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DEC 2019/ JAN 2020 The official publication of the Michigan Retailers Association

An iconic clothier

How Kositchek’s has stayed relevant for 154 years Enroll for your share of the VISA/MasterCard class action suit Know the legal pitfalls of putting merchandise on sale Your 2020 retail calendar

Volume 44 No. 6

David Kositchek has mastered the art of retail as a fourth-generation clothier.


Chair Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Okemos


Michigan Retailers Services, Inc. Board of Directors WILLIAM J. HALLAN

President and CEO


President and CEO Michigan Retailers Association

Allendale True Value, Allendale


Leppink’s Food Centers, Belding

Vice Chair Little Forks Outfitters, Midland


Treasurer Mondial Properties, Birmingham


Past Chair Orin Jewelers, Garden City


Golden Shoes, Traverse City



Target, Retired






Design Manager


Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island


Marshall Music Company, Lansing


Credit Card Group

Publication Office 603 South Washington Avenue Lansing, MI 48933 517.372.5656 or 800.366.3699 Fax: 517.372.1303


Neiman’s Family Market, St. Clair


Great Northern Trading Co., Rockford


TDU Consulting, LLC, Ann Arbor


Meijer, Inc., Grand Rapids


About Us Michigan Retailer (USPS 345-780, ISSN 0889-0439) is published in February, April, June, August, October and December by Michigan Retailers Association, 603 South Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48933. Periodical postage paid at Lansing, Michigan. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 603 South Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48933. The Michigan Retailer may be recycled with other white office paper.

Board Member Emeritus


With every issue, we reach retail owners, managers and executives who make spending decisions for 15,000 stores and websites across the state. To request a media kit, email Rachel Schrauben at



January 8 20 20



KOSITCHEK’S OF LANSING page 4 When you’re a fourth-generation retailer, you learn a thing or two. David Kositchek shares some of his wisdom.


12 Contents FEATURES


3 CLASS ACTION SUIT Have you signed up for your share of the settlement?

2 FROM THE CE0 Nostalgia is a powerful force.

8 BUY NEARBY TIPS We give you new ways to encourage a shop-local culture.

3 FIVE TIPS What to do when you hit a cash flow problem.

10 IMPORTANT DATES Here’s your 2020 retail calendar.

12 IN HER OWN WORDS Kristen Nichols Griffin, of Nichols Ski and Snowboard in SE Michigan.

16 MATCH ON MAIN MEDC’S program provides grants to promising small businesses.

14 GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS Policy changes that retailers can be grateful for this holiday season.

19 A PAIN IN THE BACK Help employees avoid the second most common cause for sick time.

15 LEGALLY SPEAKING Know the legal pitfalls when you put items on sale. 18 CATCH-ALL DRAWER Tidbits from around the retail world. 20 LOTTERY UPDATE From the Lottery Commissioner.


Visit us online to see what’s new in the industry and what services we provide members to strengthen your business.



FROM THE CEO Magic of Christmas A few days ago my nine-year-old daughter, Olivia, came home from school with a tooth in her hand. While it wasn’t the first one she’s lost, it was unlike the others because this tooth came with a bunch of questions. Who was this tooth fairy and was she real? And while we’re on the topic of the tooth fairy, let’s talk about the Easter Bunny and Santa. A friend from school had already tried to spoil the magic, and so far, we’d been successful delaying the conversation, but this time it was too much. We sat her down and had two main objectives: soften the blow to Olivia and make sure she didn’t tell her brothers Zachary (6) and Theodore (3). In the moment, I had an idea. I pulled out my phone and cued up a video from Christmas morning in 2015. The video captured the most impactful gift we’d ever given. That year, Olivia had watched The Polar Express, and like the boy in the movie, she wanted nothing more than a bell from Santa’s sleigh. With all the toys and games our kids have opened over the years, we’ve never had a reaction quite like when Olivia opened that bell. With tears streaming down her face, that moment captured the magic of Christmas. Tooth in hand, as she watched the video, I asked her to remember how she felt in that moment. That is how your brothers still feel we told her; let’s preserve that magic for them. My wife Michelle and I asked her to be our helper and now she’s in on the secret. It occurred to me that this evolution of our tradition parallels what retailers experience every year. Retailers seek to maintain that emotional shopping experience for their customers, yet trends evolve and fads come and go. A once popular item bringing throngs of shoppers has now become a distant memory. Case in point: At one time



my sister had about 300 beanie babies. How can a retailer recreate the frenzy? Usually, there is no silver bullet, but retailers are resilient. And while change is not easy, we applaud those that have embraced it by unveiling a new product line, creating a new store layout, or developing new branding. Business models, like traditions, evolve over time. While it might not always be feasible to pinpoint the next trend, retailers can reference the past with an eye towards to the future. I saw an interesting study the other day by the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that consumers spend more when they feel nostalgic. That’s particularly appropriate during the holiday season when we gravitate to our traditions that keep us connected to the magic of our youth. So the next time you’re presented with your own sort of “tooth-in-hand,” look at that challenge as an opportunity to evolve. It certainly wasn’t easy breaking the news to Olivia, but our traditions (though slightly different now) are alive and well. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season.

WILLIAM J. HALLAN MRA President and Chief Executive Officer


Getting Through a Cash Flow Problem If you’re struggling with your line of credit or to make payroll, here are some tips to get you through.

1 2 3 4 5

Don’t try to get through tight times by avoiding payroll taxes or financing your receivables. You’ll start digging a hole and it’ll only get deeper. Don’t get so invested in a project that you can’t be objective about its viability. Admit that it was a mistake and shut it down so you can focus on what’s profitable. Ask for help – go to your lender, accountant or a restructuring pro who can look at your books and help with your cash flow issue. Don’t wait until you’ve tapped out your line of credit or lost the faith of your creditors. To fix problems and allow for some creative solutions, you need cash and flexibility. Take advantage of resources like the Small Business Development Corporation, which can provide guidance on the next steps.

