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A Big Day for Connecticut Retail – Annual Awards Luncheon a Smashing Success

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Nearly 200 retailers and friends of retail from throughout Connecticut gathered to honor two of the state’s leading retail businesses - Milford Photo, located in Milford, and Boscov’s, with a Connecticut department store in Meriden – as Independent Retailer of the Year and National Retailer of the Year, at the annual awards luncheon on Wednesday, November 16 at The Bushnell in Hartford.

In an informative and energizing day, CRMA members heard from leaders of the two award-winning retailers, whose determination and resiliency have created jobs and economic impact in their local communities and the state, and had opportunities to connect and network with fellow retailers.

Prior to the awards ceremony, retailers heard the latest regarding plans for the upcoming state legislative session from State Senator Rob Kane (R-Watertown), who discussed issues of importance to retailers, and responded to questions from about 50 retailers attending the session – the largest turnout in years.  Of particular interest - for the first time in more than a century, the Senate will be evenly split, with 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans, which could have policy implications for businesses including retailers. 

Next, retailers attending the seminar portion of the day received an in-depth view of the new federal overtime rules from Lizzy Simmons of the National Retail Federation.  She provided a details on the new rules, prospects for changes by the Congress or the White House next year, and how retailers around the country are grappling with the requirements that take effect in December.

The award recipients were featured in videos, and gave in-person acceptance remarks, highlighting their approach to business, and the keys to success. 

Milford Photo is located in the old Milford Trust building in the heart of downtown Milford and features a full line of professional and consumer camera equipment including the industry’s leading brands, as well as photography classes and digital transfers.  Owner Jim Wilson said the success of his business centers around three words – “engage, educate, inspire.”  Milford Photo is thriving in an industry that has contracted during the past decade because our “business is about taking care of people.”  He added, “we have a great staff,” and understand that the “mission of our business is built around memories.  We have not veered from that since we opened.”

Boscov’s has a rich history of serving the needs of loyal customers by offering a broad assortment of high quality and name brand merchandise at terrific prices, stressing customer service.  Boscov’s is America’s largest family-owned Department Store, with 45 locations across seven states.  Boscov’s came to Meriden a year ago, and Gary Boyer, Senior Vice President and Director of Stores, said the chain is “fighting the trend” with a full-line department store, and succeeding with a philosophy of “everyday values, great prices, and customer service.  Customer service is what it’s all about.”  He added, “We truly care about our communities. And we know how much it means to our customers.”

Said CRMA Board Chairman Tom Wholley, owner of Connecticut Mattress. “They represent the best in the Connecticut retail industry, and have achieved tremendous success by consistently working at providing their customers with the best shopping experience along with outstanding value and first rate customer service.”

Lead sponsor for the event was United Bank. Keep an eye out for next year’s Annual Awards Luncheon and Seminar. You won’t want to miss it – retail’s big day!



United Bank Program Launches with CRMA

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

CRMA and United Bank are collaborating on a new initiative specifically for CRMA and Connecticut retailers.  Each month, United Bank is providing an electronic newsletter being distributed by CRMA with useful information that will be of particular benefit to retail businesses.  United Bank points out that “we understand how important your banking relationship can be to your business. That’s why we give it our full attention—whether you need financing for business expansion or access to smart tools and technology to make managing your money easy.”

No matter what your business needs, CRMA members can count on United Bank to deliver solutions to help you succeed.

Save the Dates – Golf Outing in October, Annual Awards Luncheon in November

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Join Us for Retail’s Special Day featuring a Dynamic Keynote Speaker and Personal Success Stories from Retail Award Honorees on Wednesday, November 16. Mark your calendar - this is a can’t-miss-event!

The annual Awards categories are Retailer of the Year, Excellence in Customer & Community Service, Special Recognition Award and National Retailer of the Year, and Distinguished Service Award.   A new award, Legislator of the Year, was presented last year for the first time, and will be presented to a distinguished legislator in 2016.   

The event will take place at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.  Click here for details

And join us for the annual Golf Outing on Oct. 18.  Click here for details.  The event will be held at The Hartford Golf Club, and promises to be an outstanding day of camaraderie for Connecticut retailers!

It is Election Season here in Connecticut, too

Saturday, August 20, 2016

With so much of the media focus on the Presidential race, it is sometimes easy to forget that we have elections taking place throughout Connecticut as well this November. All state legislative seats – Senate and House - are up for grabs.  Depending on many varying factors, this year we could see the GOP closing the gap in the longstanding Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers.

While there are no Executive Branch folks up for re-election, there is a US Senate race that we will also be keeping an eye on. State Rep Dan Carter (R-Brookfield) is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) for that seat and a six year term. The remainder of the Congressional delegation, all Democratic incumbents, is also up for re-election, but the chances of upsets in any of those races appear slim.

