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Small Retailers Buried in Regulations

aa-11-30-16-revisedA major component of President-Elect Trump’s campaign platform was loosening the grip of government regulations on business. One group he could have been talking about is smaller retailers.

In a survey conducted earlier this year by the National Retail Federation, it found that 69% of small business owners said they feel overwhelmed by all of the regulations, rules and mandates that are piled onto them.

“Overregulation is undermining the resolve of small retailers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in May. “It’s time for lawmakers, policymakers and candidates to take a hard look at how burdensome regulations are stifling America’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

NRF noted that retail represents more small businesses than almost any other industry in the United States. Of the nation’s total of 1.1 million retail businesses, 98% of them employ fewer than 100 people, and 95% of all these retailers maintain operations in just one location.

While the small retailers surveyed were generally optimistic about the future, they are increasingly concerned about the growing volume and cost of government regulations, NRF said.

The vast majority (81%) also agreed that regulations weaken the appeal of owning a business, and less than half (44%) said they believe government regulations achieve their objectives.

Retail small businesses must compete in an environment where even the smallest details of their business operations are often subject to government regulation at the federal, state and local levels, NRF pointed out.

Not surprisingly, many of them view government as unhelpful to their businesses, while only one in 10 (10%) see it as helpful. Perhaps surprising to some is the fact that just about one in four (23%) of these business owners view local government – usually considered more in-tune with their communities – as being helpful to them.

NRF also noted the survey shows that small business retailers are among the hardest working people in America, often keeping long hours, overcoming numerous challenges and making repeated sacrifices to pursue their dreams and make their businesses successful.

The people who own these firms are hardly slackers, the survey found. The majority of respondents (69%) indicated that they had actually forgone pay to themselves in order to keep their businesses afloat.

A majority of retail small business owners (82%) handle recruiting and hiring themselves, 74% do their own marketing and advertising, 72% tackle benefits management, including employee healthcare and 56% maintain their own website.

NRF said these numbers underscore both the myriad of challenges store owners face in running a small business, and the constant need for them to adapt in a changing economy and society.

Despite their hard work and sacrifice, they are still troubled by the trauma of the recession, with two out of five (38%) saying the economy (either the national or the local economy) is the most important challenge to their business – about twice as many as those who claimed that competition was their greatest challenge (17%).

“These survey results raise serious questions about the effectiveness of current regulations and should encourage lawmakers to adopt a regulatory approach that supports rather than inhibits small businesses in three broad areas of focus,” Shay asserted.

He said these include working to guarantee the freedom for a business to make its own decisions – particularly on labor issues.

The others are the need to enact broad-based corporate tax reform to lower federal tax rates while eliminating loopholes and treating all types of corporations equally, and the need to make sensible reforms to the Affordable Care Act.

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