What Retailers Can Expect from the Biden Presidency

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Now that America’s 46th president has assumed office, the question for dealers is whether a Biden administration will be good or bad for retail.

According to trade groups, economists and political pundits, much depends on the Senate. Greg Ip, chief economics commentator at The Wall Street Journal, believes the upper house could still blunt some of Biden’s more progressive initiatives, including increased taxes on businesses and investors, a public health insurance option for Obamacare, and empowerment of unions.

At the same time, Ip predicts that Biden will reverse certain Trump administration practices that were unpopular with business, including tense trade relations marked by tariffs and threats; restrictions on foreign workers; and harsh public criticism of companies on Twitter.

In contrast, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s analytics, believes President Biden’s push for another COVID-19 relief package, including more aid for small businesses and another round of stimulus checks for households, will more than offset the drawbacks of new taxes and regulations.

“Biden’s policies are the right ones to address the economic crises created by the pandemic,” Zandi told USA Today. “With such high unemployment, low inflation and zero interest rates, Biden’s proposal to go big on government investment will get us back to full employment the fastest.”

Just how fast, he added, will again depend upon the Senate.

To retail trade groups, a Biden presidency brings the promise of vanquishing the virus and lessening the country’s political rancor. In a statement, Mathew Shay, president/CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, pledged to work with the new administration and Congress to mitigate the pandemic and propel an economic recovery.

“Now is the time to come together and unite around the substantial challenges we face for the betterment of our country,” he wrote. “As the largest private-sector employer in the country, the retail industry looks forward to continuing our tradition of working with presidents and their administrations of both major political parties to advance the industry’s priorities in job creation, economic development and career opportunities for millions of Americans.”

Specifically, Shay lauded Biden’s 100-day mask-wearing challenge, which will help keep frontline retail workers safe, and the president’s $1.9 billion stimulus proposal, whose “direct payments to families and individuals, further aid to small businesses, and tools to keep businesses open will keep the economy growing.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which represents national chains including Lowe’s, Home Depot and Best Buy, sounded a similar note. “Leading retailers are ready to work with Congress and the [new] administration to defeat COVID-19 and restore economic prosperity for the millions of Americans whose lives and livelihoods have been upended,” said RILA president Brian Dodge.

Dodge added that the president’s Executive Order mandating masks on all federal property “matches the investments and policies retailers have implemented throughout this pandemic to keep our employees and customers safe.”

“In all,” concluded the Journal’s Ip, “a Biden presidency will be slightly less hospitable to business than Mr. Trump’s, but also more predictable and, many business leaders hope, boring.”