These state legislative races traditionally pick up steam after Labor Day, and CRMA will be keeping a close eye on the results of Election Day, because those elections will have a direct impact on our member’s bottom line.

It should be fun, so fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Do no harm was the theme for the 2016 Legislative session

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The 2016 legislative session saw the General Assembly and the Malloy administration take a very pro-business approach to any legislation that was introduced. Whether it was as a result of the numerous business taxes that were adopted during the 2015 session, or the upcoming political season with all members of the legislature facing re-election, the General Assembly’s recurring theme throughout the session was “no harm to business. ” The “short” session, which began in February, ended on time in early May.

For CRMA, issues continued to arise, even in the context of the “no harm” session.  Among those where changes to Connecticut’s Gift Card law (PA 16-140), allowing payroll cards and the creation of various task forces that were created and CRMA monitored, during and after the legislative session.

As always, we appreciate all the help we receive from our Legislative Committee of retailers throughout the session, providing us with valuable input on the potential impact of various legislative proposals on retailer businesses. And we are also extremely grateful to the work of Jane Murphy of the Government Affairs group of Murtha Cullina, assisting CRMA in the day-to-day work of advocacy for retailers at the Capitol.

You can look back at the various twists and turns during this legislative session by reviewing our weekly legislative report, Friday Facts, by visiting our website www.crmaonline.com  Click on the Friday Facts tab.

If you would like to be part of the CRMA legislative effort, please reach out to Cathy in our office at cathy@crmaonline.com and we will get you plugged in right away.

Connecticut Retailers Featured in “Retail Across America” Video Series

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Five Connecticut retail businesses and their owners are currently being featured in a national video campaign highlighting the economic impact and customer experience that characterize today’s retailing industry. 

Connecticut-based small business owners Tom Wholley of Connecticut Mattress, Kimberly Pedrick of idiom boutique, Vishal Patel and Onyeka Obiocha of The Happiness Lab and Chris Zane of Zane’s Cycles talk about a day in the life of a small business owner and the rewarding experience of working in retail.

From its humble beginnings as a furniture-making workshop to becoming the world’s leading interior design company, Danbury-based Ethan Allen is a pioneering force in the retail industry. CEO Farooq Kathwari, featured in the video series, takes viewers through the evolution of the brand and its strong ties to New England culture and community. 

As Connecticut Retail Merchants Association CEO Tim Phelan says, “Retail in Connecticut is a great story.” The videos highlight how retailers large and small are creating jobs, driving innovation and giving back to the communities they serve.  “There are retailers across Connecticut, in the malls and on Main Street, that make Connecticut’s economy come alive.”

The National Retail Federation hopes to ultimately feature retail business owners in all 50 states in a project that began in 2014.  Connecticut is the 10th state to be featured, with the videos recorded in 2015 now accessible on the organization’s website at www.nrf.com/retailacrossamerica/ct.

“In Connecticut, we were able to capture some of the industry’s most inspiring and powerful retail stories from hardworking and dedicated small business owners in the state,” NRF President & CEO Matthew Shay said. “This series of the campaign is testament to Connecticut’s retail legacy and highlights innovative companies that continue to demonstrate the versatility and diversity of the industry.”

According to NRF’s Retail’s Impact data, there are an estimated 472,518 jobs supported by retail in Connecticut and a total of 41,900 retail establishments across the state. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) impact in Connecticut is $34.2 billion – 14 percent of the state’s total GDP. “One out of every five people is supported by a job in retail,” Phelan said.

Zane’s Cycles founder Chris Zane told NRF: “Connecticut is more than a great place to do business, but also a great place to enjoy the environment, culture, infrastructure and the arts.” He operates stores in Branford and Fairfield.  

Ethan Allen CEO Farooq Kathwari spoke of the diverse and dynamic retail landscape in Connecticut that makes it so unique, noting that “dedicated people do great things.” idiom owner Kimberly Pedrick always wanted to open up her own store, and Connecticut made it possible.  Her business, idiom boutique, is located in the Historic Chapel Street District of New Haven, curates high-quality collections with apparel, footwear, handbags and bath and body.

 The Happiness Lab, also in New Haven, is described as “the world’s only coffee shop dedicated to happiness,” with 100 percent of profits aimed at helping coffee farmers build sustainable solutions to problems so that they can “breakout of the cycles of poverty.”

Connecticut Mattress owner Tom Wholley is a well-known name in Connecticut’s retail industry, and currently chairs the CRMA Board of Directors.  His company has retail locations in Avon, South Windsor and Southington.  Wholley thrives on the challenge of retail and responding to customer’s needs, noting that “Retailing is in my blood – it’s been in my blood for 40 years.”

