NRF has a history of bringing retailers together, with one voice, in Washington, DC. For the last 103 years, retailers have turned to NRF to advocate for issues that matter to their business. But at its core, effective advocacy is about bringing people who care about their business, and issues that matter to their business, together with lawmakers who make decisions. Anyone can be an advocate in Washington, unite with others to support change, and make their voice heard by policymakers.

Passage of landmark sales tax fairness legislation during our annual fly-in last year is a perfect example. Personal stories from 30 states delivered a powerful message on the need to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar and online retailers, and ultimately had a significant impact that led to congressional action.

This year, we are making one change to reflect the idea that we are all advocates. NRF’s annual fly-in has been known for more than 80 years as the Washington Leadership Conference. Its new name – Retail Advocates Summit – reinforces the original mission and purpose: retailers who are passionate about policies they believe in can come to Washington to be advocates for change. It takes a broad coalition, from retailers large and small, to send a loud and clear message to Washington on the issues that matter to our industry.

Congress makes decisions everyday that directly impact retail. Retail Advocates Summit is your chance to educate elected officials and have a say about the issues affecting your bottom line. Now is the time to make your voice heard. Join us this July on Capitol Hill and be an advocate for retail.

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A few weeks ago, our team moved into a great new office in downtown Washington, D.C. It is said that moving is one of the most stressful experiences you can go through, but for NRF, it’s also been an invigorating and energizing one. Our new home is sleek, modern, bright and open. No detail was overlooked and the end result is an office space with dynamic energy — the same energy that drives our members and the industry we represent.

New NRF and NRF division logos

We started changing from the inside out, first with our offices and then with our big logo reveal. Now all of the NRF divisions, councils and committees are getting a logo facelift to represent their unique and critical role in advancing our mission on behalf of retail. Working together makes us a stronger organization, plain and simple. Starting today, you’re going to start seeing these new logos everywhere.

Why the change? If we’re going to be effective as the voice of retail, we know we need to evolve at the same pace as our members, and there’s not a more vibrant industry sector in the world. The new logo speaks to the pride and commitment we have at NRF for our mission on behalf of retailers across the globe. We ARE “The Voice of Retail,” and the logo leaves no room for doubt that we intend to be bold and strong in our work for the industry and the consumers they serve.

The new website

The update to our office and our logos is just the beginning. All retailers now know that the physical experience and the online experience should be seamless and complementary. So, next month we’ll launch the pièce de résistance: a new NRF.com. No matter what community you’re a part of—Shop.org, ARTS or the Loss Prevention Advisory Council—the new website will give you improved tools for finding the information you need. It will be easier to use, attractive, more functional, informative, mobile-friendly (of course), and even, dare I say, fun to browse. We’re working hard to get this ready for you, and I know you’re truly going to enjoy it.

New home sweet home

Take a look at our photo gallery to check out our new space—and stay tuned for the big reveal of our website.

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With unemployment ticking down and retail employment on the upward climb – retail has grown by more than 600,000 employees since 2010 – it’s time to talk about what comes after talent acquisition: talent retention.

A strengthening economy means that companies have a choice in employees, and employees have choices in companies. A recent global study by LinkedIn showed that – across all industries – compensation and benefits are the top motivators for employed individuals who are not actively on the job hunt to consider taking a new job. This means that even if your employees aren’t browsing the NRF Job Board every day, they could potentially be lured away by a better benefits package or a boost in salary.

According to the same survey, those who are actively seeking a new place to plant their pencil cup would be most interested in better opportunities for advancement, but consider compensation and benefits the next important factor in deciding to leave their current company.

As they say, money isn’t everything, and a lot more than salary goes into an employee’s decision to stay at her current company, look for a new opportunity or accept a job offer. However, understanding how your company’s paystubs stack up against similar companies and positions is invaluable insight for remaining competitive. To help retailers with this, the NRF Foundation partners with Mercer on an industry-exclusive annual benchmarking survey: the U.S. Retail Compensation & Benefits Survey. The end result is a report that provides compensation data for more than 225 specific positions – including everything from a store custodian to a director of e-commerce – with the ability to segment by company size, geographic location and merchandise category.

