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Association Acts As Advocate, Problem Solver For Members

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Cailey Locklair

While the overall economy in Maryland is looking bright, grocers in the state continue to face challenges.

“Our economy consistently outperforms the country as a whole, and last year we ranked as the most improved state for business under the leadership of Gov. Larry Hogan,” said Cailey Locklair, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, Maryland Food Industry Council, Maryland Association of Chain Drug Stores and Tri-State Jewelers Association.

“Our GDP continues to increase, and retail is the largest private sector employer in Maryland.”

The effects of inflation are being felt, however. Locklair said supply chain issues, coupled with rising energy costs and labor, as well as higher commodity prices, have “resulted in everything from food and employee shortages to increased costs that cannot be sustained on a 1-3 percent profit margin.” 

“Unfortunately, these problems have resulted in higher prices for consumers,” she added.

Labor shortages are significant in Maryland, which has a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, according to Locklair. 

“Employers have raised wages above minimum wage, are offering bonuses, flexible hours and more benefits,” she said. “It truly is an employee’s dream climate to work in.”

Supply chain woes due to weather, port issues, transportation problems and employee shortages continue to affect product supply and consumer availability. 

“Not much can be addressed by members other than doing their best to communicate when these issues occur and encouraging consumers to not panic buy,” Locklair said.

In an effort to help its members, the association is sending out a bi-weekly e-newsletter “with pertinent information necessary to do business, legislative updates and even cost saving benefit partners.”

“We constantly act as a problem solver for our members and liaison with all levels of government,” Locklair said.

Maryland General Assembly 

As far as legislation affecting local grocers, Locklair said one of the biggest issues for association members is the sale of beer and wine in food retailers. Maryland is one of four states where shoppers cannot purchase these items in chain stores. Locklair noted that the law has remained untouched since 1978.

She said the MRA has an ongoing, grassroots campaign and has had more than 50,000 residents contact their elected officials to change the “archaic law.”

The MRA, as with many associations that lobby, plays defense. 

“Our organization is opposed to one-size-fits-all mandates as we believe the free market solves many pieces of legislation, either because consumers or employees demand it,” Locklair said.

“We often come to the table on bills we oppose as well, to fix details as legislation often sounds good on its face but needs to be amended to make sense and make it workable.”

She cited examples including environmental issues – plastic bans, fees and product regulation that “have significantly increased and continue to be costly and concerning legislation.”

On the labor front, Locklair said Maryland has passed paid sick leave, a $15 minimum wage and most recently paid family and medical leave.

Looking toward the 2023 session, she said the association is working on bills that include “alcohol sales in food retailers, addressing organized retail crime and professional theft and even a bill to protect small businesses from predatory online lenders.”

The MRA continues to support its members and act on their behalf.

“Ultimately, we are here to help serve, speak on behalf of and problem solve for our members and the industry. We encourage retailers to contact us should they need anything,” Locklair said.

For more information, visit mdra.org.

To read more association news from The Shelby Report, click here.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

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