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Middle Class, Washington to Take Toll on Retailers: Starbucks’ Schultz

CEO spoke at the National Retail Federation’s convention and expo in New York on Monday.

A “fracturing” middle class and Washington’s inability to resolve issues over the debt ceiling, the tax code and spending cuts will take a toll of retailers this year, warned Howard Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks Corp., at the National Retail Federation’s convention and expo in New York on Monday.

“Our voice must be heard. Send a message to Washington that we deserve better,” Schultz said at a morning session. “It’s so frustrating to see a lack of leadership.” Schultz said the fracturing middle class, a dysfunctional Washington and 15 percent of the nation being unemployed will make 2013 a tough year for retailers. Schultz, who has been a very vocal critic of Washington’s stalemate on economic issues, said that he is not seeking public office, in response to a question.

Schultz also said the developing mobile strategies is “mission critical” for retailers this year.  “It can’t be an afterthought.”

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Kip Tindell, ceo of The Container Store, who joined Schultz and Walter Robb, ceo of Whole Foods, on a morning panel, added, “We’re going to have a surprisingly good economy. It’s a shame it’s [government dysfunction] dragging on it.”