Federation, April 22, 2021

Mother’s Day spending is expected to total a record $28.1 billion this year, up $1.4 billion from 2020, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation. Approximately 83 percent of U.S. adults are expected to celebrate the annual holiday.

“There is a lot of consumer optimism around Mother’s Day this year as more people are getting vaccinated and stimulus checks are being distributed,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “For many, this is a chance to make up for last year’s Mother’s Day when we were under lockdown. With safety guidelines at top of mind, consumers are planning to be with family, are making travel plans and organizing a special brunch or outing. All of these activities will be reflected through their purchasing decisions.”

This year consumers plan to spend an average of $220.48 on Mother’s Day items. This figure is $16 more than they planned to spend last year and the highest in the survey's history.

Record spending on gifts of jewelry and electronics are the primary drivers of the increase. Jewelry accounts for over half (59 percent) of the $1.4 billion increase in spending while electronics accounts for over one-quarter (28 percent).

Consumers ages 25-34 are also contributing to the increase in Mother's Day spending. These shoppers plan to spend $367.08 on average or $99 more than last year. These shoppers are also the most likely to be planning gifts of higher dollar items like jewelry or electronics. In addition to buying gifts for their own moms, these shoppers are more likely to be buying for spouses and other recipients like grandmothers or friends.

This year, nearly half (49 percent) say they are planning a special Mother's Day outing such as a brunch or other activity. While this is up slightly from last year, it is still below pre-pandemic levels.
Wage disclosure protection reminder from the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry
From the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, April 22, 2021

Every Minnesota employer must comply with the wage disclosure protection law in the Women's Economic Security Act (WESA). Under this law, no employer can prohibit employees from sharing information about their wages and working conditions with other people (Minnesota Statutes 181.172).

Employers may not:

  • stop employees from telling others about their wages or conditions of employment;
  • require employees to sign a waiver that takes away their right to tell others
  • about their wages or working conditions; or
  • treat employees differently because they told someone about their wages or working conditions.

What are employers required to do?

Employers must provide a notice to employee's about this law in the company's employee handbook.

Sample notice to employees:

Under the Minnesota Wage Disclosure Protection law, you have the right to tell any person the amount of your own wages. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for disclosing your own wages. Your remedies under the wage disclosure protection law are to bring a civil action against your employer and/or file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5070 or 800-342-5354.

The law does not:

  • require employees to tell anyone about their wages;
  • allow employees to share proprietary information (trade secrets) or other legally protected information of the employer;
  • remove any rights provided under the National Labor Relations Act; and
  • allow employees to share wage information with employees of a competing employer.
SBA announces restaurant revitalization fund application
From the U.S. Small Business Administration, April 17, 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act established the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) to provide funding to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.

Eligible entities who have experienced pandemic-related revenue loss include:

  • Restaurants
  • Food stands, food trucks, food carts
  • Caterers
  • Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
  • Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
  • Bakeries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Breweries and/or microbreweries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Wineries and distilleries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Inns (onsite sales of food and beverage to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products
4 weeks left and $1 billion to bridge for Minnesota lawmakers
From MPR News, Brian Bakst, April 26, 2021

This time of year at the Capitol is typically when top lawmakers strain to get on the same budget page. This year, they might struggle to get into the same room.

Four weeks from Monday is the Legislature’s adjournment deadline, so there’s really less time than that for the Republican-led Senate and the DFL-led House to get divergent plans lined up if they’re going to avoid going into overtime.

They can’t let a grand deal slip too deep into May because it takes considerable time to get the final bills ready for votes — even more so this year with the office that writes bill language less able to work around the clock.

Before the serious negotiations can commence, the Senate has three bills left to pass — a health and human services budget bill, a state agency finance plan, and a tax bill. But the outcome really isn’t in much doubt. The House is down to health and human services, which is due to come up for a vote Monday. A separate construction borrowing bill is also in the pipeline but that doesn’t have to pass to balance the budget.

Here’s the bottom line: All of the House bills add up to about $52.5 billion in spending out of the general treasury for the next two years, according to calculations from nonpartisan staff. The Senate plans, including those awaiting final votes, stand at $51.5 billion.

So that’s a cool $1 billion distance between them. And that’s just the top lines. There are countless differences in where each bill would put the dollars. It’s not even as easy as saying just meeting in the middle.
Our view: It’s time for Minnesota lawmakers to fix the state’s PPP mess
From the Grand Fork Herald, Editorial Board, April 24, 2021

Since it’s one of fewer than a dozen states whose tax laws do not automatically conform with federal tax regulations, the federal aid will continue to be taxed and it will take legislative action before it can change.

“Do no harm.” That’s the reminder the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is sending state lawmakers as the Legislature moves into the final weeks of the 2021 session.

The Minnesota Chamber this session is promoting its “Blueprint for Economic Recovery,” a list of initiatives and actions it suggests to “restore livelihoods now and position the state for long-term growth” as the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic subside.

First up, according to the blueprint, is to stabilize at-risk businesses, since “their viability directly translates to economic activity, employment, community sustainability and generating revenues that benefit state and local government. ...”

Second is to “take strategic actions to accelerate economic recovery in the short term.”

