A conversation with Washington Retail’s President/CEO, Renée Sunde

Oct 16, 2019
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Written by Jim Szymanski, Director of Communications
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(With Jim Szymanski, Director of Communications)

Q: This month you’re celebrating 2 years at the helm of the association. What have you enjoyed most the past two years?

A: Every leader wants a team of people dedicated to the mission who bring their skills, experience and energy to the job every day. I have a great staff of people who do just that. Many of my team have been with the association more than 10 years, which offers deep experience and important historic context. We’ve also hired some new players who have added a breadth of knowledge and new energy to the work we do. Most recently Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services joined after working as the small business liaison for the Department of Labor & Industries. New additions Michelle Whinery and Kim Kendall bring more than 45 years of shared experience to our claims management staff.

Q: The association represents an industry that is evolving quickly. What is on the horizon for retail?

A: You’re right, the retail industry is experiencing massive change and transformation. Retail’s evolution is rapid and every day brings news of technology and trends that are driving today’s retail experience. Consumers have become much more sophisticated and omnichannel is no longer a new concept as most retailers have adopted multichannel approaches to better serve their customers. Although the talk of retail’s apocalypse continues, the reality is that the industry has continued to experience steady growth with taxable retail sales increasing by 9.6% in Washington State last year compared to the year before, and national holiday projections for this year are expected to grow by 3.8% to 4.2% year-over-year. We continue to witness store closures around the state and the impact of those closures is very real to the communities they serve. Malls around the state are continuing to reinvent themselves by adding a mix of uses and concepts that draw the consumer for a unique experience.

Q: What are the top priorities of your members?

A: The upcoming short Legislative Session is for 60 days but the issues impacting our members are long-term and significant. Some states have recently adopted data privacy legislation and consumer privacy will continue to be a priority issue for Washington in the coming year. Because the success of retail depends on providing high-quality goods and services at competitive prices, our customers expect us to protect the information shared and use it responsibly. Legislative solutions that protect personal information yet don’t restrict the benefits and services customers have come to rely on will be the basis for principles we adopt. Other issues that include employee scheduling, the use of independent contractors and retail theft continue to be areas of priority for members located in every district of the state.

As an association, we see ourselves as stewards of Washington’s retail experience. For me that means we are always trustworthy, approachable, visionary and knowledgeable. We are committed to serving with excellence. I look forward to the year ahead and am honored to represent the WR Board of Directors, our members and stakeholders across the state.