Source: R. Scott Williams, Hardware Retailing

Progress in Visa/ MasterCard class action suit; have you signed up? By JOHN MAYLEBEN There’s progress in the class action lawsuit claiming that merchants paid more fees than they should have for accepting Visa and MasterCard as payment from consumers. This lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard made news a couple of years ago because of the size of the settlement. It is estimated to be more than $5 billion and will be disbursed to any merchant that accepted Visa or MasterCard transactions between 2004 and part way through January 2019. There was a hearing in early November that gives all indications that the claims period will open shortly. Eligible retailers can file for a claim, and MRA has partnered with Managed Care Advisory Group (MCAG). The firm specializes in the collection and reporting of data for class action lawsuit settlements. When it looked like a settlement was going to happen a couple of years ago, we enrolled over 1,000 merchants into the settlement services provided by MCAG. Those enrollments are still good; If you’re one of them, there is nothing more you need to do. If you haven’t signed up or are uncertain, please visit VisaMC2019 and complete the enrollment form today. If the enrollment is a duplication, we will handle the merging of both enrollments. If you have questions about this settlement or the process, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team at 800.366.3699. Disclaimer: On January 24, 2019, the Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement filed on September 18, 2018 for the Rule 23(b)(3) Class Plaintiffs in this action. No claim forms are available at this time, and no claim-filing deadline exists. If the settlement is granted final approval, no-cost assistance will be available from the Class Administrator and Class Counsel during any claims-filing period. No one is required to sign up with any third-party service in order to participate in any settlement. For additional information regarding the status of the litigation, interested persons may visit, the Court-approved website for this case.

Enroll for your share of the settlement at MICHIGAN RETAILER DEC 2019 / JAN 2020


What’s most important about running your store? 1. Having peace and harmony in my everyday worklife. 2. Serving the community. 3. Serving my employees. David Kositchek

How a 154-year-old business stays relevant By MEEGAN HOLLAND Photos DAVID TRUMPIE

LANSING - Walk into Kositchek’s men’s clothing store, and you’ll see racks of men’s suits and sportcoats, hangers with colorful shirts, tables of silk ties, a shoe department and a salon. On the second floor is a room full of the latest resort wear, ready to be snatched up by snowbirds. It can be a bit intimidating for someone not used to touching such fine fabrics or getting shoes polished on a regular basis. But the people who greet you immediately put you at ease – and one of them may very well be fourth-generation store owner David Kositchek. Beautifully suited, Kositchek calls you by name and makes you feel at home. It’s all about the art of service, and every employee understands that core principle, from General Manager Matt McLeod to the receiving room clerk. That’s the key to staying in business for 154 years. “A customer for life is a customer who feels the apprecia-



Top left photo, L-R: Wardrobe specialist Carl Dorman, Kositchek’s store owner David Kositchek and General Manager Matt McLeod. Top right: Tailor Mark Benjamin helps a customer, lobbyist Frank Foster, find just the right sport coat.

tion. Otherwise you don’t create loyalty. They might as well shop on Amazon,” Kostichek says. “They have to feel the hug. You can’t be in business today and take your customers for granted. If you do, you’re not in charge of your own destiny.” Service is ingrained in Kositchek’s DNA. His great grandfather Henry, born to immigrants from Austria, started selling dry goods from a wagon and then opened a store in nearby Eaton Rapids in 1865, when the country was healing from the Civil War. He soon moved the store to Michigan’s new state capital city of Lansing, and emphasized that he embraced the core principles of service and integrity. Before Henry died in 1925, he groomed son Louis for 20 years. Louis’ eye for quality and fashion made the store a go-to place for lawmakers, lobbyists and anyone who wanted to impress. His business continued on page 6 MICHIGAN RETAILER DEC 2019 / JAN 2020


Kositchek’s continued from page 5

acumen pulled the store through the Depression, a World War, a baby boom and beyond, until his death in 1975 – an extraordinary 70-year career. Enter son Richard, who had a keen sense for hiring the right people, and under his leadership, Kositchek’s grew to the largest footprint of any store in downtown Lansing. It included departments for boys, junior menswear, hats, shoes and even a Boy Scout department. Richard brought on the fourth generation, sons David and Jeffrey, in the early 1960s. Richard’s activism in civic and social causes spread the store’s reputation even further, adding to its customer base and influence on mid-Michigan fashion. Richard remained a guiding force until his death in 1997. He hired teenager Matt McLeod to perform household tasks and eventually work at the store. McLeod has now been with Kositchek’s for almost 40 years and is David’s right-hand man. David eventually took over the store and credits McLeod for helping him take the store to the next level. Both also carry on the tradition of community service, having donated thousands of dollars in suits through an annual Father’s Day writing contest and even more to women’s health issues at the local hospital by putting on a “Dapper Dad’s” fashion show with local celebrities. They are so in sync that they often finish each other’s sentences. “A lot of stores fall into that discount price to compete on the big market,” McLeod says. “But if you just take care of your customers, price is secondary. You have to be cognizant of it, but more people are hungry for service.” David chimes in: “We don’t care whether they’re buying a pair of

socks or an expensive suit, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about respect.” The store is now an iconic institution with a customer base from state government, General Motors and Michigan State University. It became a safe place for the powerful to chat about their day with their favorite wardrobe specialist or David himself, knowing that their revelations or gripes would go nowhere. “People come in here to feel good. If I’m having a bad day or an issue on my mind, I typically never share it because they don’t want to hear it,” says Kositchek, with McLeod adding, “We’re good about being the listener. If (retailers) have to wear their political or religious opinions on their sleeve, they better be prepared for the consequences. You got to keep that close to the vest.” The newest sales associate has been there six months, but all the rest have worked there from 15 to 40 years. “Turnover hurts you,” Kostichek says.