The goal of the outline, according to Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President Doug Loon, is to “shine a bright light on the objective of restoring Minnesota’s economy and allowing us as a state to reach as full of our economic potential as possible.”

“Don’t layer on additional challenges, burdens, restrictions, taxes in the form of new mandates and new taxes on businesses at a time when they’re trying to recover,” he told the Grand Forks Herald.

And if the goal is to indeed “do no harm,” one step that must be taken, according to Loon, is to erase the tax that businesses face after receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans.

This isn’t a new development – it’s been in the news for months. The trouble is that it caught many business owners off-guard and, importantly, it’s going to keep happening unless the Legislature does something about it.

PPP loans, originating from the federal CARES Act, allow businesses that have struggled during the pandemic to offset revenue losses and keep employees on the payroll. If the loans are used for a variety of predetermined purposes – payroll, health insurance, mortgage interest payments and the like – then the federal government will forgive the loan.ly category to show a year-over-year decline – were among the few retailers allowed to remain open.
Congress members Craig and Stauber Confirmed for NRF's Retail Advocates Town Hall Next Week
From the National Retail Federation, April 26, 2021

Join NRF in celebrating Small Business Week 2021 at the Retail Advocates Town Hall on Tuesday May 4, 2021 from 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm.

We cordially invite you to join us for this special program. We also strongly encourage you to share the registration details for this event with small retailers within your memberships. This must-attend, virtual event will convene small retailers from across the country for exclusive discussions with members of the House of Representatives Small Business Committee.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee
  • Angie Craig (MN-02), Member, House Small Business Committee
  • Pete Stauber (MN-08), Member, House Small Business Committee

We will be confirming more speakers in the coming days and will send out the full agenda later this week.
Remember the pandemic stockpiling last year? Consumer products companies are still catching up
From CNBC, Amelia Lucas, April 20, 2021

Surging demand stemming from the coronavirus pandemic led sales of consumer packaged goods — from toilet paper and canned soup — to climb 9.4% to $1.53 trillion last year, according to new report from the Consumer Brands Association.

But the boom in demand hasn’t abated, and the trade group said manufacturers are still struggling to catch up on inventory. To meet the challenge, companies are hiring more workers, adding new factory lines and boosting wages amid the protracted surge in demand.

“This was the greatest test that the system could’ve ever experienced,” said Geoff Freeman, chief executive of Consumer Brands. “Our wildest imagination may not have been able to imagine the 12-month surge that we just went through.”

Even as the pandemic subsides, Consumer Brands is forecasting that industry’s 2021 sales will still be up 7.4% to 8.5% from 2019. January sales are up 16% from the same time a year ago, representing the highest year-over-year change since last March. February sales growth slowed slightly but was still in the double digits. Before the pandemic, strong growth for a consumer products company meant an increase in the low single digits.

“This industry is still sprinting a marathon,” said Katie Denis, Consumer Brands’ vice president of research and industry narrative.
Minnesota won't lose eighth congressional seat, Census Bureau rules
From the Star Tribune, Briana Bierschbach and Patrick Condon, April 26, 2021

The state of Minnesota narrowly held onto its eight congressional seats, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday, a near-miss to the state's clout in Washington.

Minnesota has grown more slowly than many other states, and has been on the edge of losing one of its seats in the U.S. House for decades; the last time it happened was after the 1960 population count.

Census Bureau officials released the details at a Monday afternoon news conference.

Preliminary estimates released by the Census Bureau in December found the state was 25,554 people short of holding on to all of its seats, coming in behind New York but ahead of Ohio, California and Virginia.

The process, known as apportionment, follows the once-a-decade nationwide population count conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The numbers help apportion all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on state populations.

The final numbers were supposed to be released by the end of December, but the data were delayed after the 2020 Census count was plagued with budget constraints, technical difficulties and logistical struggles amid the pandemic.
Jerry Holt, Star Tribune
A census worker gathered information in the Cedar-Riverside area last September. Jerry Holt • STAR TRIBUNE

While Minnesota's population is growing more slowly than some other states, it led the nation with a 75% self-response rate to the census. State redistricting experts said that could give Minnesota an edge over other states with a lower response rate.
RILA lays out climate priorities for retailers
From the Retail Dive, Ben Unglesbee, April 21, 2021

Retail's economic and environmental footprint is sprawling. From supply chains to stores, the industry consumes energy, land and other resources.

Retail has a broad impact on the environment and vice versa. Climate change presents numerous challenges for the industry, including operational disruptions from extreme weather events and difficulties in demand forecasting, among many others. In the nearer term, consumers have demanded more action from brands on reducing the environmental impacts of their business.

In an earlier report this year, RILA pointed to consumers increasing focus on social responsibility as an imperative that will shape the industry in 2021 and beyond. That report found that a large share of consumers by spending power are willing to pay more for products with the least environmental impact.

Change can present costs and difficulties, of course. The recent report from RILA — whose members include retail heavyweights like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot, among others — balanced both operational impacts to retailers from environmental policies as well as opportunities for governments and industry to work together.

For example, the report notes that policies around waste reduction "pair well with other retail sustainability priorities, like increased use of recycled content, pollution prevention, and pursuing circular product business models."
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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.
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