Of Connecticut, Phalen said “It’s a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to shop.” Added Pedrick, describing Connecticut’s retail business community, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

CRMA Annual Awards Luncheon

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Connecticut Retail Merchants Association (CRMA) has honored four of Connecticut’s leading retail businesses for their responsiveness to customers, superior business practices and outstanding community involvement.  At the organization’s annual awards luncheon, the association also recognized two individuals who have had an impact on the retail industry and state.

The annual Awards ceremony honored Munson’s Chocolates (Retailer of the Year), Fleet Feet Sports (Excellence in Customer & Community Service), EbLens (Special Recognition Award) and Macy’s (National Retailer of the Year).  The association’s Distinguished Service Award was presented to Marc Green, owner of Lux Bond & Green, and the inaugural Legislator of the Year award was given to  State Senator Len Fasano (34th District) of North Haven.

Munson’s Chocolates – Munson's is a third generation candy family, and Connecticut's largest retail chocolate manufacturer. Munson's Chocolates was founded by Ben and Josephine Munson in 1946, and the first store was in Manchester and in currently located in Bolton, where all of the candy is manufactured.

Fleet Feet Sports – Fleet Feet Sports provides personalized attention to customers, driven by the leadership of owner Stephanie Blozy, for whom retail is a second career and life’s calling.  A rigorous training program for employees ensures that customers receive knowledgeable and dedicated attention at the West Hartford location, recently expanded as the business has grown.  Stephanie has been running since she was 5, and switched from a career in meteorology to help others, especially kids and those new to running, reap the rewards of a healthy lifestyle to achieve what they thought wasn’t possible.

EbLens – Eblens sells the best in name brand urban clothing and footwear for the entire family, with 38 locations in four states, including 18 in Connecticut.  The business began in New Britain, and continues to have a presence there. EbLens has grown into New England’s premier destination for clothing and footwear designed for a modern urban lifestyle.

The Annual Awards Luncheon, held at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts on November 18 with catering by the Max Restaurant Group, brought together more than 200 people representing retail businesses throughout the state.

The program for the annual Awards Luncheon day also included a focus on the upcoming session of the State Legislature, with a report on current legislative task forces reviewing various aspects of state tax policy and other issues impacting the retail industry.

We are thrilled to recognize outstanding Connecticut retailers who go the extra mile for customers and employees.  The set a standard of excellence that is reflected throughout the industry in Connecticut.  CRMA is also very pleased to recognize the leadership, insight and accomplishments of Marc Green within the retail industry, and Senator Fasano at the State Capitol.  They both personify what leadership is all about.

Sen. Fasano has served the 34th Senatorial District communities of Durham, East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford since 2003.  Following his re-election in 2014, the Senate Republican Caucus elected Fasano to serve as Senate Minority Leader for the 2015-16 legislative session.  He is the President and Founder of Fasano, Ippoito and Lee, a law firm in New Haven, and is an East Haven business owner.

Marc Green, past chairman of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association, is owner of Lux Bond & Green, a Connecticut business since 1898.  Green was honored for his leadership of and service to CRMA, advocating for retailers throughout Connecticut.  He served as association chairman for seven years.

EMV Chip Cards, Liability Shift Arrive Oct. 1

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

On October 1, the liability shifts to retailers.  Until now, across payment networks, liability for card-present fraudulent transactions has generally been the responsibility of card issuers. That changes next week, as U.S. payment networks implement fraud liability shifts that will impact transactions from a counterfeit card created from the magnetic stripe on a chip card and/or lost or stolen card transactions.

The main driver behind the EMV migration is card-related financial fraud. Annual costs of card fraud in the U.S. alone are estimated at $8.6 billion per year. Of the 1.2 billion credit and debit cards in circulation in the U.S., it is estimated that 70 percent will have chips by the end of 2015.

If you have not already upgraded your credit card terminal to accept chip cards, you need to seriously consider the impact that not upgrading will have on your business after October 1. Using the magnetic strip on a chip card could be opening the door to potential liability.  While there is no requirement that you upgrade your terminal, failure to do so could expose you to chargebacks you don’t currently see in your business.

If you have questions about the transition – and what you should be doing to prepare for this shift in liability, please contact the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association at 860-527-1044.  We are here to provide assistance and respond to your questions.  

Beyond this immediate issue, CRMA recognizes your need for cost-effective and efficient credit card services.  CRMA has joined forces with the Michigan Retailers Association to offer members discounted credit card processing rates and first-rate services.  Their Retailer’s Processing Network is the largest non-profit credit card processing service in America. Working together, we have custom designed credit card programs with top-notch benefits for retailers, including data breach protection, unparalleled support and more!

If you’d like to learn about this special program for CRMA members, contact us at 860-527-1044 or cathy@crmaonline.com  

Legislative Panels Considers Taxes; CRMA Keeps Close Watch

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Even though the state legislature is not in session this fall, several commissions, councils and task forces have been at work tackling specific issues which could have a major impact on Connecticut retail businesses.  CRMA is tracking these discussions – including the State Tax Study Panel and the Commission on Connecticut’s Competitiveness – which will likely recommend new laws and possibly new taxes.

