The Washington Retail Association (WR) board of directors met this past week under the leadership of WR’s President & CEO Renée Sunde, for an information-packed two-day retreat in Vancouver, Washington. As we establish goals for the 2022/23 fiscal year, the all-volunteer board is responsible for the overall governance, policy and position development, as well as the fiduciary oversight and visionary focus of the association.
WR’s board is comprised of a strategic mix of retail leaders representing Washington-based and multi-state retailers of all sizes and sectors of the industry. A huge thank you to our board officers, which include Chairwoman Theresa Treat, Ben Bridge; Incoming Chairman Kent Wilson, Target; Treasurer Rob Jensen, Lantern Press; Past Chair Sean Brownlee, CEO of Ravenox.
Board Members at large include Alesha Shemwell, Bellevue Collection; Amy Rhodes, 7-Eleven, Inc; Andy Ryder, Shur-Kleen Car Wash; Chuck Miller, Macy’s; Deborah Herron, Walmart; Jerry Irwin, Brookfield Properties; John Dillon, The Home Depot; Karin Holt, Best Buy; Kent Wilson, Target; Krista Beck, Jerry’s Auto Supply; Lowell Gordon, The Creative Office; Meredith Preloh, Lowes; Ruthann Goularte, Drees; and Sally West, Walgreens.
A big thank you to Representatives Stonier and Wylie and Senator Wilson from the 49th and 17th districts, who shared their top priorities and discussed how the issues surrounding organized retail crime and public safety had and continue to impact retailers in their districts.
As the industry navigates yet another season of economic uncertainty, keynote speaker Dr. William B. Conerly provided an update on the economy and how Washington retailers will be impacted by the threat of a recession over the coming months and years.
Although Conerly resisted stating that the U.S. is officially in recession, he did warn that approximately 44% of economists believe the probability of a recession within the next 12 months is likely. The bigger issue is still the U.S. workforce, which Conerly called “the scariest chart he’s done.”
The labor force was one of the biggest issues facing retailers in early 2020, and the pandemic has only heightened workforce challenges. “We’ve had four decades of really strong labor force growth, and look where we are now, about as low as we’ve been since the Civil war,” said Conerly. The state’s population forecast says it’s going to get a little better in the decade between 2030 to 2040, but until we see population growth, labor force challenges will remain one of the most impactful across industry sectors.
The two-day retreat included a campaign update from Paul Graves, President of Enterprise Washington and one of four voting commissioners on Washington’s redistricting commission. Dann Mead Smith, Owner of The Mead Smith Group and Co-founder of Project 42, an advocacy and capacity-building non-profit, presented an overview of the “blueprint,” a method of building a durable infrastructure to change the course of Washington state.