By  on March 17, 2010

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation named Matt Shay to be its president and chief executive officer on Wednesday and steer the trade and lobbying group through difficult economic times that have reshaped the industry.

Shay, 47, president and ceo of the International Franchise Association, will take over on May 10 from Tracy Mullin, who is retiring after 17 years as ceo and more than 30 years with the NRF.

“He has the leadership skills, energy and enthusiasm necessary to guide this organization confidently into the future,” said NRF chairman Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo of Macy’s Inc.

Shay will face myriad challenges as the industry struggles with fallout from the recession, including whether there should be two retail trade associations in Washington.

Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chairman and ceo of J.C. Penney Co. Inc., resigned last week from the NRF board and said he would not renew the company’s membership. His decision came less than a year after the NRF, whose 2,500 members include Macy’s, Levi Strauss & Co., Liz Claiborne Inc., Neiman Marcus Inc. and Saks Inc., and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, representing mass merchants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., called off a merger.

“The scope and breadth of the NRF resources and diversity and richness of NRF members will give the NRF the right platform to be viewed as the premiere organization representing the entire retail industry in Washington,” Shay said.

He acknowledged the concept of “a single, unified organization representing the retail industry makes enormous sense.”

“The concept remains a very attractive one and how and when and whether we get there is dictated by the decision the NRF makes about its future and about our ability to make that value proposition to the entire retail industry,” Shay said.

He described Penney’s departure from the NRF as “unfortunate” and said he will “work very hard to reach out” to the retailer and others to emphasize they will get a big return on investment by remaining with the association or joining it.

Shay and the NRF will also face many challenges on Capitol Hill this year. Health care reform appears headed for a key vote as soon as this weekend and the NRF has lobbied against employer mandates that it says would place a heavy cost burden on companies.

Shay said the legislation “needs to create the appropriate incentives” for employers to offer more coverage but it does not meet that criteria.

NRF will also continue to focus on other key issues such as organized retail crime and credit card interchange fees. These are the hidden fees credit card companies, including Visa and MasterCard, charge retailers when customers use those cards.

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