Retail Register No. 362 , March 2016

IN THIS ISSUE

ILLINOIS TELEHEALTH EVENT
EXCLUSIVE MEMBER DISCOUNT ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
CHICAGO’S PLASTIC BAG BAN
RETAIL REGISTER GOES DIGITAL
LEGISLATIVE SESSION KICKS OFF
BUSINESS DAY 2016
CHICAGO’S TOBACCO TAX
RETAILERS’ SHARE OF A DOLLAR

Illinois Telehealth Event Series

Employers are increasingly offering employees access to care via telehealth technologies as a strategy to improve employee health, performance and decrease costs.  Employers who plan to, or currently offer employees access to telehealth services need to be aware of: (1) the potential legal issues implicated by the offering of these services as part of an employer sponsored health plan, wellness program, or employee assistance program; and, (2) the various legal and regulatory requirements that govern telemedicine providers (which is necessary to enable an employer to make an informed decision about the telemedicine provider with whom they choose to partner).

The Illinois Telehealth Initiative invites you to the inaugural Illinois Telehealth Law Forum-a three-part series examining the telehealth landscape in Illinois and the broader Midwest. Each of the three forums will provide excellent educational and networking opportunities for anyone interested or engaged in telehealth. The first forum-to be held on April 6, 2016-will include interactive panel discussions on the current legal and regulatory environment, reimbursement trends and opportunities, as well as telemedicine delivery and business models with particular attention paid to the concerns of the healthcare provider community. The second and third forums will build on these prior discussions and will address other emerging topics with enhanced focus on the perspectives of public and private payers, along with telehealth entrepreneurs and service providers.

For more information on the event, or to register, please visit

www.broadbandillinois.org/forums.

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Exclusive Member Discount on Unemployment Insurance Services

In 2015, the Joint Employers, a coalition of employer representatives led by IRMA, succeeded in obtaining significant changes to Illinois’ Unemployment Insurance Act on behalf of employers. These reforms should save Illinois employers millions of dollars in unemployment insurance taxes and offset any increase that may be felt as a result of the elimination of the social security offset. On March 9, IRMA hosted a free webinar to educate IRMA members on the misconduct changes, led by Carol Gabrielsen of Unemployment Insurance Consultants, Inc. Because of the tremendous positive feedback on Carol’s webinar presentation, IRMA has decided to continue partnering with Unemployment Consultants, Inc. to offer IRMA members additional support. All IRMA members will receive 10% off Unemployment Consultants, Inc. services. For additional information on services provided, please contact Carol directly at 847-670-0590 or visit www.unemploymentconsultantsinc.com.

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Seven Month Review of Chicago’s Plastic Bag Ban

To put it lightly, Chicago’s “ban” on plastic bags is a disaster.  Sold as a ban on all plastic bags, the ordinance banned thin plastic bags which led to the proliferation of bags that use more energy to produce and contain more plastic.  To add insult to injury, the ban imposed increased costs to retailers and increased the use of paper bags which, again, use more energy to produce and are harder on the environment.  This is a confounding, but predictable result of misguided rules.  In advance of the next round of this “ban” which goes into effect on August 1, 2016, for certain retailers smaller than 10,000 sq. ft., it’s time for Chicago to promote thoughtful policies that change behavior and protect businesses in the process.

Over 100 cities in California and Washington, D.C. have implemented single-use bag fees and there is evidence the laws have been successful in changing consumer behavior.  The cities of San Jose, Palo Alto and San Francisco, as well as Washington, D.C., have all noted decreased single-bag use and increased numbers of people bringing their own bags.

We also know that when plastic bags are banned, customers just move to the next least expensive option, which is usually a free paper bag.  That is what happened in San Francisco, which originally passed a plastic bag ban to encourage residents to use their own bags, and instead, they found customers increased their use of free paper bags and reusable bag use stagnated.  The city implemented a $.10 fee on all single-use bags in 2012 and have since seen a drop in the use of single-use bags and an increase in residents either not taking a bag at all, or using reusable bags.  Because the data proves that mandated fees change consumer behavior, Chicago should consider this option.

We can all agree the current “ban” on plastic bags isn’t serving the environment well, has driven up costs for retailers, and has customers scratching their heads as they carry their groceries home in thicker plastic bags.  Chicago’s elected officials should repeal the current law and replace it with a common sense environmental policy that encourages customers to change their behavior, relieves the financial burden on the retail community, and actually does some good for the environment.

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The Retail Register  Goes Digital

Beginning with the next issue in June, the Retail Register will only be distributed via email. We hope you will find this method of distribution to be more convenient and valuable. IRMA will continue to publish the Retail Register four times throughout the year. This members-only publication will continue to focus on retail trends, hot topics, and upcoming events.

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2016 Legislative Session Kicks off in Springfield 

slide_flag32016 is shaping up to be a year filled with uncertainty – at least in Illinois. Not only does an election for US President, US Senate and Congress, 118 Illinois House seats, and 2/3rds of the Illinois Senate loom in November, but a continuing budget impasse has Springfield in gridlock, the City of Chicago is in financial disarray and looking to shift even more costs to employers, and a potential strike looms for Chicago Public Schools – the largest public school system in the state. This puts several retail issues in the spotlight, including, but not limited to, vendor collection allowances, employer mandates, egg lot consolidation and the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.

Vendor Collection Allowances

Due to the budget impasse, lawmakers are looking for new revenue streams. Legislation has been filed seeking to impose over $2 billion in tax increases, primarily on Illinois employers, which includes reducing the vendor collection allowance. This allowance is supposed to serve as a reimbursement for the expenses incurred from the collection of sales tax on behalf of the state and local government. As IRMA has repeatedly demonstrated, Illinois retailers significantly underwrite the collection of taxes on behalf of state and local governments and the current vendor allowance covers less than half of that cost. IRMA is working to protect the partial reimbursement retailers receive through this allowance.

Employer Mandates

Labor policy mandates continue to be a hot topic in state government and in the City of Chicago. Several states have passed a patchwork of employer mandates that include minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinances. Illinois has not been immune to this wave of mandates as the City of Chicago recently passed a minimum wage ordinance and created a Working Family Working Group to provide suggestions to the mayor regarding paid leave. Additionally, proponents are advocating for a statewide minimum wage law and additional paid leave mandates. IRMA understands these policies will hurt employers of all sizes and negatively impact job growth throughout Illinois.

Egg Lot Consolidation

IRMA is championing an initiative to modernize Illinois’ egg laws, which would include extending the current 30 day sell/use date for eggs to 45 days. Sponsored by State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D IL-57), HB 6287 also calls for an egg consolidation program that will allow retailers to remove a damaged egg from a carton and replace it with an egg from the same brand that is inspected, graded, sized and dated at the same time within the same lot, rather than throw away the whole carton as currently required under Illinois law. Egg lot consolidation is used in 41 states and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and significantly reduces waste. SB 3167, introduced by State Senator John Mulroe (D IL-10), is the companion bill in the Senate.

