The Texas Retailers Association has hired John McCord as its new executive director. He succeeds George Kelemen, the former president and CEO, who resigned in fall 2021.
“John brings a lot of experience, both from the industry side of the association and the management side and also the lobbying side of the business,” said Gary Huddleston, TRA grocery industry consultant. “I’m excited for John to join the team.”
McCord’s recent experience includes serving as Texas legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Business and chief of staff for Rep. Cindy Burkett before that, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“I’m excited about the opportunities ahead for the Texas Retailers Association,” McCord said on taking over his new role. “Retailers employ almost 3 million people in over 370,000 establishments across Texas. As our economy continues to suffer from the effects of COVID, inflation, labor shortages and supply chain issues, I look forward to ensuring TRA is a leading voice for those recovery efforts.”
McCord said he grew up in a small-town family grocery store that his grandfather founded and eventually passed down to his father.
“The life lessons that were taught in that store are what led me to where I am today,” he said. “I cannot wait to reconnect to this industry and help tell the story of the amazing work occurring across our state.”
Huddleston praised Kelemen’s leadership. “George did a terrific job in leading TRA,” he said. “He brought TRA into better financial position for the organization and also led a number of legislative initiatives. One being the clarification of no sales tax on interchange fees charged through the credit card system.”
On the TRA website, Keleman reflected on his six years with the organization.
“I leave with a great sense of pride knowing that I am leaving TRA much better than I found it,” he wrote. “As an association leader, that is the goal and I am pleased that both the organization and my successor will be better for it.
“Over these nearly six years we have restored relevance, member engagement and financial stability to TRA. I am immensely proud of the work we have accomplished together during this time.”
He went on to note that TRA can “get into any room in Austin or Washington, D.C., be trend-setters in promoting the work and value of TRA to engage current members as well as new ones, and the organization’s finances have been stabilized to give it the resources to succeed going forward.”
The statement continued, “I especially want to thank our staff team of Diana Cardona, Jim Sheer and Gary Huddleston for their leadership and commitment to TRA’s success. They have been with me, in one way or another, from the start and will be here after I leave to continue serving the TRA membership.”
The Texas legislature meets in odd years, which Huddleston said will give TRA all of 2022 to determine its priorities for the grocery industry. The first one he mentioned was to eliminate or reduce the inventory tax.
“Even though Texas is a low-tax state, it’s one of the few states that still has an inventory tax at the end of the year,” he said. “Grocers that have inventory, which they would have in their back rooms and distribution centers and actually on the shelf, have to pay an inventory tax on that product even though it hadn’t sold yet. And even though most of it is not eligible for sales tax from the customer.”
Huddleston also mentioned that the association plans to work on Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission policies. At present, beer and wine products cannot be covered under loyalty type programs.
TRA also wants to focus on SNAP and WIC, according to Huddleston.
West Texas observations
In regard to West Texas, the size of the market is something to remain aware of, as well as its distribution of product and with large DCs, both in Lubbock and Amarillo.
Huddleston also mentioned, with H-E-B operating a store in Lubbock, he sees increased diesel fuel costs as a factor as it has products delivered across the state.
While hiring and retaining quality employees remains the No. 1 concern for grocers, Huddleston is optimistic about what e-commerce and fulfillment centers will continue to bring.
“Fortunately for some retailers, they were in that business big before the pandemic, and then that escalated…plus, the retailers that weren’t in that business had to get into it pretty quickly. So I see that business growing.
“I also see more and more fulfillment centers just for that business. Kroger is opening one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that would just be for fulfillment. And the reason for that is that it’s much more efficient to do it out of a fulfillment warehouse-type setting than it is in the stores.”
For more information, visit txretailers.org.