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NRF: Enough With the Government Shutdown

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is fed up with the government shutdown and last week, the organization sent a personalized letter to each member of the Senate and House of Representatives telling them so.

The letter came from NRF President and CEO Matthew R. Shay and began like this:

“On behalf of the nation’s retail industry and the 42 million Americans who work in retailing and related careers, I am writing to urge the House and Senate to negotiate an immediate end of the shutdown. We strongly support passage of both a continuing resolution to provide for funding of the federal government into the next fiscal year and a measure to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.”

The longer the shutdown, the worse the repercussions, the letter noted. Shay addressed the recent 12-point drop in Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index, which was the largest weekly drop since 2008, adding that, “Since the very modest growth the U.S. economy has experienced following the 2008 recession has been attributed to the willingness of the American consumer to keep shopping, a lasting decline in consumer confidence is likely to translate into increased unemployment and slower growth in coming months.”

As a result of the shutdown, government run websites aren’t being updated and government issued reports aren’t being released. Shay listed the impact the shutdown has already had on the industry noting that the monthly retail sales numbers scheduled to come out Oct. 11 were not released nor were the monthly employment numbers which give a good measure of the economy’s health. With holiday shopping season just ahead, retailers are looking to hire seasonal employees–more than 7,000 the NRF said–and the eVerify system used to determine the immigrant/citizenship status for new hires is not available. US Customs and Border Patrol employees are still at work, but some government agencies who help clear incoming goods are furloughed, leaving the fate of imported merchandise in the balance.

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“Retailers already have more than 4 million cargo containers of merchandise on their way to store shelves for the holidays. Even if Customs and other agencies can get that merchandise off the docks without a hitch, shutdown-fueled consumer worries over the economy could leave that merchandise sitting on shelves well past Christmas. That would be a severe hit not just for retailers but in every industry whose jobs depend on consumer spending.”

Shay went on to write that these problems could not have come at a worse time for retailers with the holiday season fast approaching. The NRF forecast $602.1 billion in sales for the season. However, if the government doesn’t shape up shortly, actual retail sales for the holiday could be well below projections.

The NRF said it would be working with retailers and small businesses for some grassroots efforts to get the government to reopen.

“Washington cannot keep governing from crisis to crisis and quarter to quarter. Kicking the can down the road may be the norm these days in Washington, but it is an irresponsible approach to the problems confronting our nation,” Shay wrote.