Tax on Feminine Hygiene Products

Following a similar precedent set by a sales tax-exemption on prescription medicines, SB 2746, introduced by State Senator Melinda Bush (D IL-31), would establish a similar sales tax-exemption status on all feminine hygiene products, incontinence products and infant diapers. IRMA is taking a neutral position on this issue so long as legislation does not create a different rate for these products. Similar proposals (targeted solely to feminine hygiene products) have been introduced in the City of Chicago and Cook County despite the fact that under state law local taxing jurisdictions do not have the authority to change the state’s base or rate designations.

IRMA will continue to take an active role advocating for retailers throughout the state as the legislative session moves forward.

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Please Join Us for Business Day 2016

Business Day 2016’s opening luncheon, starting at noon on May 11th, will feature keynote speaker Amy Walter, one of the best known political journalists and national editor of the Cook Political Report.

Following the luncheon, please plan on joining employers from across the state in visiting the Illinois State Capitol to meet with policymakers.  This year’s Party Under the Tent will begin at 5:00 p.m. near the IRMA office and will feature a Grateful Dead cover band.

For additional information, or to register for the event, please visit complete the online form or call 312-726-4600. Last year over 400 employers attended. We hope to see you there!

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Chicago’s Tax on Tobacco Drives Out Businesses & Hurts Retailers 

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), through its subsidiary the Chicago Retail Merchants Association (CRMA), joined retailers and community leaders to oppose the City of Chicago’s unprecedented attempts to set minimum prices on tobacco products and mandate packaging mandates. Paired with additional taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco, this mandate will raise $6 million in additional tax revenue for the city and will be the latest hit to Chicago retailers during a time when they are already under persistent assault from additional taxes and product restrictions imposed by the city.

The business community in Chicago has been burdened with a number of tax increases and new regulations over the past two years. At the start of 2016, Cook County had the highest sales tax in the country and the City of Chicago instituted a record setting property tax increase. This tobacco tax is just the latest instance of businesses being unfairly targeted. The burden these policies have on retailers, their employees, and their consumers all too often have resulted in businesses leaving the city, especially those near the suburban and Indiana borders.

Last month, IRMA took a stand against this unprecedented overreach into the free market.  During a press conference at City Hall, IRMA was joined by retailers, aldermen and pastors from Chicago’s neighborhoods who understand this tax policy carries enormous consequences including fewer jobs, more crime, and a further lack of opportunity in neighborhoods where it’s desperately needed.

IRMA is dedicated to keeping retail jobs and sales in Illinois. Frustrated aldermen have seen consumers increasingly stream into Indiana and the suburbs because of Chicago’s significant tax and regulatory structure. When consumers buy tobacco products in Indiana, Chicago’s businesses lose out on the associated sale of beverages, snacks and other items. Ultimately, losing customer purchasing power results in fewer stores and fewer jobs.

Chicago cannot afford to continue to push through taxes and regulations that will hurt retailers and the neighborhoods they serve. IRMA will continue to fight to protect the investment employers and their employees have made in the city.

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Retailers’ Share of a Dollar

http://retailers2cents.com/ For every $1 spent in an Illinois retail establishment, only about $.02 results in profit, holding true for grocery stores and gas stations, to pharmacies and hardware stores. For Illinois retailers, that $.02 profit margin seems to be regularly under assault – it gets stretched, and then stretched some more with the passing of each additional cost mandate in Springfield and the City of Chicago.

Since retail owners only keep a small portion of the revenue they earn, where does the additional $.98 go?

  • Operating costs (taxes, fees, utilities, insurances, maintenance, advertising and other expenses)
  • Labor (salary, benefits, payroll taxes, pension payments)
  • Cost of goods (inventory)

“Of every dollar spent in retail, the vast majority of that is used by the retailer who must pay their employees, local taxes, state taxes, insurance and utilities to name a few common expenses,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of IRMA. “The couple cents left is what they are using to support their families and re-invest in their businesses.”

Retailers in Illinois know all too well the heavy costs of doing business.

The real cost of doing business in Illinois is riddled with mandates that continue to add up for retailers. Individually, issue-specific advocates look at each issue singularly-increase in minimum wage, tobacco tax, state sales tax, motor fuel tax, workers’ compensation, paid leave, etc.-but for the Illinois retailer who is responsible for paying for all of these items collectively, it’s hard to thrive and survive in this environment.

IRMA is fighting the same battles before the Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board.

Chicago has the nation’s highest tobacco taxes and sales tax and significant property taxes with employers bearing the vast majority of the property tax burden. Retailers are too often reporting it’s hard to run a profitable business in the city under a mountain of artificially imposed taxes and ill-conceived regulations.

In 2016, you will see IRMA generating more public and policymaker awareness around the real cost of doing business in Illinois. Watch for updates in future communications as IRMA champions the “Dollar Bill” project statewide.

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Congratulations Aldi, Inc.

We are constantly evolving. As a retailer, it is important to stay current.  We can’t be stale.

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ALDI has been operating in the United States for nearly 40 years and has been a retailer in Illinois for more than 30 years. Headquartered in Batavia, Illinois, new Divisions opened up in Denton, Texas, in 2010, Jefferson, Georgia, in 2011 and Royal Palm Beach, Florida, in 2015. Future plans for growth include expanding its presence in existing markets and entering new markets such as Southern California.

Currently, there are 200 stores in Illinois and more than 1,400 in the U.S.

 For its innovation in the industry, generosity to the communities it serves and its dedication to its employees and customers, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association is honored to name ALDI Inc. the 2015 Illinois Retailer of the Year.

Illinois is currently home to 200 ALDI locations, employing more than 3,000 of its residents. While ALDI was historically considered a discount grocery store, its target Aldimarket today has greatly expanded. “We attract smart shoppers who trust ALDI to consistently provide great quality products at everyday low prices,” explained Heather Moore, vice president of ALDI Dwight Division in Illinois. “Our market is anyone who needs groceries. We have high-quality products and fun seasonal items. Who wouldn’t want that for up to 50* percent less?”

The ALDI philosophy is based on a unique business model that enables the store to provide high-quality products at the lowest possible prices.  This  value  stems  from  the numerous efficiencies and innovations that have been instituted at every level of the operation. Each store offers shoppers the most commonly purchased grocery and household products in a smaller, more manageable shopping environment.

However, efficient operations and low-cost items are not what make ALDI so extraordinary; it is the quality, inventive alterations and improvements they have made to the conventional grocery business model.

 *Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores.

 ‘ALDI is honored to receive this award.  We have been proud to partner with IRMA, and its subsidiary, CRMA, on the important issues retailrs face in the state and the City of Chicago.  They are proactive in reaching out to its members for input and keep open lines of communication.

