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NRF and RILA plan merger


Washington, D.C. Two of the retail industry's largest trade groups -- the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association -- announced Tuesday they are planning to merge to strengthen lobbying on issues ranging from tax policy to labor laws. In related news, NRF president and CEO Tracy Mullin announced that she will step down after helping the organization with the transition.

“After more than 30 years at NRF, my employment contract is set to expire, and late last year I told the NRF leadership of my intention to retire,” Mullin wrote in an open letter to NRF members. “After assisting NRF through this transition period, I look forward to tackling some new projects and embarking on new adventures.”

RILA's executive committee approved the merger last month, and NRF agreed to it last week. After performing due diligence, the groups will present the plan to their members over the summer.

The two organizations have worked together in the past on such key issues as combating organized retail crime. Both also have lobbied against certain credit-card fees and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, which would allow workers to form a union by signing cards rather than holding secret-ballot elections.

“This is an historic time for our industry. The challenges and opportunities before our members are unprecedented. Now is the right time to bring these associations together," said RILA chairman Robert A. Niblock, chairman and CEO of Lowe's Cos. and NRF chairman Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Co., in a joint statement.

According to Niblock and Ullman, in addition to enhancing member value, the new and as yet unnamed association will accrue substantial benefits to all members collectively, including a stronger voice on policy, communications, and public affairs issues in Washington, D.C., and a single point of integration and dialogue with state retail associations and business groups in state capitals across the country.

Each group would continue to hold its signature conference: NRF holds its annual event, the “Big Show," in New York City in January, while RILA presents an annual logistics conference in February. RILA President Sandy Kennedy is expected to head the transition and a director would be chosen after the merger.

The NRF is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and employs more than 100 people. It has roughly 2,500 members that range from national chains to mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and online retailers. RILA has about 200 members that include retail suppliers, service providers and 60 mass chains. The group is based in Arlington, Va., and has a staff of about 30.

Both RILA and NRF expect the process to be completed by this summer.

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