While the 2013 survey is still available for purchase, participation in the 2014 survey is now open – and we strongly recommend participating if you’re thinking about purchasing the report. Here’s why:

  • Participants can compare their own data directly with market data, getting a true apples-to-apples look.
  • Participants get access to webcasts that highlight key findings, insights and related industry/economic context.
  • Participants get 50% off the already discounted NRF Member price for the results.

The survey database also reports information on retail-specific practices including pay philosophy, commissions, shift differentials, turnover, performance and recognition programs, benefit plans, paid time off, recruiting and retention practices, and employee discounts.

The 2014 survey is in full swing and will be open through April 30. Now is the time to participate and discover how your data compares to others in the industry. Learn more and download a questionnaire to get started, and email with any questions or concerns.

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Men’s fashion is one of the hottest segments in retail today. And in the last few years, men have stepped-up their shopping and taken a greater interest in their appearance, which has helped spur innovation across the industry.

More men are tuned in to the latest fashion and trends. Since 2006, the share of male consumers who say that the newest trends and styles are important to them has nearly doubled. And the brands and labels of clothing are a more important factor for male shoppers than in years past.

Feelings About Fashion

Charts from the NRF Foundation’s Retail Insight Center. To access this data and more research please visit the Retail Insight Center.

As men heighten their interest in the latest style, they increase their spending as well. In 2012, about two-thirds (65 percent) of spending on men’s sportcoats and tailored jackets is attributed to male consumers – up from 61 percent of spending the year prior.

Menswear and online shopping is trending, and it’s no surprise that brands who build their business models off this trend are thriving. Take Indochino for example – the online menswear company uses a tailored (pun-intended) algorithm to ensure the perfect fit for custom suiting. They’ve been so successful that the brand has ventured into the brick-and-mortar space through Traveling Tailor pop-up shops in targeted metro areas.

It’s obvious that this Vancouver-based retailer is at the cutting edge of these trends. Take a behind-the-scenes look to see how Indochino’s approach to custom suits is driving a new era in men’s shopping.

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In the past 12 months, we’ve partnered with more than 40 retail brands to tell a different type of story about retail careers, how brands support the communities they serve and how retailers are driving an innovative shopping experience for their customers. As the campaign manager for this initiative, I’ve had the (amazing) opportunity to experience some pretty cool moments with some of the best and brightest in our industry. Here are my top five:

Generating excitement about retail careers. When we announced the launch of the campaign at last year’s Global Retailing Conference, Xandria Leopold, a retail consumer sciences student at the University of Arizona, shared with the Arizona Daily Star that she was excited about the campaign because, “it makes me proud of retail.”

Retailers at WLC13

Retailers on Capitol Hill during NRF’s 2013 Washington Leadership Conference

Impacting Capitol Hill perceptions of the industry. In May of last year, our annual fly-in offered our members a chance to tell lawmakers what retail meant to them and the results were pretty powerful.

Showcasing retail’s impact on communities. As thousands of retail loss prevention employees gathered for our yearly conference last June, we asked them to share stories of how their companies and teams support the communities they serve. The responses were so overwhelming that NRF even donated $1,000 to support “Strokes for Strokes.”  At the same time, I had the opportunity to talk with Boston Police Department Night Commander William Gross about the immediate assistance area retailers provided in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. His story was awe-inspiring.

Explaining the full impact of policy decisions on Main Street. In October, Congress decided it was time to take a break from work.  Our members were able to use This is Retail to share their thoughts on the real effect the government shutdown had back home. As Andrew Brewer, owner of Onion River Sports in Montpelier, Vt., pointed out, “When you’re far enough removed from real life, from what’s really happening on Main Street America and you’re trying to solve these huge problems, you forget the real effect it has on people.”

Uncovering stories from brands large and small. Take a look behind the scenes at some who have helped reveal some of the more “invisible” jobs in retail – ones those outside the industry might never know existed.   

It’s been an amazing first year. But too many people still believe the myth that retail is low-wage, low-tech, and low-talent. NRF enters year two of This is Retail: Careers, Community and Innovation as committed as ever to fundamentally transforming that misperception of retail. And we want you to join us.

