Consumer Products & Retail
Brick-and-mortar superstores, small box retailers, online e-tailers, consumer brands, manufacturers and distributors alike need effective advisers who understand the evolving, customer-driven business, legal and regulatory competitive environments in which they operate. Throughout our history, McGuireWoods and McGuireWoods Consulting have been a legal and governmental affairs team of choice for companies that do business in the retail ecosystem.
Our consumer products and retail industry team is comprised of experienced lawyers and consulting professionals based in cities across the United States and in London. For decades, we have served as counsel to regional, national and international companies whose products and brands are household names in North America, Europe and around the world. We work closely with our affiliate, McGuireWoods Consulting, to represent the interests of consumer brands, retailers, manufacturers and distributors before state and federal legislative and regulatory bodies.
The firm’s clients include automobile manufacturers; grocery; big-box and discount chains; high-end and specialty clothing; home improvement; electronics; outdoor recreation; athletic footwear and apparel; jewelry and specialty home goods stores; franchisors and franchisees; and companies that sell products or have business models that cross sectors, such as restaurants, pharmacies, and telecommunications, media and entertainment companies. In addition to serving as outside counsel, our team of lawyers and consulting professionals has decades of experience working in-house for retail clients, providing insight on what they need in order to be as efficient and profitable as possible.
What We Offer
- McGuireWoods lawyers have held senior in-house positions at major U.S. retailers, allowing them to manage legal and business issues with a practical, business-first approach.
- As retailers and consumer brands innovate their services, so do we. Financial Times has repeatedly named McGuireWoods one of North America’s most innovative law firms.
- We are one of only two law firms selected to participate in the Retail Industry Leader Association’s Retail Litigation Center Defense Division, an initiative charged with uniting the retail industry in defense of coordinated plaintiffs’ bar attacks and “seeing around the corner to protect the retail industry.” McGuireWoods was chosen for its litigation prowess and deep understanding of the industry.
- The firm understands the often-thin profit margins that many private and publicly traded companies in the industry face. As recognized by BTI Consulting, McGuireWoods is among an elite group of six law firms that are “absolutely best” at developing and implementing competitive pricing and alternative fee arrangements for corporate clients.
- Our thought leadership in the consumer products and retail space is among the most cutting-edge of any law firm. Providing clients with comprehensive updates that track the evolving policy, laws and regulations of the industry is part of a methodology the team has implemented for years. McGuireWoods’ depth of knowledge and experience enables the firm to provide practical, comprehensive advice on topics related to every aspect of the consumer products and retail legal and regulatory sectors.
Our Service Areas
Advertising, Branding and Labeling
For many consumer product companies and retailers with private labels, brands and trademarks are crown-jewel assets. McGuireWoods’ intellectual property attorneys have advocated for clients in hundreds of trademark, copyright, trade dress, dilution, unfair competition, false advertising and domain name disputes in federal courts and before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Our significant experience assisting clients with strategic brand management on a global scale sets McGuireWoods apart as one of the premier U.S. firms for patent and trademark portfolio management and enforcement. This focused know-how means clients receive fast, detailed, practical answers.
The firm also advises some of the country’s largest retail and consumer product companies on every aspect of a product’s packaging — from regulatory issues, including reviewing labels to ensure they comply with relevant laws, to assessing risks for lawsuits and/or regulatory actions, to defending claims when they arise. Our team represents large retailers as they combat nationwide class action suits contending that labeling claims were misleading or deceptive. We offer a 24-hour hotline, so when a time-sensitive safety or labeling inquiry arises, a client can call or email to obtain immediate assistance from the team.
Class, Collective and Mass Actions
McGuireWoods has the experience and credibility clients trust with their most sensitive class actions and complex litigation matters. For decades, clients have called on McGuireWoods’ national litigation practice to handle complicated commercial matters in federal and state courts around the country. With the advent of consumer and employment arbitration agreements, retailers and Fortune 100 companies also turn to us to defend cutting-edge mass arbitration actions pending in third-party tribunals.
The firm’s lawyers have extensive experience in the retail and consumer brands sectors. We have defended hundreds of state, national and multidistrict class actions in the retail, food and beverage, and consumer product sectors, and are frequently called upon to speak and write on innovative class action issues for lawyers and judges. Our product labeling teams include litigators who defend consumer claims in across industries, including product liability, tainted food and deceptive trade practice lawsuits such as labeling.
The firm’s labor and employment attorneys defend retailers in class, collective and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) actions in the wage-and-hour space, as well as defend systemic pay and promotion, discrimination and ERISA representative actions. Our business services attorneys defend class actions brought against retailers in substantive areas that run the gamut from unfair trade practices and warranty disclosures to sales tax and privacy claims.
When litigation arises, McGuireWoods provides clients with a full suite of litigation support, including comprehensive factual investigation, witness preparation, declaration gathering and certification analysis, document collection and electronic discovery support, expert identification and preparation, motions practice, and trial and appellate practice. Our lawyers recognize the value of early case assessment and alternative dispute resolution options in managing financial realities as a means of avoiding or mitigating negative publicity, so we work with clients to implement strategies that make business sense.
Consumer Products Regulatory and Risk Management
It can take years for lawyers to become subject matter experts related to a particular set of regulations, but our team has decades of experience advising clients on every permutation of such rules. This know-how enables our team to robustly defend litigation that touches on alleged regulatory violations.
We not only defend class actions on behalf of clients, but we advise them every day on regulatory matters — from labeling to slack fill to cGMP and everything in between. The firm advises companies facing labeling disputes, product recalls, and investigations by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Advertising Division (NAD), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), California State Water Resources Control Board (CSWRCB), California Air Resources Board (CARB), and other regulatory and law enforcement agencies.
