Business groups, consumer advocates and labor groups are rallying behind a push for federal government intervention in the retail sector after Trump’s nominee for the National Retail Federation, Jeff Kagan, called the industry “the epicenter of economic growth” and said “consumer spending” is at its “highest level in 20 years.”
The retailers are urging Trump to intervene and make it easier for them to compete with online retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart.
The effort comes after a meeting between Kagan and top Trump administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Commerce Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder, who will be Trump’s pick to lead the retail trade association, which lobbies for the interests of the retail and manufacturing industries.
Kagan said he was “disappointed” that the White House did not engage in more “confrontational conversations” on the retail front and that the retail community needs to take responsibility for the retail economy.
“We want to make sure that we get the industry back to work,” Kagan told The Hill in an interview.
The retail industry has become a target for Republicans after years of economic policies that hurt the retail workers who make the products and services that consumers buy.
It also has been hit by a wave of outsourcing that has made it increasingly difficult to keep wages up with technology and new supply chains.
Kaga and Puzders meeting in Trump Tower on Wednesday, in addition to a recent meeting between the Commerce Secretary and the National Economic Council, are part of the push for government intervention to prevent more workers from being replaced.
“If you look at the retail jobs market, we’re really going to see a lot of turnover and the demand for retail workers to continue to grow,” said Peter Diamandis, the head of the American Retail Federation.
The retail trade group’s president, David Leavitt, said the meeting was part of a “very public, high-level effort” to reach out to the president. “
The president is a business guy and he understands that when it comes to jobs and wages, we can’t compete with the Internet and we can only compete with retailers who have the capacity to keep prices down.”
The retail trade group’s president, David Leavitt, said the meeting was part of a “very public, high-level effort” to reach out to the president.
“He’s a business person, he understands retail and he is a supporter of the industry, so we think that this is a really important moment for the industry and for all of us,” Leavitz said.
The president’s commerce secretary nominee Andrew Price, who is also the chairman of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, called Kagan’s remarks “a step in the right direction.”
“We think it’s an important step to get some clarity from the administration on what we think they want to see, how they want us to do it, and that’s why we’re here,” Price said.
“This is about getting us back on track and getting our retail economy back to a place where people want to shop.”
Trump has proposed cutting back on government subsidies and spending for many industries, including manufacturing and transportation, to encourage private-sector investment.
Kahan, who was previously the president of the AFL-CIO, said he thinks the White Houses action will help the industry.
“In a world where the President is trying to reduce the federal role, we think the industry can benefit from the president and the administration taking steps to help it get back on its feet and making sure that it can compete on a level playing field with the likes of Amazon and other big retailers,” Kahan said.
Puzdale, the Trump economic adviser, is a former chief executive officer at Walmart.
Kogan is a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wharton LLP.
He has served as a senior policy adviser for the American Association of Retailing Executives and as an assistant to the White Senate for Business and Industry.
Ross is a member of the Business Council for the Retail Industry.
Putsko is an attorney and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
He previously served as deputy secretary of the Department of Labor.