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You’ve probably heard us talking a lot about patent trolls and the need to stop their deceptive practices. But even if your business hasn’t been affected yet, it’s worth your time to pay close attention to an issue that’s impacting retailers of all sizes.

The fact is, patents touch nearly every aspect of retail operations. But patent trolls have built a business on suing retailers for things the troll didn’t invent and the retailer is using legitimately. Here are a few areas where patent trolls have taken Main Street businesses to court:

1)      Wi-Fi. One of the earliest cases involved small businesses who were sued for using patented Wi-Fi routers in their stores.

2)      Payments. BrandsMart Executive Vice President Lary Sinewitz testified before the House Judiciary Committee in November that his business was targeted for using technology that enables debit cards and gift cards to process information from the magnetic stripe on the back of the card.

3)      Smartphone apps. More than 40 online retailers were sued or threatened by a California company that claimed to hold a patent on the technology that enabled them to link to privacy policies posted on their website.

4)      Online shopping cart. A software company accused Newegg and a number of other retailers of infringement of patents on online shopping carts. Thankfully, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Newegg and the U.S. Supreme Court let the ruling stand.

5)      Scan-to-email. Appropriately named “scanner trolls,” a troll company filed claims demanding that small businesses pay $1,000 per worker who attached scanned documents to email. And these lawsuits haven’t gone away.

If you’re like most retailers, you’ve probably realized that your business uses these common technologies. Fortunately, Congress has shown a willingness to protect retailers and other businesses from vague, frivolous patent claims like these. But trolls and their supporters have been very active in this fight, arguing for measures that won’t effectively alleviate the problem

Retailers – and all innovators – need protection through a provision like a “customer stay” that would put a patent troll’s lawsuit against a business owner on hold if there is a pending suit against the manufacturer from whom the business owner got the technology. In order to stop patent trolls in their tracks, you have to contact your Senators today.

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If you read a recent blog post on the Wall Street Journal’s web site – Card Security Costs Outweigh Benefits for Many – you would think retailers are considering whether it would be a better “return on investment” to just continue paying fraud costs rather than switch to new credit and debit cards that banks plan to begin issuing next year. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s rare that a news article is so misleading that it needs more than a simple correction or a letter to the editor to make things right, but this is a case where I’d like to set the record straight.

The fact is that retailers are willing to spend whatever it takes to protect our customers and their card data. If customers don’t trust us with their data they won’t shop with us, so we have a vested interest in doing the right thing.

But in spending the $30 billion-plus it could take to replace every credit card reader in America, retailers have one overriding demand – let’s provide consumers with all of the security that’s available, not just a piece of it. That means cards not just with chips but PINs as well, end-to-end encryption of data and/or use of “tokens” that eliminate the need for retailers to store data at all, and other steps such as using smartphones to improve the security of transactions.

While there are many solutions to explore, the issue grabbing headlines at the moment is that banks want to issue new cards that would replace the easy-to-copy magnetic stripe currently used to hold data with an encrypted, embedded microchip that is next to impossible to counterfeit.

There’s no argument that chip cards are more secure than magnetic stripe cards. In fact, they are used in more than 80 countries around the world, and have reduced fraud in the United Kingdom alone by 75 percent, according to one study.

But the cards in those countries all have something in common that would not necessarily be the case here in the United States – the use of a chip is combined with mandatory use of a Personal Identification Number.

While the chip authenticates that the card is legitimate, the PIN replaces easy-to-forge signatures in authenticating that the person using the card is the legitimate cardholder. Unlike an illegible scrawl the means nothing, the PIN is a secret number known only to the cardholder and the bank and makes it impossible to use a fraudulent card even if a criminal manages to get around the security of the chip. If the chip protects the bank, the PIN protects the consumer.

The cards planned here would use the same Europay MasterCard Visa system used around the world. But instead of requiring a PIN to be used, PIN use would be left up to the banks issuing the cards. Despite an October 2015 target for the switchover, only one major bank – J.P. Morgan Chase – has announced plans for PIN cards here.

Why would the card industry not offer U.S. consumers the same security they offer consumers in the rest of the world?

