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Matt Shay Remakes National Retail Federation

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Matt Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, has increased the trade association’s lobbying budget and Beltway presence since taking the helm of the group.

The National Retail Federation in the past two years has upped its spending on K Street and worked, under the management of Matt Shay, to cut a bigger profile inside the Beltway.

We are playing with a new level of aggressiveness and a new level of influence, said Shay, who has been on the job as president and CEO just shy of two years.

This month, Shay retained Purple Strategies, the communications and government-affairs shop co-founded by strategist Alex Castellanos, to help the association with lobbying and global public relations.

We have a good story to tell, Shay added.

Part of that story is the federations multimillion-dollar Retail Means Jobs campaign, which aims to tell Members of Congress that retailers employ a lot of people in their districts. All of this is really designed to increase the effectiveness of the advocacy work we do, Shay said.

That advocacy work right now is focused on trying to sell Congress on a measure that would require all retailers, whether online or bricks-and-mortar, to collect state sales tax from customers. The NRF also is lobbying for a lower corporate tax rate, hoping to reduce the rate from about 35 percent to about 25 percent. Finally, the group advocates for more global trade and for the elimination of visa delays to make it easier for foreign tourists to travel and shop here.

In 2010, when Shay joined from the helm of the International Franchise Association, the retail federation had
$35 million in annual revenue. This year, it is close to $40 million, he said.

The NRF has put more money into its Hill outreach. Last year, it reported $3.3 million on federal lobbying, up from $2.6 million in 2010 and $2 million in 2009.

I see Matt creating an atmosphere where hes expanded the retail industry footprint to better reflect its size, said Mary Schell, a lobbyist for NRF member company Wendys. Retail has grown to be a big part of the economy.

Shay replaced the groups former top lobbyist Steve Pfister, who had been with the NRF for 24 years, including a dozen years as chief lobbyist with David French, who, like his boss, joined from the International Franchise Association. French, a veteran lobbyist, spent almost a decade on Capitol Hill, including stints with then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former Rep. Matthew Rinaldo (R-N.J.).

Shay took over the NRF from Tracy Mullin, who retired after having been the groups CEO for 17 years. Since then, he said he has overseen a significant reorganization of the group in his first few months. That led to several departures in the groups executive roster, including Pfister. Shay also added 10 positions in the associations in-house lobbying and communications shops.

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