ALDI Inc.

simply smarter shopping pageMore than 90 percent of the products stocked throughout the store are ALDI exclusive brands. This private label approach is achieved when a product is aldi fruitmanufactured or packaged for sale under the name of the retailer rather than that of the manufacturer. ALDI maintains high quality products through continual in-house taste testing at its Test Kitchen in Batavia, Illinois. Product sampling takes place every day, with each specific product tested a minimum of twice a year. If a product does not meet the rigorous sampling and testing against national brands, ALDI asks the supplier to improve the product. Quality is ensured to be the same, or higher, than national brands. Each ALDI food product is backed   by   the   Double  Guarantee,     which

replaces the product and refunds the customer’s money if they are not 100 percent satisfied. The exclusive brand approach means consumers pay less for high-quality products because of the concentrated buying power and savings from other operational efficiencies.

Employees: Most Valuable Asset

ALDI gives community members the opportunity to get more when they shop at ALDI, and its employees the opportunity to be more when they work at ALDI.

aldi manager
Galesburg Store Manager, Dave Milligan,
organizing the fresh produce section

The company expresses a true belief that its store employees are the face of the ALDI shopping experience and its most valuable asset. The hard work of each staff member makes it possible to uphold the company philosophy.

Employees work at ALDI because of its commitment to career development, promoting a cooperative work environment  and   providing  an   excellent benefitspackage.  ALDI has a strong track record of paying its employees market-leading wages and benefits well above minimum wage requirements. In fact, ALDI offers its employees generous compensation and rewards employees with frequent salary increases commensurate with time of service, which is one way the company recruits and retains the best and brightest talent.

 Heather Moore began her career with ALDI 20 years ago as a District Manager. Heather was promoted to Director of Purchasing in 2007 before accepting her current position as Vice President of the Dwight Division in Illinois. “I’m here because of the employees. The people at ALDI are so committed to its team members and customers.”

Dave Milligan, the ALDI store manager in Galesburg, has been an employee with ALDI for 29 years. “The benefits are unbelievable,” Dave answered when asked why he has been with ALDI so long, “It’s like a family here. Everyone jumps in and does what they need to do to get the job done.” Dave said that no two days are the same and added, “I like seeing community members come into the store and get excited about a new product they found.”

Every ALDI store has a dynamic, responsive and dedicated team with a leader, just like Dave, who personifies these same qualities. The company’s management structure is designed to create a cooperative atmosphere where employees learn together and from each other.

Eliminating the Need to Decide Between Saving Money and Eating Healthy

Smart shoppers have found that switching from national brands to ALDI exclusive brands can save them up to 50 percent* on the most commonly purchased grocery items.

These savings empower residents throughout Illinois to provide their families with healthy food items without exceeding their budget. Over the past several years, ALDI has enhanced its product offerings to provide customers with even more options they can feel good about.

  • SimplyNature: Free from more than 125 ingredients, and also includes several organic and non-GMO items.

  • liveGfree:A line of gluten-free food items ranging from fresh bread and cereal to pasta and cake mix.

  • Fresh Produce: ALDI has increased its fresh produce offerings and currently caries a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, including some organic options.

    School-Lunches4
    Infographic on the ALDI blog that encourages healthy eating at school.
    Source: Simply Smarter Living blog

In addition to offering a variety of health-conscious products and educating shoppers about nutrition information on the front of product packages, ALDI has created the ALDI Advisory Council.

The council is comprised of five registered dietitians who specialize in family nutrition, sports performance and promoting a positive body image. Together, council members select dozens of ALDI products based on their nutritional profile to help guide shoppers in their purchasing decisions. This information, along with many other seasonal recipes, must-have ingredients and more, are featured on the Simply Smarter Living blog.

The Simply Smarter Living blog, along with its social media channels and highly interactive website, extends the ALDI experience to computers, tablets and phones – just another example of innovation to adapt to emerging technology and trends.

These sites not only engage consumers through technology but connectonarelatable, seasonal level aswell. Featuring everything from gluten-free game day recipes to ideas for healthy lunches, as depicted in the image on the right, consumers can navigate their way through tips to save money and find fun food ideas.

Shoppers are also able to find ways to not only eat healthy but eat within their dietary restrictions. One Simply Smarter Living blog follower wrote,

“My adult son has celiac disease… I was thrilled when you brought in a line of gluten-free products. I make dinner for him and his wife once a week and keep a supply of these products on-hand. They buy them for their home also. Your prices are way more reasonable than others!”

The ALDI exclusive liveGfree product line caters to the needs of today’s families, offering quick and easy gluten-free options made from the most premium quality ingredients that everyone can enjoy. ALDI is constantly evolving to offer customers and their families a range of high quality food options at competitive prices. In fact, the liveGfree Gluten Free Pizza was nameda 2015 Product of the Year in the Convenience Meal category. Product of the Year is the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation. In partnership with the leading global research company, TNS, more than 40,000 consumers were surveyed to assess consumer opinions on innovation, use, satisfaction and purchase intent of the competing products.

Q & A with ALDI

Q.Does ALDI carry brand names?

Shoppers will find that more than 90 percent of the products in our stores are ALDI exclusive brands. ALDI exclusive brands allow us to provide the same high-quality products without passing on all of the hidden costs associated with the national brands, such as marketing and advertising. We also offer a limited selection of national brands in addition to our ALDI exclusive brands for our customers who have strong brand preferences, yet would like to complete more of their grocery shopping at ALDI. We may also carry a national brand if we are not able to procure an exclusive brand product that meets or exceeds the quality and taste of the national brand.

Q.Why do I need a quarter to use a shopping cart at ALDI?

The shopping cart rental system is one of many ALDI efficiencies that enable us to keep our prices so low. Not only do customers get their deposit back, but there are no stray carts taking up space in the parking lot or causing dents to cars. By not having to hire someone to police the shopping carts, we are able to pass the savings on to our customers.

  Q.  Where do you draw the line between providing great customer service versus eliminating non-essentials to provide great prices?

New customers maybe surprised by the simple, yet innovative systems we have in place, and usually come to appreciate their many benefits. Our staff offers exceptional service to each customer they serve. Employees are cross trained in all aspects of the store and dedicate themselves to helping, where needed. When a customer shops at ALDI, the staff members become a part of their daily routine and make it a point to brighten and simplify their day.

