Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Washington Retail Report

Posted

POLICY

Health data privacy bill advances 

House Bill 1155, the health data privacy act, prime sponsored by Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-48-Bellevue), passed the House of Representatives last Saturday after 23 attempts to amend the legislation. Four amendments were adopted before it passed on a largely party-line vote of 57 to 39 with two excused. The measure was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee for consideration.

Washington Retail has significant concerns about how retailers will comply with the bill and the legal liability it creates for them. As currently written, WR members are concerned the definition of “consumer health data” would include many consumer products and services beyond the legislation’s intended scope. For example, these could consist of vitamins, over-the-counter skincare or hair products, athletic or sports equipment, footwear, and apparel, perfumes and fragrances, electronics and entertainment equipment, and games, toys, groceries, cleaning and household supplies, recreational cannabis, pets, pet food, pet supplies, first aid supplies, cold remedies, and pain relievers to name a few.

WR supports consumers having access to and control of their personal data. However, as currently written, this bill will be difficult, if not impossible, for retailers to know what is covered and what is not – leaving them exposed to unwarranted lawsuits and legal actions.

WR appreciates proponents of the legislation meeting with us and considering clarifying edits that will make it easier for retailers to comply with the legislation while still allowing us to provide the high level of service consumers demand and have come to expect.

Ergonomics and warehouse bills continue moving forward

SB 5217, which repeals the voter-approved initiative to prohibit promulgating ergonomics (e.g., musculoskeletal injuries) rules, passed the Senate this week along partisan lines. The bill authorizes Labor and Industries to adopt only one rule per year for an industry with ergonomic claim rates of more than twice the state average for such injuries. Significantly, the Senate adopted several amendments on the floor to (1) delay implementation for three years, (2) clarify that industry sub-classes that do not meet the injury thresholds are not subject to new rules, and (3) increase technical assistance staffing suggested by WR. The bill also encourages Labor and Industries to refrain from rule-making if an industry’s claim rate is declining, even if its ergonomic claim rate is more than twice the state’s average. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

HB 1762 requires warehouse employers to provide written descriptions of quotas and work speed data, allows for sufficient time for breaks and other activities, prohibits retaliation against employees and former employees, authorizes enforcement by L&I, and provides for a private right of action. The bill passed the House on a 53-42 vote this week. WR and a large coalition of business groups will continue working in the Senate toward a bill focused on transparency instead of enforcement and litigation. 

ECONOMY

Preventing Vehicular Smash-n-grabs

News reports in recent weeks have shed light on a staggering frequency of vehicular smash and grabs. In most cases, stolen cars are driven through a retail business’ storefront doors, giving thieves access to the store’s goods. Repair costs are often in the tens of thousands of dollars, while the stolen merchandise amounts to only a fraction of that in value.

The destruction of retail storefronts is met with a six to eight-week wait time for building materials necessary for repairs, adding to the frustration of business owners.

Property crimes reached a five-year high last year, according to a presentation by the Olympia Police to the Community Livability and Public Safety Committee late last month. One of the biggest jumps was in stolen vehicles. Police received 364 reports of motor vehicle theft in 2022. That’s more than a 40% increase over the city’s five-year average of 260 auto thefts in Olympia.

The problem runs statewide. According to the Auto Theft Task Force of Puget Sound—part of the Washington State Patrol—car thefts statewide from January through November last year were 41,330. That number is for the first 11 months. In total, vehicle thefts increased by 88 percent from 2021 to 2022.

Stolen vehicles are a much more substantial “tool” to gain access to a retail business than bolt cutters or a hammer. The good news is business owners have preventative options.

As outlined in the Guide to Navigating Public Safety & Retail Crime, a free resource WR offers, bollards can prevent vehicles from ramming into buildings. Even if a city doesn’t approve bollard installations, removable barriers, such as rock-filled gabion wire cages, can support a planter or bench seat while effectively stopping a moving vehicle.

TRENDS

Small-footprint brick and mortar spaces catching on

Big retailers are sprouting small retail shops with a fraction of their typical footprint.

A recent report published by Placer.ai highlights the numerous benefits that small-format stores offer businesses. By opting for smaller store sizes, retailers can cater to specific demographics, curate personalized shopping experiences, and test out new brand directions. This trend has gained traction among companies striving to improve their customer experience.

A smaller format store with the right mix of in-store products can often mean more efficient sales strategies. Even with the smaller footprint, stores can bring brand awareness to neighborhoods and customer convenience by buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS) with a personalized in-person shopping experience.

Placer’s report outlines four key takeaways:

  • Smaller stores can increase visitor density, enabling greater efficiency in areas where large format stores don’t fit or are cost-prohibitive.
  • Retailers can use smaller stores to cater to key demographic segments.
  • Small-format stores can offer more experiential retail possibilities by focusing on specific audiences.

Companies can draw on smaller stores to double down on convenience. Several big retailers now operating small-format stores including Target, Walmart, Macy’s, and The Container Store.

SAFETY

Safety inspection rate for retailers remains at 7 times national average

According to the OSHA Inspection Tracker, Washington State retailers continued to be subjected to safety inspections—at eight times the national average—in 2022. WR reported the same high ratio differential one year ago.

The best way for businesses to prepare for L&I safety inspections is to enroll in WR’s free Safety Ambassador Program. This program gives participants winning strategies to lower workers’ compensation premiums and processes to develop quality safety practices throughout the organization.

To get started, download  the checklist online of items to address in preparation for an inspection. Businesses can receive additional information and help to attain L&I compliance with proven safety practices by emailing safety@waretailservices.com. Employees are invaluable to every business, and WR is here to help keep them safe.

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