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PG Web Extra: Cautious Optimism Leads Retailers Into Trump Era

How do grocery retailers think the Trump administration will impact their industry?

They tell Progressive Grocer editors that they’re anxious yet cautiously optimistic about what the new president means for the economic and regulatory landscape.

"Most business owners in my circles think that the new administration will benefit business in their ability to do what they do best: run and grow their business. My hope is that across the business landscape, the environment will improve,” says Art Potash, CEO of Chicago’s Potash Markets.

Kevin Davis, chairman and CEO of Carson, Calif.-based grocer Bristol Farms, says that he and his team are anxious to see what the new administration will mean to the economy and more. “We remain optimistic, but we are not baking anything into our budgets in anticipation of changes happening quickly,” he says.

John Cortesi, president and CEO of north suburban Chicago’s Sunset Foods, says the incoming presidential administration “is more pro-business. We’ll wait and see what changes occur, particularly around the ACA, the overtime rule and with minimum wage.”

Dan Glei, EVP merchandising and marketing at Abingdon, Va.-based K-VA-T Food Stores Inc., is hopeful that “increased GDP growth that adds jobs, coupled with more a business-friendly approach to regulation” is on the federal government’s agenda.

“Hopefully, lower tax rates, which will spur more capital investment,” says  Jimmy Wright, owner of Wright’s Market, in Opelika, Ala., “and result in the creation of good-paying jobs; a true, commonsense solution to health care (starting with repeal of ACA); and removal of regulations that are killing small businesses in America.”

Many, like Lauren G.R. Johnson, CEO of Newport Ave. Market, in Bend, Ore., are concerned about changes closer to home as well. “Good or bad remains to be seen,” she says. “But at a state level, we anticipate the 50-cent hourly raise in July as we move toward the $15 minimum wage that was passed in 2016,” along with the possibility of mandatory paid leave and a push to force corporations to be transparent, regardless of being publicly or privately held.

Heather Isely, EVP of Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers, says that her team will be watching the regulatory environment closely for laws that impact food distribution, quality and labeling.

“We describe our business model as a ‘pennies business,’” says Kirk Stoa, EVP and CFO of De Pere, Wis.-based Festival Foods. “We have thin margins. You have to have high turns to support the thin margins, and the more legislation and the more bureaucracy we have, the less competitive we’ll be, and the less the outcomes will be for our guests. We’re optimistic that will change with the new administration. Let the free market work. We’ll all be better for it.”

By contrast, Chris Coborn, president and CEO of St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s Inc., thinks it’s too early to predict how the new administration’s policies will affect the supermarket industry. “We believe that a strong nation begins with creating healthy communities that work together,” he says. “The best way we can do this is twofold; encouraging people to contribute their talents to the workforce, and fostering an environment where job creation is encouraged. When people are working, it creates healthy, strong communities, which also bodes well for our states and nation.”

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