Advice from David Kositchek on running a 154-year-old store






When you work in your store every day, sometimes you get tunnel vision. It’s important to have an outside coach. Perhaps a former retailer, someone in the financial world, or a wholesaler. Somebody who understands our industry. You need a different perspective, but then make your own decision because you live it every day.

You have to get your ego out of the way and buy what the customer is looking for. Think things through before you obligate your company to merchandise. The best way is to come home, sleep on it, share it with your key people. We bring back fabrics, notes, pictures and then sit down as a team. We look at inventory, performance of different lines, and decide what to buy.

Every sales person brings something a little different to the equation. No two customers are the same so you have to have a wide range of personalities. But one thing they all have in common is they’re kind; they all have a wonderful heart and they all understand that the bottom line in what we do is service to the customer and making them happy.

My grandpa always used to say, “You don’t want to keep merchandise in the stockroom! You can’t sell it in the stockroom. Get it up on the floor. You’ve got too much down here.” I hear him today when I walk through the stockroom.


Carl Dorman switches the window display at Kositchek’s, located at 113 N. Washington Square in Lansing, the north end of Lansing’s downtown a block from the state Capitol. The store carries high-end lines but also caters to the customer looking for a first suit.

Kositchek’s web site provides information on the sales staff and the brands found at the store, but you can’t buy online. “The expertise of our team is part of the experience we offer,” David says. The marketing budget is about 3.5 percent of the budget. The store advertises on TV, billboards and social media, with photos pairing a stylish tie, shirt and suitcoat on Instagram and Facebook. Kositchek and McLeod take pride that the store is contemporary but

not trendy. Its largest customer base is ages 18 to 40, an indication that millennials want quality. One such customer, Jonathan Oosting, laughed as he tells his experience before his September nuptials. His fiancé (Sarah Mullkoff) “was so mad, because she had spent a whole day looking for a wedding dress,” Oosting said. “We walked into Kositchek’s, and I told the salesman I needed a navy blue suit for our wedding ant that I wanted someting modern and slim fitting. He knew exactly the type I was looking for and pulled a suit off the rack that fit almost perfectly. I was out of the store in a half hour.” That salesman was Carl Dorman, a fitness trainer who 15 years ago applied for a job at Kositchek’s, with no experience in the clothing business. David had a good feeling about him during the interview, hired him and then made sure other wardrobe experts mentored him along the way. He now is a buyer for the store. The right instincts about people and an adherence to the core principles of service and integrity have driven Kositchek’s for 150-plus years. “Is there a succession plan? The answer is no. We’re just going to enjoy every day,” says Kositchek. MICHIGAN RETAILER DEC 2019 / JAN 2020


Buy Nearby: 6 ideas to encourage a shop-local culture Make it your New Year’s resolution for 2020: I’m going to come up with new ways to keep customers coming back and nurture those consumers who believe in shopping locally. Aside from participating in MRA’s Buy Nearby program (see sidebar), we’re here to help you brainstorm. Here are some ideas to get the wheels turning!

Get involved – and then toot your horn

It’s a given that you should get involved in your community – not just as a store looking to expand your customer base but also as a responsible citizen who cares about your town. So buy those ads in the local theater program, donate a silent auction item to a popular charity, donate a percentage of sales to charity, sponsor the softball team’s shorts and of course volunteer. But don’t be shy about this stuff – let your customers know HOW you’re giving back. It makes them feel good about supporting businesses that make a difference. Put up a chalkboard and list the things that you or your employees have done in the past month or seek other ways to showcase what you’re doing in the community.



Let shoppers know you can special order

Get involved – and then toot your horn

Consider co-op advertising

Consider joining nearby businesses to make ad buys. Your dollars will go further and you’ll be promoting the entire business district to local and visiting shoppers alike. The trick is to agree on how to go about it: Print? Billboards? Digital? TV? There’s a variety of choices. Go with your gut and ask the salesperson what kind of metrics they can provide to show the advertising was effective.

Don’t have duplicate merchandise

If there are areas where your products overlap with other local retailers, consider removing them to give the other retailer the business. You need to set yourself apart, not duplicate what’s already available. This can free up resources to reinvest into growing other areas of your operation.

Do what it takes to seal the sale

Does your customer need a package delivered? Help with carrying items to the car? A tip on accessorizing an outfit or home? Or maybe just a listening ear. Longtime clothier David Kositchek calls it metaphorically “hugging your customer” (see Page 6). They need to know you care and you’ll go beyond their expectations in helping them. You set a standard that online stores can’t meet.

Buy Nearby year-round! Do what it takes to seal the sale

Let shoppers know you can special order

Most customers assume if you don’t carry a product in your store they have to buy it elsewhere. But your most loyal customers will wait for orders if it means supporting your store. Just be sure to manage their expectations as far as delivery time and other details. Hand them a catalog so they can choose, and maybe even provide a discount as a thank-you for taking the time to special order with your store.

Help your fellow stores

As a store owner, you can help boost other local stores by using social media to tell your followers to visit your friends at suchand-such store, like and share small businesses’ posts and post pictures of the products you buy at their stores. And if you can’t fulfill a customer’s need recommend a fellow retailer who can. If a customer’s project or order would fit better with another retailer, recommending that business can form positive associations for the customer.

Many MRA members have taken advantage of the Buy Nearby program to educate shoppers on the huge impact of keeping their money in the Mitten. But if you haven’t, think about preaching the shop-local message to your customers. You can do this in a variety of ways – and it’s all free, thanks to MRA’s commitment and the generosity of our sponsors, DTE Energy and Retailers Insurance Co. You can order materials all year round by emailing Rachel Schrauben at - Schedule Buy Nearby Guy for your downtown event; - Hand out shopping bag stuffers that cite statistics on why you should buy nearby; - Put a Buy Nearby poster in your window; - Schedule a presentation for your merchant group on how they can mount their own Buy Nearby promotion when it will resonate best in your town; and - Participate in events like Buy Nearby Weekend (Oct. 2-4, 2020), Shop Small Saturday and other shoplocal initiatives. MICHIGAN RETAILER DEC 2019 / JAN 2020





It’s time to get your retail calendar in order!

