DC Influencer: Ellen Davis, National Retail Federation

Ellen Davis, VP of the National Retail Federation, talks to Virgil Dickson about the organization's key role in bolstering the US economy.

Ellen Davis, VP of the National Retail Federation, talks to Virgil Dickson about the organization's key role in bolstering the US economy.

What prompted the organization to launch its Retail Means Jobs campaign last fall?
Retail is one of the largest private sector employers in the US. It supports one in four jobs, but is often overlooked by policymakers for the interests of other industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and banking. It was time for retail to tell its story of jobs, innovation, and consumer value.

We also know the perception of a "retail job" is that of sales clerks and cashiers. While those are important roles, a retail career goes far beyond that: most retailers need buyers, creative directors, real-estate experts, and analysts, among many others. Our industry offers incredible opportunities for young talent.

What are the largest elements of the effort?
Our campaign is leveraging a multitude of vehicles, including substantial media outreach inside the Beltway and through major national publications, significant paid advertising, and a strong emphasis on social media.

RetailMeansJobs.com features a "Tweet Your Congressman" functionality. We built it in-house. Our president and CEO Matt Shay has been traveling throughout the country to meet with business, civic, and community leaders about the importance of retail in the economic recovery.  The objective is to enlist industry supporters so we can more powerfully advocate for our priorities.

Our "This is Retail" video contest, announced earlier this year, is a nationwide search with a $25,000 grand prize to find the most interesting retail stories. Through the contest, we'll demonstrate the staying power of retail to policymakers - illustrating the importance of retail to the US economy and showing the careers possible in our industry. The finalists will be announced at our Washington Leadership Conference in May.

What's the next chapter for the initiative?
The campaign is providing us with a platform for advocacy on key issues such as tax reform, swipe fee reform, and sales tax fairness. Once we have educated policymakers on the economic impact of retail, our next step will be demonstrating the quality of jobs within our industry - not just the quantity.

The Retail Means Jobs campaign is only six months old and we have no intention of letting up on the gas pedal anytime soon.

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