According to papers recently unsealed from a 1997 lawsuit retailers brought against card company practices, Visa acknowledged at a 1990 meeting that PIN is safer than signatures. The papers show that Visa executives rated PIN as the “safest product” for both consumers and banks with “less fraud” and praised it as “consumer friendly” and easy to use. The same executives praised signature cards for their “proven profitability,” citing fees collected both from merchants and consumers.

In the fight between “safest product” and “proven profitability,” it might not be surprising which bankers would consider most important.

The irony is that using PINs rather than signatures would block a substantial amount of fraud even if banks stuck with magnetic stripes and chip cards were never issued. And more than twice as many merchants have PIN pads as have chip card readers (even though stores are installing chip equipment every day). Retailers aren’t saying they don’t want chip, but PIN is something that could have been done a generation ago. And given the pressure to do something quickly, it’s a goal that could be reached much more quickly than chip.

Many have asked whether retailers will meet the October 2015 deadline as if the date had been mutually agreed upon or was somehow officially sanctioned. In fact, it is a deadline imposed unilaterally by the card industry and, in any case, there’s no point in retailers installing new card equipment until banks have issued new cards. And if the banks don’t issue cards that provide sufficient security – meaning both chip and PIN – some retailers might consider whether there are more efficient ways to safeguard their customers.

Are retailers concerned about return on investment when it comes to replacing current card equipment with new equipment? We absolutely are. But the question isn’t whether to continue with the status quo. The ROI we’re looking for is the maximum protection that can be provided to our customers. To retailers, “safest product” is a far more valuable return than “proven profitability.”

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Humorist Garrison Keillor once wrote, “I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.” For some reason, a number of politicians in Washington have taken this to heart and have decided this is the best way to govern.

It’s the only way to explain why those same politicians consistently try to redefine the reality of what American consumers are most concerned about, denying those consumers the clarity they seek for a financially secure future.

Recently, Prosper Insights and Analytics surveyed 6,387 adults, asking “What are the three most important issues that you think Congress should focus on in 2014?” Topping the list was the U.S. economy (52 percent), followed closely by job creation/unemployment (47 percent), and finally the federal budget/debt (40 percent). That’s the reality.

But our elected officials are looking that simple reality straight in the eye, and denying it. Time and time again, we are told that Americans are more concerned about raising the minimum wage. In fact, only 23 percent of those polled put that issue in their top three, with healthcare (39 percent) and tax reform (24 percent) as greater priorities. Immigration? 20 percent. Renewable energy sources? 16 percent. View complete survey here.

Three Issues Congress Should Focus On In 2014

Charts from the NRF Foundation’s Retail Insight Center. To access this data and more research please visit the Retail Insight Center.

On minimum wage, even those polled who are making an annual salary of $50,000 or less ranked the issue fifth in their list of priorities (28 percent). Job creation/unemployment was their primary concern (50 percent), followed by the economy (50 percent) and healthcare (40 percent).

It should come as no surprise that a Gallup poll recently found that just 19 percent of Americans rate current U.S. economic conditions as excellent or good while 34 percent say they are poor. Gallup found that 44 percent say the economy is getting better, while 51 percent say it is getting worse.

If you went to a physician suffering chest pain and shortness of breath, you certainly wouldn’t want the doctor spending more time focusing on cosmetic issues such as hair loss and acne. It’s time for our politicians to stop denying reality and start confronting the real issues that will bring the American consumer the relief they seek in order to build a brighter, more secure future for themselves and their children.

It’s not just a desire; it’s a startling clear, simple and undeniable reality.

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Web_Graphic_Blog_IconThe challenges facing today’s retail loss prevention teams are increasingly complex and serious, from cyber security to active shooter to workforce training, compliance issues and – unfortunately – even armed gunmen inside stores or shopping malls. And with NRF’s annual Loss Prevention Conference and EXPO coming up in June, we wanted to know what’s top of mind for retail LP professionals.

We asked a few of our LP Advisory Council members to weigh in on what their top priorities are for 2014. Three different retailers, three different answers. But in our unofficial small survey, we found one common theme — people.

Roundtable of retail loss prevention professionals at the 2013 Loss Prevention Conference & EXPO.