1 New Year’s Day 20 Blue Monday

The dates highlighted here may offer potential sales opportunities or warn you that your sales could be affected.

Cheer up customers with a fun offer, on what some say is the most depressing day of the year.

25 Chinese New Year



2 Super Bowl Sunday 6 Fashion Week begins 14 Valentine’s Day 25 Fat Tuesday

This gluttonous day is an excuse to offer paczkis to customers.


5 World Book Day 8 International Women’s Day A great opportunity to reach out to your women customers.

17 St. Patrick’s Day




1 April Fool’s Day 7 World Health Day 10-12 Easter Weekend It’s beginning to feel like spring!


22 Earth Day


5 Cinco de Mayo 9 World Fair Trade Day

Do you sell fair trade coffee or clothing? Put them front and center.

10 Mother’s Day 25 Memorial Day 23 Eid al-Fitr 10




1 Weddings

The busy wedding season begins. How can you help brides and grooms?

20 Summer Solstice 21 Father’s Day 29 Wimbledon



4 Independence Day 24 Start of Tokyo Olympics

Don’t put the patriotic merchandise away after July 4. Go Team USA!



1 Back to School Shopping Don’t forget college students in your BTS merchandising.

19 World Photography Day




7 Labor Day

Summer’s last hurrah – put picnic merchandise on deep discount.


19 Oktoberfest

2-4 Buy Nearby Weekend MRA’s statewide shop-local weekend!

4 World Animal Day 16 Bosses Day 31 Halloween



1 Start of Movember

A month for men shoppers – beards and all.

11 Veterans Day 26 Thanksgiving 27 Black Friday 28 Shop Small Saturday 30 Cyber Monday


10 Hanukkah (through Dec. 18) 19 Super Saturday!! 25 Christmas 26 After Christmas sales 31 New Year’s Eve


Time to plan your promotions for 2021!



In her own words From left, the Nichols family - Shirley, Karen, Tom and Kristen - gather at their Dearborn ski and snowboard store.

Nichols Ski and Snowboard

Opened: 1954 MRA member since: 1982 Locations: 21938 Michigan Ave, Dearborn 4260 W Walton Blvd, Waterford Specialties: Skiing, snowboarding, clothing and equipment President: Kristen Nichols Griffin Services: Workers’ Compensation, Group Insurance


Does your business have a unique story? Contact

A shared passion for skiing started a family and a family-run business. In east Dearborn, Tom Nichols opened a hardware store in the 1940s. It had a decent selection of sporting goods and hunting and fishing equipment. His son, also Tom, helped run the store. Son Tom tried skiing for the first time in 1954 and fell in love with the sport. He knew he needed to add it into the hardware store’s sporting goods section. Tom asked his father for space to place skiing equipment and a $10,000 loan to stock the wall in the store. Shortly after adding the equipment, and unbeknownst to him, in walked his future wife, Shirley, looking to rent some skis. He offered to give her lessons. They eventually married and had three children: Kristen, Karen and another Tom. Today, one of those children - Kristen Nichols Griffin - is Nichols Ski and Snowboard President and shares her family’s love for the sport. Meeting your spouse in the business runs in the family. Not only did my dad meet my mom through skiing, but I met my husband, a ski rep, through the business. My sister Karen met her



husband at the University of Michigan, but it wasn’t until they met a second time, on a ski trip, before she really liked him - she had to make sure he skied first. My brother Tom met his wife on a high school ski club trip. It’s funny, we’ve had customers come in saying they met on a ski hills and even had employees marry each other. We added the second location... In Waterford in 1993. Another ski business owner in Waterford wanted to retire and I had moved to Waterford after I married. By taking over his store, I wouldn’t have to drive down to Dearborn every day. We were also able to buy more product and get better discounts with a second location. We have a few nearby ski hills from our Waterford store. Pine Knob is about 3.5 miles away, Alpine Valley about 11 miles, Mt. Holly is about 8 to 10 miles and Mt. Brighton is about an hour away. We’re in a great location. Many people from our Dearborn store join ski clubs and rent skis, ski up north and out west. Our Waterford customers typically buy skis, purchase season passes to their local ski area, join high school race teams and ski out west. Many families have been coming in our stores for three and four generations. We’ve seen many changes to the sport in our 65 years... In the ‘50s and ‘60s you had to be pretty adventurous to want to ski considering you were in wool cloths with 7-foot skis and leather boots with long straps for support. The ‘70s brought shorter skis that were easier to turn and plastic boots and release bindings that made skiing safer and more enjoyable. At the same time, grooming and snow-making were improving at the hills for a smoother and more consistent surface for skiers. The ‘70s also brought the new sport of snowboarding. Higher-speed chairlifts were developed in the late ‘80s and the ‘90s saw the invention of shaped skis that were easier to control. We’ve been fortunate to bring these new technologies to our customers and see skiers, snowboarders and their families have more fun enjoying the Michigan winters. We sell the most... Skiing equipment, but we do sell snowboards, cross country skis and snowshoes too. We tune, sharpen and wax skis, mount skis and make repairs. We also rent skis. A lot of people come in that don’t do any of those sports, they just want to stay warm and we carry a lot of clothing and accessories for them. The other day we had someone come in for goggles for when he uses his snow blower. We have a Junior Buy Back program... because we don’t want someone to come in and buy boots that are a few sizes larger to get more time out of them. If they don’t fit for a few years and then at year three they fit, they lost two years of practicing to get better. When your foot moves too much in the boot, you can’t control your skis, so we designed this program so people would get right-sized, not up-sized boots. There’s a guaranteed buy-back price, which is eligible towards the next kids set or adult set when they have outgrown their equipment.




