The National Retail Federation has announced the formation of the Small Business Retail Council to organize, recruit and engage Main Street merchants and independent community retailers in grassroots advocacy activities. The Council will represent and be responsive to the needs, concerns and interests of local shops and provide the association’s small business members a forum to discuss the most pressing public policy issues and priorities.

“We are bringing together some of the retail sector’s best small business leaders to build upon their integral role in drafting and shaping public policy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Working with our state retail association partners, we hope to amplify the voice of small retailers in advancing the retail community’s agenda. The Small Business Retail Council will enhance and strengthen the partnership between small business owners and NRF, and optimize industry engagement on our common goals.”

The Small Business Retail Council will consist of two co-chairs that will lead a five-to-seven member steering committee that will identify priorities, propose strategies and solutions, and participate in the coordination of grassroots advocacy. Membership on the Council will be comprised of independent retailers from around the country as well as small retailers that currently serve on the NRF Board of Directors, including Dave Ratner owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City of Agawam, Massachusetts and Beth Aberg, owner of Random Harvest, Inc. of Washington, D.C.

NRF made the announcement during this week’s Retail Advocates Summit, its annual congressional fly-in. More than 150 large and small retailers and state retail association executives are in Washington to advocate on the retail industry’s public policy priorities. Issues discussed include the need to level the sales tax playing field between brick-and-mortar retailers and online sellers, effective patent reform legislation and continued reforms to the swipe fees structure.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation.