2019 Marks 80 Years of “The Voice of Retailing”


From The Kentucky Retailer February 2019

As we ring in a new year, we also celebrate a milestone for the Kentucky Retail Federation: its 80th anniversary serving and representing retailers in Kentucky. Starting out as the Kentucky Chain Stores Council in 1939, the organization assembled with independent merchants from across the state in the early nineteen sixties and changed its name to the Kentucky Retail Federation to better represent all types of retailing. A gentleman by the name of Ivan Jett served as the first Executive Vice President and was well known across the state and in the halls of government. He was a high school agriculture teacher in Scott County before he was recruited to take the reins of a fledgling organization that represented retailers. Because of his penchant for Georgetown, he sat up the KRF office there, where it remained until the early 1990s.

Through the next fifty years, the Federation honed its message in the halls of the Capitol becoming a respected lobby for its members. The organization was heavily involved in crafting consumer protection laws, labor laws, environmental protection, health insurance, and tax policy just to name a few. A key factor to KRF’s prominence in the legislative arena was Mr. Jett’s hiring of Mack Morgan, Jr. A community fundraiser from Lexington, Mack also served in the Army Reserves rising to the rank of two star General. Mr. Morgan knew his way around Frankfort and was highly respected for his fair dealings and tough negotiating. Before he retired, he was known in Frankfort as the “Dean of the Lobbyists.” One of Mack’s lasting legacies was moving the KRF headquarters office to Frankfort, where KRF could not only serve as the “voice of retailing” but also have a physical presence in the capital city.

In the late eighties the members realized that they could use their buying power to create member service programs that offered value. Over the years, there have been several but the creation of the group health insurance program in the 1980s and the KRF Self Insurers Fund 25 years ago have been the most successful. These service programs have saved members’ thousands of dollars over the years and continue to do so today. The third president, John Hinkle, took the helm after Mr. Morgan’s retirement. John saw that member service programs were a way to reach members that otherwise wouldn’t have had access to these type of savings. Under John’s leadership, these programs grew and brought additional members into the organization.

The Federation has served a valuable role as both a representative and administrator for other retail-related organizations over the years. Its affiliation with the Kentucky Restaurant Association, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, Kentucky Propane Gas Association, Kentucky AgriBusiness Association, Kentucky Automatic Merchandising Council, and the Kentucky Grocers and Convenience Store Association creates a stronger voice when working with policymakers, lawmakers and other business organizations.

Through the years, the Federation has remained steadfast in its core mission to improve the retail climate in Kentucky by advocating, educating, and providing member services. Today, the Federation represents approximately 6,000 storefronts across the commonwealth within its membership. While that seems like a large number, it is still only a fraction of the total retail landscape which presents enormous opportunities for continued membership growth.

Going forward, the Federation is looking to the next generation of retailers who will transform the industry in ways we haven’t yet imagined. The Association must be ready to respond to the needs of this next generation and continue to be the “voice of retailing” for the future.

In future issues of The Kentucky Retailer magazine, we will continue to explore the history of the Federation, sharing stories of the past as we celebrate 80 years as the “voice of retailing” in Kentucky.