Policy changes retailers should be grateful for In this season of gratitude, I started thinking about policy changes retailers could be thankful for. As you deal with the holiday rush, it’s worth remembering some good changes that let you focus on customers rather than burdensome regulations.

AMY DRUMM MRA Vice President, Government Affairs Contact Amy at

We’ve seen good changes on the state level that help retailers focus on customers rather than burdensome regulations.

Why our PAC?

ITEM PRICING MODERNIZATION Not so long ago, retailers were required to individually sticker every product with the price. If the price changed, it had to be updated, which meant near constant price stickering by employees. This pricing method often resulted in costly mistakes thanks to accidental underpricing or overpricing items that were then subject to the item pricing bounty. In 2011, after 33 years of lobbying by MRA and others, the legislature modernized the outdated statute to allow retailers more flexibility in how they display prices. It was the only item pricing law left in the country. The requirement to accurately display the price or pay the consumer 10 times the difference up to $5 if the price is too high when it’s sold remains part of the updated law. The modernization saved retailers thousands of dollars and allowed them to reprioritize employee time on customer service and stocking. ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME Before 2012, when a ring of criminals was caught stealing high-valued merchandise with the intent to resell it for profit, there wasn’t much of a penalty. The only laws on the books were shoplifting laws, aimed at individuals stealing items for their own personal use. Michigan’s Organized Retail Crime Act, passed in 2012, now gives prosecutors more tools to punish these organized crime rings who often have ties to illicit activities. The tougher penalties act as a deterrent for would-be criminals who weren’t fazed by the softer penalties. By deterring more crime rings and having tools to adequately punish those that still operate, retailers can focus more on paying customers.

LEGISLATORS AND REGULATORS Now this last one isn’t a specific change in the law and you’re probably wondering why we’d be grateful for the very people who make the laws and regulations that cause retailers headaches. But there are many good legislators and regulators who work with us to ensure laws and regulations make sense and are applied in a thoughtful way. Lots of lawmakers ask us to review proposed legislation before it’s introduced to determine the impact on retail. They ask how they can help improve the business environment in Michigan. Regulators regularly invite us to participate in workgroups to discuss updates to current laws and rules. They let us know about changes happening in state departments and agencies and want to hear about what’s working well and what isn’t. Their willingness to work with us to make Michigan a great place to do business is why they make this list. At MRA, there’s lots of good changes we can look back on. We hope this holiday season provides you with lots to be thankful for as well.

Consider donating to the MRA political action committee. Why?

Name ___________________________________________________

• We advocate on your behalf for open markets and fewer regulations.

Company _________________________________________________

• We work hard to block legislation that would create complicated local regulations.

Mail check and form to:

• We’ve had big legislative wins, including stopping product bans, repealing item pricing and passing Main Street Fairness.


PREVENTING A PATCHWORK OF REGULATIONS A few years ago, we noticed an alarming trend of local ordinances dictating everything from employee benefits to items retailers could sell or give to customers. From plastic bag bans to local minimum wage increases and restrictive scheduling requirements, it was becoming difficult to do business in certain parts of the country. When these policy changes happen at the local level, it is much more difficult to provide timely input. It’s often nearly impossible to prevent them from going into effect or make changes to make the policy work in the real world. So MRA encouraged the state to pass pre-emption laws on these topics. Such laws clarify that these issues are best handled at the state level to ensure uniform application and that debate occurs before changes are approved.


Occupation _______________________________________________ _________________________________________________

Michigan Retailers Association Attn.: PAC 603 South Washington Ave. Lansing, MI 48933

NOTE: State law prohibits the use of corporate checks or credit cards. Make checks out to MRA PAC. To pay by credit card, go to DONATIONS $100 & up require you to list occupation & employer information; please enter it in the Company field.


Sale or no sale, it makes a difference With changes happening at the Michigan Retailers Association, it naturally follows that the “Michigan Retailer” would undergo some changes as well. In September, Bill Hallan assumed the role of President and CEO and I was pleased to assume Bill’s former role as General Counsel. With this change, the “It’s the Law” column is being retired and I will be authoring a law-focused column titled “Legally Speaking.” Not to worry, however, you will still hear from Bill with his “From the CEO” column (on Page 2).

THOMAS P. CLEMENT MRA General Counsel Contact Thomas at

If you’re marking down items for sale, be sure to know the legal pitfalls.

On a quick personal note, I am enjoying my new position and colleagues tremendously. Everyone from the MRA and the Board has been very kind and welcoming as I acclimate myself to the retail world. There is certainly a lot to learn in this business, but I have been working hard to best serve the Association and its members and am pleased with the work I have been able to accomplish to date. Here we are, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping. During the busiest revenue generating season for retailers, every effort is made to maximize customer service and sales. Towards that end, many retailers consider marking items with sale prices. While this approach is often a wise business practice, it is not entirely without pitfalls. Fortunately, most legal pitfalls to placing items for sale are avoidable simply by asking oneself whether the sale price is actually a sale at all. Put differently, is this item actually being sold at a sale price, or does it just look like a sale. If the answer is that it just looks like a sale, it is time to re-evaluate. Federal laws and regulations and state law have strict prohibitions on untrue, deceptive or misleading advertisements and clear authority for enforcement against any violations. In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, enforcement comes at the state level, generally by an action commenced by the Attorney General through her consumer protection division. These actions can result in substantial civil fines. While the Federal Trade Commission is empowered to

enforce unfair or deceptive practices, they have generally left this work to the individual states. In Michigan, fair pricing is governed by both the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the Shopping Reform and Modernization Act (SRMA). The CPA provides for a civil penalty for “making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for, existence of, or amounts of price reductions.” The SRMA provides that, subject to a civil penalty, “[a] person shall not knowingly make, publish, disseminate, circulate, or place before the public an advertisement that contains a statement or representation that is untrue, deceptive, or misleading.” The language in these statutes is straightforward, but practical application has the potential to invite trouble. One easy way to run astray is in comparison pricing. Anyone who shops is very familiar with comparing the actual price of an item to the “sale” price or the “loyal customer” price of the same item. In a classic example, an item marked down to $7.50 from the original comparison price of $10.00 is a perfectly good sales tactic so long as $10.00 is the actual, bona fide price of the item. However, if $10.00 is listed as the comparison price, but the bona fide price is actually only $7.50, the merchant would be in violation. This would be true even if the merchant priced the item at $10.00 for a brief period of time just so that they could subsequently list the item at the $7.50 “sales” price. Stated another way, it is impermissible to inflate the price of an item in order to make an advertised sale price appear to be something that it is not. At the end of the day, a competitive market, good business practices and a sincere desire for fair and honest brokering with customers is what drives compliance with these laws, not the laws themselves. Consumer protection laws are a necessary tool used to root out the very small number of bad actors rather than to trip up the good actors. I hope that this holiday season is both profitable for your businesses and an enjoyable time for you and your families.



MEDC grants offer new way to help small businesses Charlevoix’s popular new restaurant, My Grandmother’s Table, started out as a stand at the Charlevoix and Boyne City farmers markets. “People wanted to know where they could buy things during the week, so we started looking for a storefront,” said Nick Easton, a former Ann Arbor nightclub owner who moved to the Northern Michigan resort town a few years ago. His partner, Jozef Zebediah, is the cook. The bakery café and coffee bar is inspired by Zebediah’s grandmother, who reveled in living in a culturally diverse community by learning to make the dishes from her neighbors’ homelands. My Grandmother’s Table in Charlevoix received an MEDC grant to boost its vegan restaurant. Below L-R, City Manager Mark Heydlauff and Main Street DDA board members Maureen Owens, Rick Wertz and Director Lindsey Dotson present a $25,000 check to owners Jozef Zebediah & Nick Easton. My Grandmother’s Table.

Settling downtown allowed Easton and Zebediah to expand their menu selection of gluten-free, vegan and traditional dishes, such as Polish stuffed cabbage, Mexican chili, Brazilian buckwheat pancakes and Native American Three Sisters stew. The downtown was eager to add the unique retailer to the mix because there was growing demand for an eatery that served vegan and gluten-free options, according to Charlevoix Main Street Director Lindsey Dotson. The business was eligible to apply for a new kind of MEDC grant that directly supports small businesses. Charlevoix is one of nine communities around Michigan that has been awarded more than $260,000 in grants aimed at supporting small local businesses, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. THE IMPORTANCE OF SMALL BUSINESSES The program is part of the MEDC’s commitment to support small business through programs like Match on Main. “Small businesses drive the economies of our communities,” said Michelle Parkkonen, Director of Community Development Technical Assistance Programs at the MEDC. “These grants will support local businesses, further strengthening the downtowns and commercial districts in these communities, while building unique places that are attractive to residents and visitors.” Introduced in March 2019, the Match on Main program provides grants of between $5,000 and $25,000 to downtowns that are part of the Michigan Main Street



program. The grants can be used to fund eligible small businesses. The cities of Niles and Saline were selected in March as the first two communities to pilot the program, which is now open to 24 Michigan Main Street communities.

MEDC program: Match on Main

The grants are helping to lower the initial startup costs or to help with costs associated with growth, whether they are being used for equipment or to buy inventory. Projects can include interior building renovations, furniture and fixtures, permanent equipment, pointof-sale systems, marketing expenses and inventory. DIFFERENT KIND OF GRANT Traditionally, many of the tools provided by the MEDC for community development tend to support property owners or developers. What is unusual about the Match on Main program is that it is targeted for small business owners, explains Suzanne Perreault, MEDC’s Small Business Program Manager for Community Development. “We often hear from small businesses in our local main street communities that access to capital continues to be a challenge. We wanted to offer a new tool that would focus on helping small businesses with interior renovations or working capital in order to launch or grow,” Perreault said. My Grandmother’s Table used its grant primarily for equipment, including a commercial-grade Hobart mixer for making bread.

Michigan Main Street Communities 2019

Master Level KEWEENAW W

Select Level HOUGHTON

There is a $500,000 budget for fiscal year 2020, which started in October. There are two funding rounds in 2020 — one in January and May. Grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded, with recipients required to provide a 10% match. But that contribution can be in the form of an investment in the business. Participating businesses must also have worked with the Michigan Small Business Development Center on a business plan.

Provides: Up to $25,000 grants with 10% match Timeline: Funding awarded in January and May More info:






Sault Ste. Marie












1 Upper Peninsula region Sault Ste. Marie





2 Northwest region Boyne City Charlevoix

3 Northeast region





Grand Haven

Evart Grand Haven Hart Otsego Portland Wayland
















Downtown Lansing Charlotte BARRY



Old Town Lansing Howell


Eaton Rapids























4 West Michigan region









Cheboygan Grayling





Three Rivers






MexicantownHubbard Communities













6 East Michigan region Lapeer Owosso


9 Southeast Michigan region Blissfield Howell Milan Saline

South Central region Charlotte Old Town Lansing

8 Southwest region Niles Three Rivers

10 Detroit Metro region

Mexicantown Detroit Wayne


The grant application took a few weeks to complete, said Easton, who estimated that he and Zebediah filled out about 40 pages of paperwork as part of My Grandmother’s Table’s business plan.

take a hiatus for the winter and reopen in May. Going forward, the business will be open year-round and create seven full-time year-round jobs and two additional part-time jobs.