Illinois Retailers of the Year 1978-2015

1978: Art Holmes, Schwenker-Mougin, Inc. Moline 1997:  Carol & Jim Baum, Baum’s, Morris
1979:  Martin Seidel, Seidel Apparel Corp, East St. Louis 1998:  Mary & Phil Good, Good’s Furniture, Kewanee
1980:  Gemon Henderson, Henderson’s, Lombard 1999:  Greg Josefowicz, Jewel-Osco, Melrose Park
1981: Bill Clapp, Clapp’s Supermarket, Dwight 2000:  Retailers of the Century
1982:  J. Faye Wham, The Smat Shop, Centralia 2001;  Gary & Dale Kirlin, Kirlin’s, Quincy
1983:  Greg Ziegler, LyleA. Ziegler Hardware Co., Elgin 2002:  Mike Roberts, McDonald’s
1984: David O’ Webb, Robeson’s Department Store, Champaign 2003:  Gary & Deanna Martin, Scotchman’s, Watseka
1985:  Hugh Muncy honored at Retirement 2004:  Bob Abt, Abt Electronics, Glenview
1986:  Martin Newman, Martin Newman Shoe Co. , Jacksonville 2005:  The Phillip’s Family, Phillip’s Flowers, Westmont
1987: Bernard Brennan, Montgomery Ward, Chicago 2006:  Lee & Sherrill Blankeship, Village Commons Bookstore, DeKalb
1988:  Harold Gaede, Gaede’s Wheaton 2007:  Charter Members:  IRMA’s 50th Anniversary
1989:  Richard Niemann, Sr., Niemann Foods, Quincy 2008:  JCPenney Company
1990:  Bill Fisher, Fisher’s Appliance & TV, Cherry Valley 2009:  Al Weiss, Uncle Dan’s LTD, Chicago
1991:  Fritz Fehrenbacher, Fehrenbacher’s, Joliet 2010:  Bob Jones, American Sale, Tinley Park
1992:  George Kutsunis, GWK Enterprises, Geneseo 2011:  Mel & Art Potash, Potash Markets, Chicago
1993:  Jerry Henderson, Henderson’s, Sycamore 2012:  Tim & Ann Lehan, Lehan Drugs, DeKalb
1994:  Charles Walgreen III, Walgreens 2013:  David Vite honored at retirement
1995:  Daniel J. Skoda, Marshall Fields, Chicago 2014: Ron & Paul Kozy, Kozy’s Cyclery, Chciago
1996:  Robert Mariano, Dominick’s Finer Foods

 2015 Retailer of the Year:

 Aldi

 

Thank you Reception Host:

ICSC logo

Thank you Luncheon Host:

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Thank you Event Sponsors:

Altria Client Services Inc. IL Food Retailers Assn. Pepsi
American Petroleum Institute IL Manufacturers’ Assn. Sears Holdings Corporation
AT&T Illinois Jewel-Osco Speedway
Best Buy Co., Inc. Macy’s Target Corporation
Commonwealth Edison Mariano’s The Home Depot
CVS Health McDonald’s Corporation The Inland Real Estate Corporation
Diageo National Assn. of Chain Drug Stores The Kroger Company
Exxon Mobile Corporation Northstar Lottery Group Walgreen Co.

Retail Register No. 361, September 2015

 

IRMA’s VP and General Counsel Tanya Triche tapped for 2015 Edgar Fellows Program

IRMA is TanyaTricheproud to announce that our very own Tanya Triche, IRMA’s VP and general counsel, was chosen to be part of the 2015 Edgar Fellows Program. Being selected as an Edgar Fellow is a highly regarded honor granted to as many as 40 leaders each year who have distinguished careers in public service. Triche attended a five day executive leadership training program in early August at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“The Edgar Fellowship Program was a very beneficial experience,” said Triche. “Professionally, it was an opportunity to think critically about the many challenges that the state is experiencing.  We all have a role to play in finding solutions that are impactful and long-term.”

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar started this program and teaches during the leadership training to share lessons from his distinguished career in public service. Triche says they heard from leaders, practitioners and scholars who don’t just theorize on what could be done, but are actively involved in finding solutions.

“It was great to network with these leaders and discuss their various approaches to resolving conflict and getting results,” said Triche. “As I spend my days interacting with elected officials to advocate in support or in opposition of various policies, I can take much of what I learned from these leaders in their respective fields and apply them to how I approach my work in Springfield, Chicago and Cook County.”

IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr says it is no surprise to see Triche chosen for the Edgar Fellowship Program as she has long demonstrated great leadership traits. “Tanya’s openness, forthrightness and collaborative approach are her best attributes as a leader,” said Karr. “We are very proud of her accomplishments and look forward to her future at IRMA.”

Triche says a lot was accomplished during the leadership training at U of I. “I made a point to have an engaging conversation with all of the elected officials,” said Triche. “It’s important to get to know each other as people and not just as legislator/advocate. That’s often hard to do when I’m in the throes of legislative session and I’m trying to convince them not to vote for a bill.  It’s good to know who they are, where they come from and what they are passionate about and why.  The nuances of those things are things that aren’t found in a bio or resume.  It was a real treat to talk to them outside of the confines of the Capitol.”

Triche says while the Edgar Fellows would like to say they solved all of Illinois’ problems during this summit, that wasn’t necessarily the goal. “It was to get us thinking about how we could influence and shape solutions in our current and potential future roles,” said Triche. “Everyone has a role to play if we are ever going to get Illinois moving in the right direction on job creation, business retention, pension reform, ensuring that every child has access to a quality education and diversifying the economy.  This experience clarified my role and responsibility in being a part of the next generation of leaders that can offer new insight into dealing with old problems.”

 

Triche is appreciative of the Edgar Fellowship Program and what it is doing to advance Illinois leaders. “Now I am part of a growing alumni base that I can tap to collaborate on professional and personal projects in the future,” said Triche. “One of the best things about this group is that we are all committed to making Illinois a better place to live and work for ourselves and future generations.”

 

Chris Clark joins IRMA to enhance membership

 Chris Clark, an Arlington Heights native and a graduate of Northern Illinois University, joined the IRMA team in early August to serve as the manager of membership development.

Clark begaChris Clarkn his sales career in 2003 with First Data, the world’s largest merchant services company, where he earned several awards including Sales Select Club and Top Volume Producer.  Most recently he was a managing member of Video Terminals of Chicago, LLC, a video gaming company positioned to install and service video poker and slot machines in bars and restaurants throughout the state.

“We’re thrilled to have a position dedicated to expanding IRMA’s membership,” said IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr. “Chris is an excellent fit to take on this new role. His combination of technical sales expertise and business development skills will be very valuable. With more than 12 years of sales experience, I’m confident Chris will bring IRMA’s membership development to the next level.”

“I’m very happy to be at IRMA,” said Clark. “I’m already executing many ideas to grow the membership base.  My years of sales experience, working together with the team’s years of experience and expertise, make me very excited about what the future holds.”

 

Warning from IRMA: Big problems could be ahead with your new credit card

credit card

Currently, U.S. consumers’ personal and financial information is protected by a credit card system that was instituted in the late 1960s.  The magnetic stripe on the back of the credit card contains all of the consumer’s information.  If the information is stolen, it can be replicated on a counterfeit card and used until the consumer or bank notices the fraudulent activity. Due to the unsecure nature of these credit cards, American consumers have been targeted by thieves more than any other country in the world. In fact, the U.S. processes only about one-quarter of the world’s credit card transactions, yet accounts for roughly 50 percent of all credit card fraud.

While the U.S. uses this unsecure payment method to protect consumers, every other G-20 nation has replaced the magnetic stripe cards with “chip-and-PIN” cards within the last 12 years. Chip-and-PIN cards are credit or debit cards with an embedded microcomputer chip that holds a cardholder’s personal identification number (PIN) data. To use a card, a customer must enter a PIN number instead of a signature to complete a transaction. Each transaction generates a new code, making the information difficult to intercept and cards almost impossible to counterfeit.  Requiring a PIN number for every transaction eliminates fraud based on forgery and renders a stolen credit card useless to a thief who attempts to make a purchase at a local store.

Chip-and-PIN technology was first implemented in the United Kingdom in 2003. After it was introduced, credit card fraud in the U.K. plummeted 67 percent within six years due to banks and merchants using chip-and-PIN cards. During a similar period in France, fraud from in-person card use fell 35 percent. Since it has been more difficult to compromise the chip-and-PIN cards, criminal elements have focused their attention on the only developed country in the world that does not use chip-and-PIN technology. During this same period as fraud decreased in Europe, data breaches that included credit card fraud in the U.S. increased.  In 2012, U.S. consumers accounted for 47.3 percent of worldwide payment card fraud losses.

On October 1, 2015, consumers will be issued new credit and debit cards. Instead of issuing the more secure chip-and-PIN cards, many card issuers and financial institutions are replacing the old legacy system with a “chip-and-signature” card. The chip-and-signature cards require a signature like the old legacy system, but therefore, face the same issues as the old legacy cards such as forgery and replication. According to the Federal Reserve, chip-and-PIN cards are 700 percent more secure than chip-and-signature. Despite these concerns, card issuers and financial institutions have chosen the less secure chip-and-signature cards that put U.S. consumers at continued risk.

In response to consumer safety concerns, retailers nationwide have spent billions to replace point of sale machines with new chip-and-PIN terminals. Retailers are not the only industry who has recognized that a shift to a chip-and-PIN system is imperative to consumer safety. The U.S. federal government has implemented chip-and-PIN for all new and existing government credit and debit cards. As the government and retailers invest in new and more secure terminals at registers, so too must the card issuers and financial institutions provide more safety for consumers.

Card issuers and financial institutions have made conflicting statements as to why they are issuing more fraud-prone credit cards to their American customers.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a senior executive at MasterCard said many consumers find it difficult to remember a four-digit PIN number. Anecdotally, this argument seems hard to swallow given that millions of Americans regularly enter a four-digit code to use an ATM machine or to unlock their smartphone.

Chip-and-signature cards do not go far enough to protect American consumers and will continue to make the U.S. an attractive target for criminals who can no longer be successful in compromising credit card data elsewhere. Card issuers and financial institutions need to join the U.S. government and retailers in adopting the chip-and-PIN model to better protect U.S. consumers.

Alec Laird is IRMA’s manager of government affairs.

 

Retail Minded Magazine: Bad business habits small business owners should avoid

A recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Brother International finds that the majority of small business owners are ready to invest in their businesses and let go of bad habits.  500 small business owners with 100 employees or less were surveyed in this sixth annual Small Business Survey.

The findings show that 54 percent of small business owners prefer to invest in their businesses rather than stockpiling their profits, an 18 percent swing in preference since 2010.

The survey also sheds light on how small business owners feel about the economic climate – 42 percent of respondents reported a high level of stress because of the economy. This figure is flat compared to last year and down 16 percent from a 58 percent high‐water mark recorded by the survey in 2013.

Meanwhile, 41 percent of respondents said they’re interested in investing their money on tech purchases or upgrades only if their revenues increase by 5 percent or more this year.

Maximizing technology to help maximize business success is an understandable goal. Keeping this in mind, the survey also aimed to reveal what other goals small business owners had. Among them included eliminating bad habits. Dr. Geoffrey Alan Gray, president of Heeluxe, a private science center for footwear research and member of the Brother Small Business Advisory Panel, suggests that having a mentor to help navigate weaknesses or bad habits is a good idea for small business owners.

“I used to have a bad habit of taking on too many tasks and not spending enough time on nurturing new business,” said Dr. Gray. “It wasn’t until a mentor suggested I log my time that I realized how much I was spending on administrative tasks. Learning to delegate by letting employees loose on tasks they’re good at helped me refocus on growing the business while also improving office morale, so it turned out to be a win-win.”

Dr. Gray isn’t alone in having bad business habits; however, Dr. Gray was able to address and overcome them as small business owners are also encouraged to do. The 2015 Small Business Survey offered insight to some of the top bad habits among small businesses, noting the below four as popular habits that small business owners want to break:

  • Taking on too many roles and responsibilities;
  • Not taking enough time off;
  • Not separating work and personal life;
  • Micromanaging.

 

With respondents reporting that time off is a priority and finding work/life balance is important, it seems like a natural fit that technology is an investment small businesses are looking to make. After all, isn’t the point of technology to increase productivity, improve workflow, and enhance organizational efficiency?

Yes. The answer is yes. Technology and small businesses need to go hand in hand to keep up with the increasing work load of today’s businesses – as well as the realistic competition that big box competitors give our small businesses nowadays.

The article was condensed from its original version by Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle. She is the founder of Retail Minded Magazine, the only trade publication dedicated to the entire lifestyle of owning your own, small retail business.

 

Make your reservations for IRMA’S 58th Annual Meeting Luncheon

AldiPlease join us for IRMA’s 58th Annual Meeting Luncheon on Thursday, October 1, 2015. The event will be in the Empire Room at the Palmer House located at 17 East Monroe Street in Chicago. The reception begins at 11:30 a.m., and the luncheon starts at noon.

We look forward to recognizing and honoring IRMA’s 2015 Retailer of the Year at this event, ALDI! You’ll learn more at the event about why ALDI is the 2015 winner.

Sponsorships are available for $1,250. Tickets are $85 per person. The deadline to make your reservations is September 21. Email Dale Basowski at dbasowski@irma.org to reserve your spot. We hope to see you October 1!

 

Consumers want access to cold and allergy medicines

Over the years, many proposals have been introduced in the Illinois legislature as our state has fought a war against methamphetamine production. Some of those proposals have passed, most prominently the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), the electronic, stop-sale technology that automatically blocks the illegal sale of pseudoephedrine (PSE) products.

IRMA has helped co-sponsored training for law enforcement personnel in Springfield, Collinsville, Moline and the Chicago area on how to most effectively utilize the NPLEx system. “This year alone, Illinois is on track to block more than 100,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine from buyers who are attempting to purchase more than the legal limit,” said IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr. “NPLEX is an effective tool with many options. These trainings ensure law enforcement agencies are aware of and have the ability to use every aspect of this effective law enforcement tool.”