CRMA members have a lot at stake in this process. We are small business owners - the backbone of the state’s economy - creating jobs, paying local property taxes and collecting the state’s sales tax. Our challenge at CRMA is to make sure that task force members fully understand that with business growth, employers are able to maintain employment levels, and hopefully, add jobs. We need a friendly business climate, not only for CRMA members’ business needs, but for all business in the state, in order to achieve sustained growth. 

These task forces are the result of a legislative session earlier this year that included much discussion around the need to reform the state’s tax code to make the state more competitive with surrounding states.  It is our job to consistently remind committee members of the potential impact of any tax changes on CRMA members.

We will keep a close eye on the work of these task forces. This is only the first step in the process, however.  Whatever recommendations they make are likely to need approval when the full legislature convenes.  This is where you can make a difference.  If there are recommendations that will negatively impact Connecticut retailers, you can be sure that we will let them know that quite clearly, but we will also be asking you to lend your voice to that effort. 

As the start of the legislative session in February 2016 approaches, CRMA will keep you up-to-date as we closely monitor what these task forces are deciding, and we will welcome your involvement in our efforts to strongly represent the interests of Connecticut retailers.   

CRMA Legislative Update: June 3

Monday, August 17, 2015

CRMA Legislative Update:

The Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) concluded its regular session on midnight June 3, but as is becoming a pattern over the past 10 years they didn’t really finish their work. While they have a constitutional obligation to adopt a new 2 year budget and tax package by that date, they also have a legal obligation to put those numbers into words – the necessary legal language. They did not - which forced them into overtime, in the form of a Special Session in late June.

For CRMA the end of the legislative session and special session, spanning six months, meant the end of one of our most active sessions in many years. Working thru our Legislative Committee, which is open to all members of CRMA, we followed hundreds of bill that were filed in various legislative committees as well amendments to legislative proposals that were often sprung on us at the very last minute. Although we might have finished battered and bruised, we look back on the session with a sense of pride in that we fought the good fight for retailers – and had some important victories along the way. There is no question that if not for CRMA’s effective advocacy, things could have been much worse for Connecticut retailers.

To begin, let’s look back at what DIDN’T happen. CRMA stopped a number of bad ideas, including a bill that would have forced retailers to give up to 21 days’ notice on scheduling, charging and collecting a fee on the use of every plastic bag, efforts to force retailers to give cash back to customers for the balance of any unused gift card, as well as number of tax proposals that would have spread the sales tax to a whole host of new products and services. CRMA was all over the CGA and the various committees in testifying against bills that would have had a negative impact on our members.

However, despite our hard work, there were some proposals that could not be stopped. Specifically, in the area of taxes, both consumer and sales tax or business taxes. We are very disappointed that the General Assembly did not consider restoring the clothing exemption allowance and chose to make changes to the sales tax holiday. As you will see below they made other changes to the tax code in CT as well as brought back to life in Special Session some issues that had DIED during the regular session:

    Taxes
  • Eliminated the clothing and footwear exemption that was scheduled to be restored July 1.
  • Lowered the sales tax holiday from $300 level to $100
  • Luxury tax increase to 7.75% effective July 1, 2015
  • Maintained the computer and data process sales tax rate at its current level of 1% and extends to World Wide Web services at 1%.
  • Delayed the implementation of the unitary tax one year until January 2016
  • Allowed some combined groups with unused operating loss greater than $6 billion to utilize greater than 50% of the losses incurred over previous years.
  • Changed the remittance date for sales tax from 20th day of the month to 30th day of the month. (After discussion with the Department of Revenue Services, this will be for the January remittance for December activity. DRS also made it clear that any retailer that is currently filing on the 20th day of the month can continue to do so.)

Legislation that failed during regular session added back into Budget Bills in Special Session

In order to gain enough votes for passage of the budget and the budget implementers as well as bills that died because of inaction on the last day of the regular session, legislative leaders included a number of bills and concepts in the budget implementers. Among those that would have an impact on our members are:

  • HB 5286 – AAC Microbeads.
  • HB 6996 Dry Cleaning Registration
  • Language inserted that requires the Department of Labor to set up an implementation plan to roll out a paid Family Medical Leave Act.
  • Language inserted to require that the Office of Policy and Management study the CT Institute for the 21st Century (pro business group) documents and report any recommendation to the General Assembly.
  • Language inserted creates a 13 member board that would advise the Department of Labor on issues related to low wages.

CRMA will continue to monitor issues during the interim (the time period between legislative sessions) as some of the issues that were defeated in the regular session maybe looked at again during the interim with an eye to re-introducing them when the Legislature goes back into session in February.

As always, we are here to answer any questions about any bills or issues that you may have.