“The presentation you make on paper shows you have put some thought into a business plan,” said Easton.

“The impact will be substantial,” Dotson said of the new business. “The private investment made in the project — and the building exterior, thanks to the property owner — will have a ripple effect as well.”

After getting a late start on the season with an October opening, the business plans to



catch-all drawer The

WANT TO EARN A QUICK $100? DEADLINE IS DEC. 31! You can earn some quick holiday cash by referring fellow business people for membership to MRA, the largest state retail association in the nation. For every new person you refer who ends up signing on as a member, you get a $100 referral bonus. The bonus goes back to the usual $50 on Dec. 31. Remember – we advocate for retailers, but we offer our payment processing, workers’ comp and other services to a huge range of businesses, so refer any business to us. Provide the person’s name, business name, city, phone and email, and the same information for you. You can email the information to and put in the subject field MEMBER REFERRAL or call 800.366.3699. MRA MEMBERS SAVE ON RESIDENTIAL SURCHARGES FOR HOLIDAY SEASON Both FedEx and UPS have announced that they will not apply peak season surcharges on residential deliveries this holiday season, giving e-commerce retailers much to celebrate.

Tidbits to make business easier

However, as in the past, both carrier companies continue to implement additional peak surcharges on large shipments, or those requiring additional handling for the holidays. Online sales are expected to grow this holiday season, and as e-commerce booms, the packages and products moving through carrier facilities diversifies. Larger, heavier, and bulkier shipments requiring additional handling decrease efficiency for the carrier and will be subjected to fees as a result. Be sure to familiarize yourself with UPS and FedEx peak season surcharges in preparation for the retail boom. Also, look into alternatives such as less-than-truckload options. The MRA Shipping Program gives retailers options. In addition to exclusive FedEx discounts on select services, members also have an advantage with competitive freight pricing for larger shipments as well. To take advantage of this free member benefit, enroll today at For more information, call PartnerShip® at 800.599.2902 or email sales@

MRA Group Insurance program Insurance coverage available for small and large groups.




Our reputable insurance carriers include: • Health – BCBSM, BCN, HAP, a Henry Ford Health System subsidiary, Priority Health, Physicians Health Plan and McLaren Health Care • Dental - Retailers Insurance Company, administered by Delta Dental of Michigan • Vision - VSP • Life and Disability – Guardian and Unimerica Insurance Company Please call or email our insurance expert, Ally Nemetz, at 800.366.3699 x350 or

News From


In the warehouse or bound to a desk, employees need tips to avoid this common ailment By RETAILERS INSURANCE COMPANY The common cold may be the top ailment that sends someone to the doctor, but the second most common reason is back pain. Employers who have workers doing any heavy lifting should make sure they know how to lift properly. “What most people don’t realize about back pain is it’s not whatever you lifted that caused the pain,” said William Marras, executive director of the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University in Safety and Health Magazine. “That’s just the straw that broke the camel’s back. We really believe that this is a really long (deterioration) process that happens over months or years, or even decades.” In addition, poor posture and staying in one position for extended periods of time – such as sitting at a desk or driving a truck for hours – often inflict pain on our backs. You may need to invest in ergonomic equipment for your employees, and train them how to sit properly to avoid injury. The National Safety Council has some tips for avoiding injuries while picking up and carrying objects: • Ensure you have solid footing and keep your back straight with no slouching or curving. • Center your body over your feet, make sure you have a good grip and pull the object as close to you as possible. • Pull your stomach in firmly and lift with your legs, not your back. • If you need to turn, move your feet, don’t twist your back. • Get help if a load is too large or too bulky for one person. • If an object requires two or more people to lift it, have one person supervise and direct the other workers’ actions. Lift, walk and lower objects together as a team. • Use a step stool or sturdy ladder to reach loads above your shoulders. Get as close to the load as you can and slide it toward you. • For loads under cabinets or racks, pull the load toward you, try to support it on one knee before you lift and then use your legs to power your lift.




Lottery retailers receive record commissions in 2019 The preliminary results for the Lottery’s 2019 fiscal year bring very good news for retailers, the Lottery, and most importantly, public education in Michigan.

BRIAN O’NEILL Lottery Commissioner

Preliminary numbers show Lottery sales broke the $3 billion mark for the 4th straight year.

Preliminary numbers show that Lottery sales broke the $3 billion mark for the fourth straight year. This impressive record is the result of teamwork between the Lottery and its 10,500 retailers across the state. The 2019 figures show nearly $3.9 billion in Lottery sales, topping the previous record set in 2018 by about $300 million. Retailers also enjoyed a record commission year in 2019 at $284.8 million, up about 7% from the previous high of $266.5 million set last year. The Lottery’s instant game portfolio once again was a major part of this success. Instant games remain a favorite for the most loyal Lottery players, as well as casual players, and make up nearly 43 percent of overall sales. The Lottery’s team puts a great deal of focus and effort into developing instant games that will attract players to retailers and boost sales. The Lottery’s marketing team developed a number of strong advertising campaigns to support new instant games, helping to raise awareness of our games and boost sales for retailers. That work paid off in a big way in 2019, with total sales of instant games surpassing $1 billion for the fifth straight year. Instant game sales increased an impressive 11.3% from 2018 to $1.7 billion. The 2019 fiscal year also marked the sixth straight year of double-digit growth for these games. The hard work of retailers and the Lottery also led to a record contribution to the state’s School Aid Fund. Preliminary figures indicate the Lottery’s contribution to the School Aid Fund will total more than $1 billion for the first time ever. It is the fifth consecutive record annual contribution. Since it began in 1972, the Lottery has provided more than $23 billion to support public education in our state. The record results in 2019 wouldn’t have happened without each retailer’s hard work and commitment to serving customers and the Lottery’s mission. We’re excited about the opportunities that 2020 presents, and look forward to working with retailers to break even more records! NEW INSTANT TICKETS: These tickets go on sale Dec. 3: IG 320 - Winter Winnings - $5 IG 314 - Bingo Slots - $5