Other proposals such as a prescription requirement for any consumer to use PSE have not passed the legislature. Due to our role on the front lines in the fight against meth, IRMA has stood up for the rights of honest consumers and has opposed a prescription requirement for PSE, instead focusing on pursuing policies that only punish those who knowingly break the law.

Consistently, retail customers across Illinois have spoken to our members about their opposition to restrictions on PSE. Now, a recent consumer study from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America in Illinois and four other states, confirms what our members have repeatedly heard – there is strong consumer opposition to a prescription requirement for PSE.

According to the survey, 99 percent of cold, cough and flu sufferers in Illinois purchase non-prescription medication to treat their conditions. Additionally, 96 percent of Illinoisans want access to all medication legally available to them at their full-service pharmacy and 68 percent would unfavorably view their pharmacy if certain products were removed from their shelves.

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Retail Register No. 360, June 2015

IRMA'S Alec Laird, Rob Karr and tanya Triche at the Capitol on a busy session day.
IRMA’S Alec Laird, Rob Karr and Tanya Triche
at the Capitol on a busy session day.

IRMA’s Top Legislative Accomplishments in 2015

IRMA was at the forefront of a number of issues before the Illinois General Assembly this spring fighting to protect the interests of the retail industry and ensuring that legislation was passed that strengthens Illinois’ business climate.

On May 31, the General Assembly adjourned with no agreement between the governor and legislature on the FY16 budget. The House and Senate leaders have scheduled the legislature to be in session throughout June. IRMA will continue to watch issues closely throughout the summer and keep you apprised of any significant developments.

Here’s an overview of some of IRMA’s legislative successes this past spring:

WORK SCHEDULES

IRMA was successful in getting both business and labor groups to oppose to HB3554. The bill initially required a two-week notice for scheduling and payment provisions if a person was called in unexpectedly or had their shift changed. A later amendment required an employer to enter into negotiations regarding an employee schedule if an employee requests a schedule change. IRMA pushed back on the basis that the legislation effectively mandated a collective bargaining scheme upon private employers. This bill did not pass through the General Assembly, but we fully anticipate it will return.

DATA SECURITY

An initiative of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, SB1833 is intended to protect consumers by providing notice when certain personal information gets in the wrong hands. Such notice is already required for breaches of a person’s credit information, social security number and certain medical information related to diagnosis.  The bill expands the state’s data breach notification law by adding new categories of information that will be considered personal and sensitive and by including notification to the attorney general’s office so that certain breaches can be posted on her website. After several months of negotiations with the attorney general’s office, SB1833 was amended to address the concerns of IRMA’s members.  As a result, IRMA removed its opposition and took a neutral position on the bill. Some of the more important changes obtained by IRMA include: narrowing the definitions of consumer marketing and geolocation information to more closely target specific behavior of concern to the attorney general, removing the requirement to notify the individual when geolocation and consumer marketing information is breached, raising the threshold that triggers notification requirements and expanding the time allowed for businesses to notify individuals and/or the attorney general when information is breached. The bill now awaits the governor’s approval.

PRIVATE LABEL CREDIT CARDS

SB507 was reintroduced after Governor Quinn amendatorily vetoed the bill during his last few hours in office with unrelated language. SB507 allows a retailer to get a refund on the sales tax they pay on the bad debt created by consumers who use store-branded private label credit cards and fail to pay their bills either in part of in full. Over the last few years, IRMA worked with the Illinois Department of Revenue to address their procedural concerns including: ensuring proper documentation would be available, placing limits on the transactions that are available for a bad debt refund, and providing a clear line of accountability. As a result, SB507 passed the legislature and has been sent to the governor.

HEROIN

HB1 will create one of the nation’s most comprehensive approaches to combating heroin and prescription drug abuse. This legislation will expand specialized drug courts that center on treatment so that drug addicts can get rehabilitation services. It will also require schools and police and fire departments to stock naloxone, a drug that quickly counteracts heroin overdoses. IRMA fought for a significant change in this bill—it originally would have required pharmacies to serve as drug take-back sites for unused prescriptions. The amended version requires the state to provide information on how to properly dispose unused prescriptions, and requires the Illinois Environment Protection Agency to establish prescription take-back programs. The bill passed both chambers with the support of IRMA and a broad coalition and awaits the governor’s approval.

RETAIL THEFT

SB202 will establish a pilot program for Cook County to provide an accelerated route to adjudication for people accused of misdemeanor retail theft or criminal trespass. This bill will permit qualifying persons accused of the aforementioned crimes to either have a final judgement of their case within 30 days of arrest or be allowed to bond out of jail on their own recognizance until their hearing date. IRMA supports this bill because it addresses the crime of retail theft in a way that is fair to the victim without undermining the severity of retail theft, and also substantively addresses the concerns of taxpayers and criminal justice reform advocates. The bill passed the legislature and has been sent to the governor for his signature.

TOBACCO

HB2513 is a trailer bill that clarifies the provisions passed in P.A. 98-1055, requiring retailers to obtain a license to sell cigarettes. IRMA worked closely with IDOR on the following provisions to P.A. 98-1055:

  1. Allow a waiver for records to be kept out of state;
  2. Broaden the employee training requirements;
  3. Allow the employee training to be conducted electronically;
  4. Provide an avenue to mitigate retail tobacco citations;
  5. Provide a waiver for closed loop distribution invoice record keeping requirements.

The bill passed unanimously through both chambers and is expected to be signed by the governor.

        Business Day: A Great Success in the Capital City

IRMA and thBusiness Day Luncheone Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) hosted a very successful Business Day in Springfield on May 6, 2015. More than 400 business leaders from around the state participated in Business Day 2015.

 On the eve of Business Day, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner spoke to the IRMA and IMA Boards at Saputo’s Italian Restaurant about the importance of a strong business economy in Illinois. He expressed the urgency to make Illinois a competitive state in terms of business investment and development.

Business leaders met with various lawmakers at the Capitol to share their concerns and discuss various legislative proposals that would affect the Illinois business community. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were encouraged to create a long-term path to economic growth through sound fiscal policy, tax reform, workers’ compensation reform along with opposition to new costly and burdensome regulations like a minimum wage hike, paid sick leave, new taxes on gasoline and soda and cuts to pharmacy Medicaid reimbursement.

At the Business Day luncheon, the keynote speakers were Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin; Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-16th District) was also a featured speaker at the event.

DSC_0067Topping off the day was an 80s-themed Party Under the Tent which is a can’t-miss event. As always, the party featured live music and IRMA’s generous food and beverage members. Many thanks to Anheuser-Busch, Coca- Cola Company, Diageo, Dr. Pepper/ Snapple, E.J. Gallo Winery, KFC, McDonald’s, MillerCoors, Outback Steakhouse, PepsiCo, Saputo’s and Schnucks Markets for once again making this event an astounding success!

