Florida’s economy continues to be “very robust” and the state legislature recently approved a budget of about $109 billion while “still banking an additional $11 billion in reserves,” said Lorena Holley, VP and general counsel with the Florida Retail Federation.
“More specific to the food industry in Florida, our grocers have generally retained a good portion of the business they enjoyed in 2020 and 2021, some with increases up to 20 percent,” she added.
Inflation is affecting the nation and Florida’s independent grocers are dealing with it as best they can.
“Some grocers have reported difficulty in staying current with the ever-changing prices for items. Some stores may see as many as 200 prices changes in a single week,” Holley explained.
“The rapid changes in pricing raise concerns for pricing errors and also creates customer confusion. The complexities in pricing could result in some customers losing confidence in the integrity of shelf prices.”
Other challenges facing independents are COVID-19 pandemic-related, with workforce issues one of the most common.
“Hiring and retaining employees continues to be difficult. Many in the retail industry, including the food industry, have raised their starting hourly rate with some even offering signing bonuses and other incentives,” Holley said. “Some have found success in offering increased pay opportunities to those employees who work the entire scheduled work week.”
She went on to say that the FRF’s Food Industry Council is continuing to work toward keeping grocers up to date with state and federal developments that affect the food industry.
“We produce a bi-monthly publication called the ‘The Checkout,’ which provides timely updates on state legislation, regulatory proposals, recalls, labor issues, SNAP and WIC program updates and more,” Holley said.
“We also provide our Food Industry Council members access to our statewide county and municipal ordinance monitoring service, which tracks and alerts members of proposed local ordinances that may affect them.
“Finally, our staff actively engages with the State Emergency Operations Center located in Tallahassee, which allows us to provide our members up-to-date information and assistance during declared state emergencies such as hurricanes.”
According to Holley, one of FRF’s biggest priorities during the 2022 legislative session was to focus on the fight against organized retail crime.
“Organized retail crime affects the entire grocery industry, with many reporting higher instances of theft,” she said. “FRF worked closely with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to successfully pass legislation that will implement more serious penalties for those convicted of engaging in organized retail crime theft.
“We also supported a number of ‘sales tax holidays’ that benefit the entire retail industry as a whole.”
Holley noted that the Florida legislature has largely maintained a “grocer friendly” business environment.
“To that end, FRF has worked to proactively head off a number of potentially onerous proposals relating to materials/packaging bans, product sales restrictions, data privacy and more,” she said.
For more information, visit frf.org.