IG 332 - Triple Bonus Cashword - $10 IG 323 - Lucky 7’s - $20 INSTANT GAMES SET TO EXPIRE: Dec. 2 IG 204 - Super Bonus Cashword - $20 IG 209 - Hit It Big - $20 IG 245 - 25th Anniversary Wild Time - $5 IG 795 - Multiplier Spectacular - $20 IG 239 - Wild Bingo - $3 Jan. 6 IG 210 - Lucky 7’s - $1 IG 211 - Lucky 7’s Doubler - $2 IG 212 - Lucky 7’s Tripler - $5 IG 213 - Lucky 7’s Multiplier - $10 IG 217 - $50,000 Triple Diamonds - $2 IG 224 - $5,000 Gold Rush - $1 IG 225 - $50,000 Gold Rush - $2 IG 226 - $500,000 Gold Rush - $5 IG 227 - $1 Million Gold Rush - $10 IG 238 - Cashword - $2 NEW PULL TABS TICKETS: These tickets go on sale Dec. 3: MI 564 - Yeti or Not - $1 MI 529 - Silver Reels - $2 MI 578 - $2,000,000 Cash - $5 PULL TABS GAMES SET TO EXPIRE: Dec. 10 MI 510 - Cash Flow - $.50 MI 513 - Club Keno - $1 MI 523 - Big Shot - $.50 Jan. 14 MI 504 - American Pride - $1 TICKET ACTIVATION: Retailers are reminded to activate all game tickets before putting them on sale to ensure winning tickets may be redeemed by players. About 97 cents of every dollar spent on Lottery tickets is returned to the state in the form of contributions to the state School Aid Fund, prizes to players and commissions to vendors and retailers. For additional information, follow the Michigan Lottery on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and also online at:

New Members ISP Management Inc., Alma Brewer’s North Campus Service Inc., Ann Arbor Kerrytown District Association, Ann Arbor Heron Springs LLC, Auburn Hills Puppy School LLC dba The Dog Zone, Battle Creek Americus Grill of Brighton Inc., Brighton Holiday Market, Canton Advanced Systems Industrial Products LLC, Clawson Branch Area Transit Authority, Coldwater

MRA scholarship competition begins Jan. 1 Michigan Retailers Association’s annual competition for college and professional training scholarships kicks off Jan. 1. Applications will be accepted through April 1 for 24 oneyear scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year. Those eligible to apply are high school seniors and college freshman, sophomores and juniors who are dependent children of owners or full-time employees of MRA’s nearly 5,000 member businesses. Part-time employees who are full-time students are also eligible.

LaLone Consulting Service, Coldwater Long Road Distillers LLC, Grand Rapids Pinecrest Self Storage, Holland Port 393, Holland Bay Auto and Truck Parts , Kawkawlin Assured Care Systems Inc., Livonia Marion Village Market LLC, Marion Konos Inc., Martin T E Masonry Inc., Middleville Americus Grill LLC, Milford Inspired, Minnesota J Blakeman Construction, Muskegon Lakeshore Tavern Inc., Muskegon Mymac Inc., Muskegon Personal Touch Moving Inc., Oxford Innovative Investment Partners LLC, Rochester Andrew Street Sweeping LLC, Rockford West Michigan Restoration, Shelby Tubby’s Sub Shop #209, Shelby Twp. X Golf Macomb LLC, Shelby Twp. Courtesy Car and Truck Parts & Service Inc., Tekonsha Waggener Electric LLC, Traverse City Love Wyandotte, Wyandotte Dream Team RV LLC, Wyoming American Photo Mktg dba, Ypsilanti

Scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500. Three new scholarships were added to the 24 we will be awarding: • The Brines Family Legacy Scholarship, established by Little Forks Outfitters owner, Bo Brines; • The Judy and Rodney Phillips Legacy Scholarship, established by Petoskey’s Country Casuals owner, Rod Phillips; and • The Kenneth A. and Margaret Schwark Legacy Scholarship, established by sons James, Michael and Tom, and other Schwark family members. This is one of two scholarships awarded by the Schwark family. The scholarship program is run by the Michigan Retailers Foundation. MRA members will receive an informational packet of materials after the first of the year. Students may apply online at MRA’s website, www.retailers. com, under the Member Benefits tab. Students may also contact MRA’s Rachel Schrauben at rschrauben@retailers. com or by calling 800.366.3699 ext. 346 to check eligibility. Recipients are selected for their above-average academic performance and extracurricular activities, which can include part-time employment. Financial need is not a consideration. Scholarship recipients are chosen by a third-party administrator – International Scholarship and Tuition Services. As of 1999, 551 scholarships have been awarded, totaling more than $544,500. MICHIGAN RETAILER DEC 2019 / JAN 2020


603 South Washington Avenue Lansing, MI 48933 Phone: 517.372.5656 Toll-free: 800.366.3699

We’ve Moved! The old Lansing Gift Show is now

Retailers Market Place. March 1 & 2, 2020

Easy to get to and Lots of FREE parking immediatly outside our doors Visit for more details and Pre-register today.”

At the Frankenmuth Credit Union Event Center Birch Run, MI I-75 exit 136. All the same dealers you’ve come to know and trust plus more! Order writing and immediate delivery vendors on-hand.

Two full days: Sunday 9-6 Monday 9-5 1219

Profile for Michigan Retailers Association

DEC 19 - JAN 20 Michigan Retailer  

The December 2019/January 2020 issue of Michigan Retailer, the official publication of Michigan Retailers Association.

DEC 19 - JAN 20 Michigan Retailer  

The December 2019/January 2020 issue of Michigan Retailer, the official publication of Michigan Retailers Association.