   

Commentary: A Path to Reforming Our Broken Sales Tax System

The following appeared June 2nd in the Washington, D.C. news outlet Roll Call

The ingenuity of the American entrepreneur has created an accommodating and diverse consumer marketplace over the past two decades. Through the rise of the Internet and emerging payment-processing innovations, countless businesses have been able to supplement their brick-and-mortar storefronts with an online sales presence. Unfortunately, our country’s sales tax system has not adapted to the convergence of digital and physical commerce. This has resulted in harsh consequences that have lingered on for nearly 20 years in the form of the unfair tax collection advantage that online-only retailers — such as eBay and Overstock — hold over millions of stores on Main Street.

Thankfully, this wrong can still be righted. With renewed bipartisan momentum now in the Senate, it is time for all of our elected officials in Congress to work toward expeditiously passing the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015. This bill is a path to reforming our broken sales tax system.

To illustrate the anti-competitive elements of today’s marketplace, think about your own shopping experience. When you pay for a new pair of shoes, it is considered a sale — regardless of whether you make that purchase in-person at a local shopping center or online through a boutique’s website.

But unlike your local stores, online-only retailers do not collect sales tax at the moment of purchase. Believe it or not, the onus is on you to report and pay any necessary tax to your state’s department of revenue. It is easy to see why you and the brick-and-mortar stores in your neighborhood — which are legally required to collect sales tax if the state imposes one — bear the brunt of an unfair system.

As someone who has spent close to 40 years in the commercial real-estate sector, I am increasingly concerned about the inequities in our marketplace. This sentiment is fortunately shared by the group of senators — Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., as well as others — that introduced the latest Marketplace Fairness Act. They know, much like the rest of us on Main Street, that we cannot accept a sales tax system that hinders American shoppers, businesses and local communities.

For consumers, maintaining the current system prolongs an archaic legal burden and a major shopping inconvenience. Shoppers will remain responsible for tracking purchases made online and then calculating the proper sum owed to their respective states. A failure to follow this process translates to breaking the law under our current system. Additionally, consumers stand to lose over the long-term when local businesses — which offer necessaries, specialty goods and custom items — cannot carry as much inventory or are ultimately forced to close due to the uncompetitive climate.

For brick-and-mortar businesses, the continuation of today’s system is akin to a death sentence. Local stores that must collect a sales tax increasingly function as showrooms for shoppers, who want to examine items and then order the same products online to save 5 percent to 10 percent in taxes. If this trend continues, we will see more businesses closing in our neighborhood shopping centers and town squares; our teenagers will be unable to find traditional part-time work; our neighbors will be unable to find that second job; and our communities will lose time-honored traditions such as Santa Claus sitting in the local department store every December.

For our communities and states, congressional inaction will bring additional economic and social impact. When brick-and-mortar businesses downsize or shutdown due to the marketplace, existing employees face both reduced job security and stagnant wages — plus the community endures weak job growth and an across-the-board reduction in tax revenue. This loss of tax revenue forces communities to make painful decisions, the most common being raising property taxes or cutting back on popular educational, recreational and public works services.

Last but not least, let us not forget the social downside that also comes when businesses can no longer sponsor little league teams, and organizations like the Salvation Army have no stores to stand in front of when advocating for society’s most needy. These are voids that online-only retailers will never be able to fill.

In the coming months, Congress will have ample time to debate the clear merits of the Marketplace Fairness Act and then pass a suitable version of the bill. Our responsibility during this time is to remind elected officials on Capitol Hill just how crucial this legislation is to American shoppers, businesses and communities. This action can go a long way to supplementing the current efforts of the International Council of Shopping Centers, Marketplace Fairness Coalition, NAREIT and hundreds of other local and national trade associations.

With deep experience purchasing and managing large retail shopping centers, I know the central role that commerce plays in supporting our shared American dream. Restoring fairness to our marketplace is an important step toward making that dream a reality for more of us in 2015 and beyond.

Daniel L. Goodwin is Chairman and CEO of The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc.

 IRMA Members Encouraged to Write Letters in Support of Remote Transaction Parity Act of 2015

IRMA has long fought to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar retailers and remote selling competitors outside of Illinois who don’t collect the sales tax and use that loophole as a competitive advantage.  Our consistent efforts have positioned Illinois to close this loophole. However, to bring our efforts to a successful conclusion, we need your help in getting Congress to act.

Formerly known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, the newly introduced Remote Transaction Parity Act (RTPA) would give states the right to impose a sales tax obligation on remote sellers. Because of this loophole that pre-dates the Internet, online-only companies can achieve as much as a 10 percent price advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers by not collecting state sales taxes. This special treatment means government is picking winners and losers in the marketplace, and local businesses simply cannot compete long-term with online giants that enjoy a government-sanctioned competitive advantage.

IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr is asking all IRMA members to write letters to our Illinois congressmen encouraging them to co-sponsor and actively support RTPA. “We need Illinois legislators to stand with and for our local retailers on this issue,” said Karr.

IRMA recently emailed a sample letter in support of the RTPA to members that you are welcome to adjust and use. If you need us to send that to you again or if you have any other questions on the matter, please call us!

Retail Register No. 359, March 2015

CRMA poll on Chicago’s mayoral race shows Emanuel with decent lead

Undecided voters seem to be swaying towards reelecting incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel over his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.  The Chicago Retail Merchants Association (CRMA), a committee of IRMA, recently released findings from a poll of likely voters conducted in late February that indicates Emanuel is at or over the 50 percent required to win the Chicago mayoral election.

The poll results find Emanuel at 48.65 percent, Garcia at 37.72 percent with undecided voters at 13.63 percent. However, when undecided voters were asked to make a decision, nearly 21 percent chose Emanuel while 15 percent picked Garcia.

The mayor holds a commanding lead among likely female voters but his lead is narrow among males. In addition, when asked who would be better at creating jobs, Emanuel leads with women and his support among men jumps substantially. Likewise, the mayor has a healthy lead among likely African-American and Caucasian voters. Garcia, however, holds a large lead among Hispanics; the candidates are split among Asian voters.

The poll was conducted by We Ask America on Wednesday, February 25, collecting responses from 1,138 likely voters with a margin of error of ±2.91 percent.

“While this poll was conducted six weeks before Election Day, it appears that Mayor Emanuel is in a strong position with likely Chicago voters,” said Rob Karr, president/CEO of CRMA and IRMA. “When voters are asked about their perception of which candidate would be better at creating new jobs in Chicago, the numbers mirror each candidate’s overall support, indicating this is a major factor in voters’ opinions.”

1.     As you may know, Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia will run against each other in a mayoral runoff election on April 7th.  If that election were held today, for whom would you vote?

Rahm Emanuel: 48.65%      Chuy Garcia:  37.72%             Undecided: 13.63%

 

2.      (Only asked to “undecided” voters:) Even though you haven’t decided who you’ll vote for, we’d like to know if you’re LEANING toward voting for either candidate.

