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Population Surge Helps Lift Dynamic Grocery Industry In Florida

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Brick-and-mortar retailers, including grocers, remain the primary point of purchase for consumers, accounting for about 70 percent of total retail sales in the nation, according to Lorena Holley, VP and general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation. The grocery industry in the Sunshine State has remained resilient, Holley noted, with FRF members “actively finding ways to stretch every dollar for Floridians by offering retail sales and promotions to maximize purchasing power.”

Lorena Holley

She said as Florida is home to nearly 22 million people, and a destination for nearly 140 million people every year, Florida retail stores are presented with a large and diverse consumer audience.

“With more than 300,000 people moving to the state each year, Florida grocers – small and large – continue to focus on providing good value and quality products to meet customer demand.

“To address challenges and labor shortages, some Florida retailers have expanded channels in which goods are sold, increased automation to create efficiencies and reduce dependency on staff, and increased customer engagement through communications and store experiences,” Holley said.

While organized retail crime continues to pose a challenge for grocers across the nation, Holley said ORC rings “threaten the lives and livelihoods of Florida retailers and put consumer safety at serious risk. Nationally, there is a rise in smash-and-grab thefts.”

ORC is responsible for billions of dollars in losses nationwide. Holley said the FRF is working to create a safe shopping environment for customers and store associates while mitigating losses to keep costs affordable.

“We are fortunate to have strong partners and allies in our elected officials, including Attorney General Ashley Moody and state legislators, who have worked with us to pass meaningful legislation that enhances the safety of our communities.”

The Florida Legislature passed House Bill 549 this year to enhance penalties for organized retail theft.

Holley said HB 549 creates aggregated theft thresholds, including petite theft of stolen property valued at less than $40, resulting in first-degree felony charges with enhanced penalties for prior convictions and grand theft of the second-degree for property stolen during a riot or state of emergency.

The bill also strengthens penalties for five or more criminals working in concert to overwhelm a retail store or merchant. The bill defines harsher charges for criminals using social media to participate in retail theft and for “porch pirates” who steal packages from the doorsteps of Floridians. 

“The FRF is continuing to look for ways to increase safety and prevent crime. It’s critically important that both our team members and our customers feel safe in a shopping environment,” Holley said. “By playing an active role in working with statewide elected officials and the Florida Legislature, the FRF is committed to protecting Floridians and Florida retailers by curtailing criminal activity in stores and holding thieves accountable for their actions.”

Overall, Holley said the state legislature continues to support the retail industry. This session, she noted lawmakers provided nearly $1.5 billion in tax relief to Florida families and businesses. This included continuing sales tax-free holidays for hurricane supplies, summer recreational activity, back to school and tools for trade workers. 

Resources available

Independent grocers in Florida continue to face challenges.

“[They] represent the heart of many communities across Florida,” Holley said. “Their focus remains on providing good value and quality to customers. Technology has played an essential role in helping grocers reduce overhead and labor dependency.”

The FRF and its Food Industry Council, which represents the state’s $45 billion grocery industry, advocates for members on a local and state level. Members also benefit from the following services:

• Educational opportunities on the latest food and safety rules and regulations;

• Resources for emergency operations, including real-time information during declared states of emergencies such as emergency orders, evacuation and curfew notices, waivers for SNAP and trucking regulations; and

• Professional counsel to navigate complex state regulatory agencies on issues including food safety inspections, alcohol and tobacco licensure and SNAP and WIC issues. 

Read more market profiles from The Shelby Report.

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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