Bringing together retail industry players from around the country, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Retail Advocates Summit gave retailers an opportunity to directly connect with policymakers. A highlight of this year’s small business summit was The Retail Experience, featuring six exhibits that demonstrate retail’s role in driving the economy, providing jobs and impacting lives and communities across the country.
Jessica Bettencourt, third-generation owner of Klem’s in Spencer, Massachusetts, attended the Summit because she believes that advocating for the retail industry and small businesses is crucial.
“Lawmakers need to hear our stories to help them understand what is important to us, how changes they make will affect our businesses, employees and customers,” she says. “We heard from lawmakers from both parties that were working together to find solutions to problems like the supply chain, not something you necessarily hear about in the media.”
Bettencourt has held several positions at the store, from cashier to receiver to manager to owner. From volunteering as a Girl Scouts leader to serving on the board of the local chamber, Bettencourt says she feels it is important to help the community to be successful.
“I think all retailers need to think about becoming involved,” she says. “I am a member of NRF’s Small Business Retail Council and it has been instrumental in understanding what is happening in Washington, and where our industry may be heading.”
The Summit also celebrated those retailers and advocates making a difference for small businesses, with the NRF America’s Retail Champion program. This year, the program honored 33 U.S. small retailers, who were chosen as Champions. From that field of 33, five were named as finalists, including Bettencourt.
All of the finalists were honored at an industry celebration dinner during the Retail Advocates Summit. Finalist Margaret Barrow, owner of It’s NOLA Snacks in Brooklyn, New York, was crowned the 2022 America’s Retail Champion.
“I am someone who represents the Black small business community and make every effort to let decision-makers know what’s at stake for the community as they make decisions that influence our life dreams and lifestyles,” Barrow says. “I strongly believe in small business retail advocacy and the mission of NRF as it courageously supports retail big and small.”
Bettencourt says, “It was an incredible honor to share the stage with four other incredible retailers. I have gained an amazing new group of friends.”
NRF also recognized a bipartisan group of lawmakers as “Heroes of Main Street” for their continued support of the retail industry through legislative action and leadership. The Hero of Main Street award was created by NRF in 2013, with eligibility based on key votes, bill sponsorship and advocacy to advance retailers’ priorities.
“Small and local businesses are the cornerstone for job growth and opportunity in communities across the country,” says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “It is an honor to recognize the 2022 ‘Heroes of Main Street’ for their commitment to supporting policies and programs that ensure the economic health and viability of the retail industry.”