Steve Ippolito, director of loss prevention, Talbots

Our top priority is two-fold. Reducing shrink is always a priority, but the No. 1 priority in our company is always the safety of our associates and customers, so we’re focusing efforts on making sure all of our LP programs address how to keep people safe in the world we live in today. We’ve put a complete policy in place about how to handle what we call an “active incident,” not just an active shooter, and that will continue to evolve this year.

Joan Manson, vice president of loss prevention, payroll, benefits and legal, The Container Store

It’s hard to state just one, but among our top priorities is ongoing employee education and awareness given our employees’ integral role in helping us meet all of our loss prevention goals. We’re updating our employee training program to support our stores and ensure they have the tools they need to assist us in preventing losses. Part of that is developing additional exception reports for our store management teams. This will help increase awareness for store managers and ensure they’re well-trained on point of sale and our ongoing compliance efforts. We also want to continue to invest in our new and existing stores to ensure they have the very best digital recording technology.

Charles Delgado, vice president of asset protection, Meijer

As we move through 2014, we’re squarely focused on reducing shrink and increasing profitability. Shrink, whether operational or transactional, undermines sales, so creating a formidable culture of shrink awareness is a top priority.We’ll do this by leveraging technology, along with training and development. Internet protocol video, enhanced analytics and exception-based reporting will quickly identify patterns of loss and enable our team to target problematic activity efficientl­­­y. Training and development will fuel our team for current and future productivity to support the organization and address the fluid patterns and trends of theft, fraud and overall shrink.

How do your team’s priorities compare to this sampling? We’d love to hear what your goals are for 2014, so we’re continuing the conversation in our Retail Loss Prevention Professionals Group on LinkedIn. Log in to join the conversation and connect with some of your retail LP peers before the conference, June 11-13 in Fort Lauderdale.

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Since hearing Pat Ogawa speak at Shop.org’s Annual Summit last year, I’ve been following innovation at Nordstrom quite closely. It’s been refreshing to see the historic brand, known for its in-store customer experience, thrive both online and off while bringing digital to the physical store experience (I’m sure you remember the coverage of their Pinterest initiative). And while it may be a top buzzword this year, innovation – beyond making Nordstrom a compelling place to shop – also makes it an exciting place to work. From the introduction of an Innovation Lab and Customer Experience Center to a full-blown tech talent recruitment plan, it’s clear that the Nordstrom leadership team recognizes that great ideas come from all types of employees in any area of the company – and value their contributions on how the brand can continually improve the customer experience.

Fanya Chandler_Nordstrom1

Nordstrom Vice President of Customer Experience Fanya Chandler

In conjunction with the release of our This is Retail behind-the-scenes look at Nordstrom’s Customer Experience Center, we asked Fanya Chandler, vice president of customer experience, a few questions about what she’s learned from recent initiatives, what success looks like as they try new concepts, and what her team will be dreaming up next.

Tell us about your career in retail. How did you clinch the title of Nordstrom’s customer experience guru?

I wouldn’t call myself a guru. I would call myself fortunate to have spent the last 22 years in roles — from selling to managing stores to supporting our Personal Stylist program – that allowed me to be close to our customers and reinforce the importance of staying connected to how they define service.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about customer preferences and behavior through your time at the Customer Experience Center?

More important than any surprises is the invaluable feedback we get when we bring our customers and salespeople through the CEC. Every time they weigh in on a new concept, it reminds us how much customers expect to be able to shop on their own terms, and how differently each of them defines service.

As you bring these concepts to market, what does success look like?

Happy customers who tell their friends about Nordstrom and return to shop with us!

Can you give us a sneak peek into what your team is dreaming up next?

We’re fascinated by how active wear has gone beyond simply being a product to being a lifestyle. We want to provide an active wear shopping environment that speaks to customers on a whole new level.

Why do you think that innovative ideas brought to fruition at Nordstrom are particularly successful?

Experience is the driver of whether or not an idea is successful, because an experience is really a feeling. We want that feeling to be good; and if the feeling is bad, we want to fix it. The whole point of innovation and the CEC is testing the experience we’re creating and learning about the feeling it inspires.

In three words, describe the perfect Nordstrom customer experience.

The perfect experience makes the customer:

…feel great

…feel smart

…feel like coming back!

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