February 17, 2020
The Minnesota Legislature began its 2020 session this past week. Session runs through May 18. Join us for Retail Day At The Capitol March 10.
January Retail Sales Grew 2.7 Percent Over Last Year
From the National Retail Federation, February 14, 2020

Retail sales in January increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over December and were up 2.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“The strength of consumer spending continues to be the anchor of the current economic expansion,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “January’s retail sales results reflect a confident consumer supported by solid wage growth and job gains. While the business sector continues to weigh significant uncertainties, consumers are providing staying power for U.S. economic growth. We are starting the year on a strong footing.”

January’s results build on increases of 0.3 percent month-over-month and 6.3 percent year-over-year in December. As of January, the three-month moving average was up 3.5 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.9 percent in December.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall January sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from December and up 4.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Minnesota Business Leaders Brace For Legal Pot
From Finance and Commerce, William Morris, February 13, 2020

Top business leaders in Minnesota and beyond have weed on their minds.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s annual Session Priorities banquet Tuesday featured discussion of many perennial Chamber issues, such as tax competitiveness and avoiding new mandates on employee benefits. But at this year’s event, held at St. Paul’s RiverCentre convention center, marijuana legalization and consequences thereof made a new appearance as a top concern for businesses as they try to negotiate rapidly changing local, state and federal rules around medical and recreational drug use, Chamber President Doug Loon said.

“As I’ve traveled the state, I continue to hear concerns expressed by the business community because they are not quite sure this is how this will affect their business, how it will affect their workplace, how it will affect productivity, how it aligns with federal laws,” Loon told Gov. Tim Walz.

The odds of changes at the state level appear remote, at least for the time being. When asked about legalization, the state’s four highest-ranking legislators ranged from ambivalence to opposition in their responses, with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka saying such proposals have “no future as long as I’m here.” Walz, who supports legalization and believes prohibition is ineffective, said he favors a slow and deliberative process before any legislation is passed.

“I trust adults to make those decisions, but I also recognize whether it’s alcohol, whether it’s cigarettes, gambling, any of the vices, you have to be very careful about the unintended consequences happening to society,” he said. “… It’s not going to happen overnight, nor should it.”

But even if Minnesota does not act, companies are watching closely the experience of other states. Depending on how it is enacted and what safeguards are in place, legalization can bring a range of problems for employers, said Lauren Doroghazi, policy director with the Council of State Chambers.
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.
What Gen Z Is Watching Online And What That Means For Marketers in 2020
From Social Media Today, Mikey Dunn, February 11, 2020

Media headlines and marketing campaigns have given the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) attention for years, but more recently, there's also been increased focus on the next youngest generation, Generation Z, which is made up of anyone born in 1997 and onwards.

And while both of these demographic subsets are considered the "younger generations", there are many key differences between Gen Z and Millennials, which is particularly evident in the content that they consume. For example, Millennials are known for cutting the cord - in other words, ditching cable for online streaming services - but Gen Z was never connected to the cord to begin with. Instead, Gen Z users are attracted to social platforms, including YouTube, and newcomer TikTok, which has lead to completely different viewing behaviors and content interests, evolving media consumption trends which are important to note.

So what is Gen Z watching - and what does that mean for your marketing efforts? Here's a look at some of the big video content trends taking hold among younger audiences...
What Retailers Can Learn From Indie Bookstores' Revival
From the Retail Dive, Tatiana Walk-Morris, February 5, 2020

For the past eight years, Harvard professor Ryan Raffaelli immersed himself in the world of independent bookstores. Concluding his study, he just released a working paper, entitled “Reinventing Retail: The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores,” that summarizes the findings from his extensive research, which included a series of interviews and focus groups, visits to bookstores in 26 states, and a detailed analysis of newspaper and trade journal articles.

While this working paper has immediate application to bookstore owners and managers, its implications go much further. It provides a road map for any retailer —independent or otherwise — into how to survive, even thrive against the competitive onslaught of Amazon.

“My research examines how industries, organizations, and business leaders reinvent themselves in the face of radical technological change,” Raffaelli writes. “In the context of retail, seismic shifts are affecting the way consumers engage with online, big box, and local retailers. Independent bookstores provide a story of hope for community-led businesses.”

Calling the resurgence of indie bookstores “novel” is putting it mildly. They were on the verge of collapse, with only 1,651 independent bookstores operating in 2009. Since then, the tide has turned and indies are on the rebound. The reasons why are detailed below.
Retail Imports Drop Amid Coronavirus
From Chain Store Age, Marianne Wilson, February 2, 2020

Imports at major U.S. retail container ports are expected to see a sharper-than-usual drop this month.

That’s according to the Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. The likely slowdown is a result of the coronavirus causing longer Lunar New Year shutdowns of factories in China.

“February is historically a slow month for imports because of Lunar New Year and the lull between retailers’ holiday season and summer, but this is an unusual situation,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy. “Many Chinese factories have already stayed closed longer than usual, and we don’t know how soon they will reopen. 

Gold added that U.S. retailers were already beginning to shift some sourcing to other countries because of the trade war. But he warned if shutdowns continue, there could be an impact on supply chains.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.72 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 1.8% from November but down 12.4% from unusually high numbers at the end of 2018 ahead of a scheduled tariff increase that was ultimately postponed. A TEU is one 20-ft.-long cargo container or its equivalent.

December’s numbers brought 2019 to a total of 21.6 million TEU, a 0.8% decrease from 2018 amid the ongoing trade war but still the second-highest year on record. Imports during 2018 hit a record of 21.8 million TEU, partly due to frontloading ahead of anticipated 2019 tariffs.
Can Retailers Combat Consumer Desire For Counterfeits?
From the Retail Dive, Tatiana Walk-Morris, February 11, 2020

For some shoppers, buying fake goods can be about as good as the real thing.

It's not clear how big the global counterfeit market is, but research suggests it costs American retailers a sizeable amount of lost revenue. Per a 2018 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Customs and Border Patrol seized an estimated $1.38 billion worth of knockoff merchandise in fiscal year 2016 alone.

Counterfeit sales were a problem long before digital marketplaces emerged. Now, online sales of fake merchandise have become a growing problem for retailers. While some consumers mistakenly purchase knockoff merchandise, a notable number of consumers find it perfectly fine to buy fake goods and have done so on purpose, multiple experts told Retail Dive. To combat online counterfeit sales, retailers face the problem of addressing not only the appeal of affordable knockoffs but also the rise of third-party sellers on online marketplaces. And they'll likely need international law enforcement agencies' help to effectively do so.
Discover How Digital Security Will Change How We Innovate in 2020

Many people don’t realize that it’s not just existing data that’s at risk in cybersecurity attacks. Because of the potential long-term consequences, these threats are also dangerous to the success of your business. Learn how digital security helps.
Learn more

Per a May 2019 report from the International Trademark Association on Gen Z counterfeit consumption habits, 71% of survey respondents purchased counterfeit products in the past year, and 35% anticipated buying fewer fake goods in the future. The majority of Gen Z consumers (64%) said they had a positive experience with the purchase of a counterfeit product, the survey found.