RILA adds DC influencers to champion retail cause
With the retail industry continuing to face abundant legislative challenges, the Retail Industry Leaders Association has made two key hires to bolster lobbying efforts during what promises to be a year of highly contentious presidential politics.
Legislative matters related to taxes and financial services are two areas (see others below) where the retail industry faces enormous challenges which is why the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) hired two top lobbyists with deep experience in both areas. The trade group named Austen Jensen VP for government affairs and Dave Koenig as VP of tax, effective Jan. 4.
“Dave and Austen are well-versed in many of the retail industry’s top issues and each has a proven record of developing and implementing effective legislative strategies,” said Jennifer Safavian, RILA’s executive VP for government affairs. “Their robust knowledge of Capitol Hill will be of great value to our members and add to the great team already in place.”
Jensen will manage RILA’s financial services portfolio, including leading efforts to promote transparency, innovation, and competition as it pertains to financial practices in the retail industry. He most recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) who serves as vice chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Prior to joining Congressman McHenry’s office, Jensen served as legislative director for Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) and later Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) both of whom also serve on the Financial Services Committee.
“Austen (Jensen) served as a trusted advisor to me for much of his ten years on Capitol Hill,” McHenrey said. “He has a deep knowledge of the financial services sector and numerous other key policy issues facing Congress. While I will miss his counsel, I know he will be a great advocate on behalf of RILA and their members.”
Joining RILA from the National Restaurant Association is Dave Koenig who will serve as vp for tax to lead RILA’s tax policy issues. It is a key role because one of the retail industry’s top priorities is comprehensive tax reform that broadens the base, lowers the rate, simplifies the tax code, and treats all industries equally. That is a lofty objective, but Koenig is well verses in tax matters. He joins RILA from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), where he served as VP of tax and profitability for the past six years. While there, Koenig advocated for top legislative issues affecting the restaurant industry, including tax, interchange fee reform, access to capital, and data security. Prior to NRA, Koenig was tax policy director for the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), leading the group’s efforts on federal tax legislation and regulatory issues. Koenig is a former tax senior attorney for Texaco, Inc. as well as former tax counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the accounting firm Ernst & Whinney.
In addition to the areas of taxes and financial services, RILA’s other areas of legislative emphasis include; cybersecurity and data privacy, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, improved payments security, the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement and overturning the National Labor Relation’s Board’s rule regarding what are known as “ambush elections.”
Study: Holiday shoppers have return preferences
Retailers seeking to make the holiday return process as pleasant as possible need to offer a few specific features.
According to a new post-holiday study of 500 adult U.S. consumers from location-based mobile platform provider Retale, 24% of those surveyed stated that they are likely to return or exchange at least one of the presents that they received this holiday season.
Among all survey participants, the overwhelming majority (64%) prefer to return or exchange gifts in-store, while only 12% prefer to do so online. Another 24% of those surveyed had no specific venue preference.
This year’s numbers were slightly more favorable for online when compared to Retale’s holiday returns and exchanges survey from 2015, when 70% preferred in-store compared to 9% online and 21% had no preference. Still, in-store returns and exchanges were more than five times more preferred than online due to perceived convenience.
When asked to rate convenience for both in-store and online returns and exchanges, in-store was the clear frontrunner, with 75% rating the experience as convenient and 25% inconvenient. The online return and exchange experience was viewed less favorably, with 54% calling it convenient compared to 45% inconvenient.
When asked to identify the biggest challenges in returning or exchanging gifts received this holiday season, regardless of venue, the top-four were: “keeping track of any receipts” (32%); “shipping and handling” (30%); “confusing return policies” (19%); and “any required, additional costs” (17%).
Among survey respondents, the most important aspect when reviewing a retailer’s return and exchange policy prior to making a purchase is a “full refund in the original form of payment” (30%). It was followed by “return shipping is free or covered” (26%); “no receipt necessary” (19%); “no time limit on exchanges or returns” (16%); “no tags or original packaging necessary” (6%); and “returns can be done via mail” (4%).
The most likely item to be returned or exchanged was jewelry, with 32%. It was followed by electronics (29%); gift cards (27%); clothes and apparel (26%); and home décor and home improvement items (23%).
SPS adds to omnichannel toolbox with acquisition
SPS Commerce Inc., a provider of cloud-based retail supply chain management solutions, is recognizing the need for back-end unification of supply chain and store.
SPS has acquired ToolBox Solutions, a Toronto-based provider of POS analytics and category management services to retailers and CPG suppliers in North America.
“In the omnichannel era, retailers and suppliers need rich insights into consumers' purchase behavior, both in store and online,” said Archie Black, CEO of SPS Commerce. “Enabling collaboration and visibility between trading partners around consumer demand trends and inventory is essential in order to drive growth. With the acquisition of ToolBox Solutions, we expand our expertise in POS analytics for both retailers and suppliers. "
Retailers and suppliers can no longer afford to operate siloed supply chains. Connected consumers now expect to be able to easily pull desired items, regardless of where they are located in the back end. By obtaining the capabilities of ToolBox, SPS is making itself a more valuable and complete solution for the omnichannel supply chain.
ToolBox Solutions employees will continue to be based in Toronto. Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, SPS Commerce acquired all of the shares of ToolBox Solutions for approximately $18.4 million in cash and $4.5 million in stock, which represents approximately 65,000 shares. This amount includes $1.1 million of stock that is subject to an earn-out and has not yet been issued.