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Retail Groups Plan Merger to Boost Lobbying Efforts

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two of the retail industry's largest trade groups said yesterday they are planning to merge to strengthen lobbying on issues ranging from tax policy to labor laws.

The National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association count some of the nation's largest chains among their members, including Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Macy's. J.C. Penney chief executive Myron "Mike" Ullman III, who has served on both boards, said they have similar missions and are hoping to join forces "at a time when clarity and single purpose is important."

The two have worked together in the past combating organized retail crime. Both also have lobbied against certain credit card fees and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check, which would allow workers to form a union by signing cards rather than holding secret-ballot elections.

RILA's executive committee approved the merger last month, and NRF agreed to it last week. After performing due diligence, the groups will present the plan to their members over the summer.

The NRF is headquartered in the District and employs more than 100 people. It has roughly 2,500 members that range from national chains to mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and online retailers. RILA has about 200 members that include retail suppliers, service providers and 60 mass chains. The group is based in Arlington and has a staff of about 30.

Ulman said each group would continue its signature conference: NRF holds one in New York for retailers and vendors in January, while RILA presents one on logistics in February. RILA President Sandy Kennedy is expected to head the transition and a director would be chosen after the merger.

"This is one of those things where it's probably a long time coming," NRF spokesman Scott Krugman said. "Now more than ever, it's important for our industry to have one singular strong voice."

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