 Rahm Emanuel: 20.89%       Chuy Garcia:  15.46%        Undecided: 63.65%

 

3.      Which candidate for mayor do you think would be better for creating new jobs in Chicago? 

Rahm Emanuel: 49.12%        Chuy Garcia:  34.66%         Undecided: 16.22%

Poll Methodology

Demographic information recorded in the poll provided data to normalize (weight) the results to provide the most accurate results that account for ethnic origin, gender over/under-sampling.  Our sampling methodology ensures that We Ask America poll results are projectable, meaning that if every telephone in a given geography was dialed, the results would not differ from the reported poll results by more than the stated margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (the industry standard), were the same survey taken repeatedly.  For this case, results with a margin of error of ±2.91 percent at the 95 percent confidence level means that if the same survey were conducted 100 times, then 95 times out of 100 the results would not vary in either direction by more than 2.91 percent in either direction.

IRMA makes its mark in the social media world

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association now has an active presence in the social media world with accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  “Social media is an important component in building IRMA’s brand, keeping those already engaged with our organization informed and attracting new interest,” said Rob Karr, IRMA president and CEO. “We see social media as a great opportunity to educate about the importance of the Illinois retail industry.”

Through social media outlets, IRMA will be able to provide real time updates on developments at the Illinois Capitol and Chicago City Council, as well as share important news, facts and updates about issues pertaining to the retail industry.  We will also use social media to showcase our members, but we need your help on that!  See the Feature Friday article for more details on how you can get involved.

IRMA Showcases Illinois Retailers on social media with #Feature Friday

Mall photoWe are leveraging IRMA’s social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give your business extra exposure while educating Illinoisans about the importance of the Illinois retail industry.

Each week we have Feature Friday (#FeatureFriday) where we are showcasing one IRMA retailer on our three social media pages. We’re highlighting significant milestones, store anniversaries, grand openings, accomplishments, recognitions, facts or any other interesting information you are willing to share about your business.  A pertinent picture from your business makes these posts complete and much more memorable!

Email news@irma.org to share your story, fun fact, interesting development, etc. and a picture. Once we have drafted the posts, we will be sure to get your stamp of approval. This won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. We greatly appreciate your participation.

Check out our social media pages to see some of our recent Feature Friday posts!

Twitter: @ILRetail

Facebook: Illinois Retail Merchants Association

Instagram: @ilretail

IRMA adds new team member

Alexia CesaroneThe Illinois Retail Merchants Association would like to welcome Alexia Cesarone to our staff! Starting in late March, Alexia will serve as the manager of member relations based in IRMA’s Chicago office.

Alexia comes to IRMA from the Northstar Lottery Group where she served as a corporate affairs specialist. In that role, Alexia specialized in community outreach as well as internal and external communications.  She also created and implemented an internship program.

Alexia is a graduate of Purdue University.  She currently resides in Geneva with her husband, Nick.

IRMA, law enforcement officials team up in the fight against meth

rob nflexIRMA is helping law enforcement in their fight against meth. Partnering with Appriss, Inc., the company behind the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), free trainings for law enforcement are being conducted around the state. The trainings provide law enforcement the opportunity to learn about NPLEx and the many tools it contains that can significantly assist them in their efforts to control meth. Prior to each training, local media is given the opportunity to learn about the tools NPLEx provides and the significant impact it is having on blocking illegal purchases of pseudoephedrine. NPELx blocks the illegal purchases will allowing law-abiding citizens with legitimate needs to obtain the medicine they require.

 Save the Date: Business Day in Springfield

Business Day will be held in Springfield on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.  The luncheon starts at noon with keynote speech from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

After the luncheon, visit the Illinois State Capitol to meet with policy makers.  At 5 p.m., the party under the tent will start near the IRMA office.  A formal invite and details will follow; we hope to see you there!

Full-tuition scholarships available to retail employee

Retail industry employees who want to boost their careers through higher education can apply for scholarships offered by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the University of Phoenix School of Business. There are 20 full-tuition scholarships are available to retail employees through the Dream BIG Scholarship. Eligible applicants must reside in the United States and work full or part-time for a retail or restaurant company and meet additional criteria.

The stories shared by the hundreds of 2014 Dream BIG applicants demonstrate the fulfilling and challenging career paths available for retail professionals who work hard and want to move up in their organizations.

“Behind every great retail brand are great retail workers – truly the heart and soul of our industry and the fuel that keeps the fires going for hundreds of thousands of businesses throughout the country,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Many of these individuals share a common goal to grow personally and professionally in the retail industry and we want to help them get there. The Dream BIG Scholarship is more than just an opportunity to earn a degree, it’s a chance to help people recognize their full potential and prosper in their career path.”

“The multi-faceted retail industry moves at a fast pace and needs professionals who can grow with their organizations,” said Ruth Veloria, executive dean for University of Phoenix School of Business. “The retail sector employs millions of Americans, and as technology and consumer preferences evolve, University of Phoenix is committed to preparing the next generation of retail leaders with education that is aligned to industry needs. The industry offers many diverse and rewarding career paths and the scholarship was created to help retail employees realize their full potential and meet evolving employer needs.”

Visit nrf.com/dreambig to apply and learn more about the program. Applications are being accepted through March 31, 2015.

Illinois retailers encouraged to push for new Marketplace Fairness Act

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has once again joined forces with U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and an array of bi-partisan co-sponsors to try and level out the rules for brick-and-mortar retailers and their internet competitors when it comes to the collection of sales tax. This proposal mirrors the language that passed the U.S. Senate last year with nearly 70 votes only to stall in the U.S. House.

IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr encourages members of the Illinois retail industry to ask U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) to support the newly filed Marketplace Fairness Act of 2015 and sign-on as a co-sponsor. IRMA applauds Durbin for being a sponsor of the legislation and his continued support of the Illinois retail industry. “This act will help level the playing field for online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores,” said Karr. “What’s not fair is continuing to allow Internet sellers to avoid collecting and remitting the sales tax and the negative impact that has on local stores, their employees, and the Illinois economy.”

Since sales tax amounts to 10 percent in some areas, Main Street retailers report seeing more evidence of customers buying online to avoid paying tax. Many local retailers say they deal with “showrooming,” where consumers come to their stores to look at merchandise in person, then order it online. And some smartphone apps make it easier for shoppers to avoid paying sales tax by allowing them to scan product bar codes to see where they can buy items via the internet.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) strongly believes that the disparity in sales tax rules undermines not only Main Street retailers but also the communities they support. “The billions of dollars in lost sales tax is revenue badly needed by cash-strapped state and local governments to pay the salaries of essential workers such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance crews, and schoolteachers,” said Mike Cys, NRF’s VP of state and political affairs. “Those public workers are among retailers’ customers, and when customers lose their jobs retailers lose sales.  It’s time to pass sales tax fairness.”