Beyond COVID-19: Six policy priorities for NRF in 2021

The best plan of action to move the retail industry forward this year

NRF appreciates the historic efforts made by Congress during the past year as the coronavirus pandemic has presented unparalleled challenges for the American people and the nation’s economy. As a new session of Congress begins, a wide range of issues will impact retailers of all types and sizes. Although much attention must still be paid to combating the pandemic, it is our hope that with the effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, NRF and Congress can work together to ensure that the economy and the retail industry continue to rebound and thrive.    

NRF members’ highest priority remains the health and safety of retail workers, customers and the communities they serve. Steps such as robust support for testing and vaccine distribution should be the first order of business alongside additional action on fiscal stimulus. The pending Safe and Healthy Workplace Tax Credit, for example, would help offset enormous costs retailers incur for protective gear and store safety measures. Other priorities include further direct payments to individuals in a combination of income and rent assistance to help consumers manage during these trying times. Lastly, targeted and temporary liability protection against unwarranted lawsuits should be enacted for customer-facing businesses.

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Learn more about the policies that NRF is advocating for here.

As the situation improves, however, other priorities will return. Here are key issues impacting retailers that NRF is asking Congress to address

International trade and the retail supply chain

U.S. retailers rely heavily on global supply chains to source high-quality and affordable products from around the world. Retail supply chains are intricate and built carefully over time to address needs from fast delivery to social concerns such as fair labor practices, environmental protection or consumer safety. As such, they cannot be changed overnight. It can take months, if not years, to find new suppliers that meet retailers’ requirements.

Congress should focus on trade policies that reestablish U.S. leadership but also maximize the contribution of retail supply chains to the U.S. economy and U.S. jobs.

Supply chain infrastructure

U.S. retailers are among the country’s largest shippers, moving hundreds of billions of dollars in merchandise using America’s seaports, airports, rail lines and highways each year. The condition of transportation infrastructure is vital to American competitiveness and especially the retail industry, which must deliver goods both to stores and, increasingly, directly to consumers’ homes.

Unfortunately, infrastructure has suffered from decades of underinvestment, creating a drag on the economy and reducing U.S. global competitiveness. Congress should finally act on a long-term infrastructure bill that addresses current challenges as well as future growth.

Data privacy

Maintaining customers’ trust is a top priority for retailers, who spend millions of dollars each year to protect consumer information and comply with privacy regulations.

In 2021, Congress will renew efforts to enact a bipartisan data privacy law that establishes uniform national standards to replace the current patchwork of state and local laws. NRF strongly supports that approach and also believes federal legislation must apply to all entities that handle consumers’ personal information, not just retailers. The combination of uniform standards and universal coverage will ensure that consumers are equally protected everywhere.


Retail provides careers for millions of workers in fields ranging from store-level sales to corporate management and supports millions more in economic sectors from IT to finance that work with our industry. NRF strongly supports workforce policies that are conducive to sustained growth. As the country continues to confront COVID-19, our government should pursue policies that promote economic growth and avoid increased regulatory burdens.

Payments and card security

The U.S. payments system lags behind other nations in both security and innovation, with U.S. credit and debit card users experiencing significantly higher fraud rates and retailers paying higher fees. Card security is a top priority for retailers, who spend millions to keep transactions safe, but the technology is controlled by the two largest card networks, which have little competition. Congress should support an enhanced payments infrastructure that ensures security, innovation, competition and transparency.

Tax reform

Retailers greatly benefitted from landmark tax reform passed in 2017, which lowered the corporate tax rate and also provided relief for small businesses and consumers. Prior to reform, many U.S. businesses had moved various operations and sometimes even corporate headquarters to nations with lower taxes. Since enactment, jobs, wages and investment in the U.S. have all grown, increasing disposable income and boosting retail sales.

With retailers facing liquidity challenges during the pandemic, any increase in taxes would result in a downturn in growth. It is vitally important that tax policy not exacerbate current weaknesses in the economy.

NRF looks forward to working with Congress. Retailers should reach out to lawmakers now to let them know how important these issues are to our industry and the nation’s economy.

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