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Senate Retail Task Force Outlines Challenges And Opportunities Facing Massachusetts Retailers

Massachusetts Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail released it finals report on the economic health of the Massachusetts retail sector. E-commerce, cost of living and state mandates present challenges and opportunities. Read on for the highlights and to download the complete report.

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail unanimously approved its final report. The Task Force was charged with assessing the economic health of the Massachusetts retail sector and identifying challenges and opportunities facing retail communities.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the Massachusetts economy,” said Christopher Carlozzi, The National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) State Director in Massachusetts. “Hearing directly from Main Street business owners regarding the issues impacting their retail shops is vital to ensuring support for the policies that help foster economic growth and create new jobs.”

“I want to thank Senator Rodrigues and Senator deMacedo for leading this task force,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “Supporting the retail sector is very important, and I am happy that we have this report to inform our future policymaking.”

The Task Force ultimately voted upon and issued the following set of findings detailing the challenges and opportunities facing the retail industry in the Commonwealth:

  1. E-commerce and the rise of technology, evolving consumer preferences, and demographic factors are changing the Massachusetts retail sector, presenting both new challenges and opportunities for retailers;
  2. Technical and financial assistance could help support new and existing businesses, and establish retail as a strategic sector for the Massachusetts economy;
  3. Factors such as the disparate tax treatment of brick-and-mortar retailers versus online retailers, the lack of a sales tax holiday, and the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border are contributing to a competitive sales tax disadvantage for Massachusetts retailers;
  4. Rising costs of living in Massachusetts, including health care, child care, and housing/property, are burdening employees and employers;
  5. Existing and future state mandates, including minimum wage, premium pay, and health care assessments, are contributing to rising costs of operation for Massachusetts retailers

The Task Force, chaired by Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) and Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth), held a series of regional public meetings, hearing directly from retail employers and employees. The Task Force issued a set of findings, reflecting the testimony of retailers, the information presented by industry experts, and an examination of current policies and mandates.

“The Task Force’s report is the result of a thoughtful, collaborative process to understand better the challenges facing Massachusetts retailers,” said Senator Michael Rodrigues. “Now that the Task Force’s work has concluded, I look forward to working with my colleagues to explore ways the state can support retail business growth, and ensure retailers remain a core part of our Commonwealth’s foundation.”

“I want to thank the local retailers who provided the task force with valuable insights into their challenges and aspirations,” said Senator Vinny deMacedo. “This report reflects the collaborative effort and diverse viewpoints of the task force’s membership in a way that we believe will provide meaningful information to guide the Legislature in its efforts to support and grow our local businesses and economies.”

Members of the Task Force also included Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senator Kathleen O’Connor-Ives (D-Newburyport), and Senator Don Humason (R- Westfield).

The retailers appointed to the Task Force included Judith Herrell, owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton; Peter Kavanaugh of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Dartmouth; Barry S. Rotman, Board Chair of Rotmans Furniture in Worcester; Malcolm Sherman, a retail consultant with expertise in turning around struggling businesses; Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business; John Cahill of Maestranzi Bros.; and Christopher Connolly, President of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association.

The remaining appointees included Jim Carvalho, Political Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445; Harris Gruman, Executive Director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council; and Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

Click here to download the full report.

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