McGuireWoods also has more than three decades of experience assisting clients on matters related to the CPSC, including risk management, Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPISA) compliance, voluntary remedial actions, development of recall and corrective action plans, objecting to the CPSC’s disclosure of protected information to third parties, CPSC site visits/inspections, post-remedial monitoring, civil and criminal penalty investigations and avoidance, adherence to industry standards, and product literature and labeling issues.
Whether a company receives an inquiry letter or finds itself answering a suit brought by a transcontinental coalition of AGs, McGuireWoods attorneys bring a unique perspective informed by decades of public service and successfully defending such matters across the country. Our defense of corporations in AG matters includes one of the most notable enforcement efforts of the past two decades, which involved almost every state and territory AG as well as federal law enforcement. Our team members include two former chief deputy attorneys general of Virginia spanning four administrations, a former New York assistant attorney general who served in three administrations, the former deputy enforcement director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and more lawyers with experience working for other state AGs, including in Georgia and Colorado.
McGuireWoods has a deep bench of corporate and litigation attorneys experienced in national and international franchise and distribution matters. We offer a variety of services to franchise and distribution clients, who range from entrepreneurs and startups to some of the nation’s largest franchisors and distributors. The firm partners with clients across industries — food service, hospitality, health and nutrition, automotive, petroleum and real estate, among others — to develop recommendations on the risks and/or benefits concerning methods of distribution, licensed goods and services, commercial and antitrust implications of distribution systems, trademark protection and licensing, compliance with federal and state laws, and related litigation.
e-Commerce and Omnichannel
McGuireWoods concentrates on business matters driven by technology and understands the rapidly changing environment businesses and consumers live in. Any retail business that sells technology products or services or that uses information technology, ecommerce or electronic information relies on the kind of legal services offered by our technology and outsourcing team. From deploying cutting-edge technology to assist in point-of-sale transactions or the logistical movement of goods through a distribution network to navigating a data breach, the firm’s lawyers understand the unique business and legal challenges companies face as information systems evolve and become more complex. McGuireWoods is at the forefront of these technological advancements and counsels clients on matters involving IT and business process outsourcing (ITO and BPO); point-of-service technology; enterprise resource planning (ERP); cloud computing, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other “as-a-service” business models; premise-based and cloud implementations; integration and deployment; and open source software and other new technologies, including artificial intelligence, biometrics, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology.
Drawing on our knowledge of best practices and familiarity with market positions and business objectives, McGuireWoods assists clients with a range of legal services in the consumer products and retail technology space, as well as vendor transactions and dispute prevention and resolution.
Retail Financial and Operational Support
McGuireWoods provides companies in the retail ecosystem with innovative C-suite advice regarding a variety of topics — from construction of asset portfolios to the design of operational processes and support functions in human resources, audit, finance, real estate and investor relations.
Our team has a nationally recognized group of skilled counselors and employment litigators who study the union and litigation landscape and focus on workforce issues retailers continuously face — Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and wage-and-hour compliance, pay equity and promotion practices, diversity and inclusion initiatives, systemic and high-level discrimination claims, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues.
On the financial front, the firm’s attorneys are experienced and adept at advising on issues related to income tax, sales tax, property tax, executive compensation and benefits planning. The team understands that companies in this changing economic environment must respond to the difficult challenges posed by bankruptcy and restructurings, as well as the opportunities created by private equity financing, and McGuireWoods stands ready to advise and counsel.
McGuireWoods also provides retailers and consumer brands with advice on real estate legal matters. From offices across the United States and London, we represent clients on corporate and commercial real estate leasing matters — from negotiating leases and subleases for tenants and landlords in office, retail, industrial and commercial properties, to administering the documentation of ongoing leasing programs for property management or property-owning clients, to negotiating specialty leases for corporate mergers, acquisitions or dispositions. We negotiate and prepare letters of intent, term sheets, leases, subleases, ground leases, amendments, subordination, estoppels, nondisturbance and attornment agreements, work letters and related documents for all types of leases. The firm has represented landlords and tenants in office, commercial, retail and land leases for projects ranging in size from 1,000 square feet to more than 1 million square feet.
In addition, shifting consumer attitudes toward sustainability and ethical principles mandate skilled investor relations initiatives and actions, where appropriate. McGuireWoods has a cross-disciplinary team dedicated to the internal social issues companies face, such as labor practices, talent management, executive pay, internal pay equity, product and manufacturing safety, data security, board and management diversity and business ethics. We also handle important external social issues, such as financial inclusion, community uplift and responsible investment. The firm’s ESG team prepares clients for next steps in the evolution of their ESG practices and company-specific ESG goals, and advises clients on business activities designed to achieve these goals.
Global Supply Chain
McGuireWoods’ attorneys have the experience and the industry knowledge necessary to work with clients on supply chain strategies. Supply chains require an understanding the retail ecosystem and the byzantine laws and regulations that control how products move around the world. It is important to understand the playing field as it exists today and to work with clients to analyze and mitigate risks inherent in a global economy.
We work with in-house legal counsel, supply chain management and business lines to structure, prepare and negotiate contracts and advise on regulatory compliance regarding transportation, shipping and logistics. The firm’s attorneys understand import and export controls and work to create reliable, cost-efficient strategies that mitigate tariff exposure, unnecessary delivery delays and risks inherent in a supply chain delivering to locations around the world. We participate in industry groups and work with port authorities, terminal operations, rail lines, trucking concerns, and ocean carriers.
McGuireWoods drafts myriad documents utilized in supply chains. We identify market trends, understand using market leverage and work with various transportation modals. The firm’s lawyers negotiate and draft rate agreements and service arrangements with ocean transportation intermediaries, including freight brokers and nonvessel operating common carriers, shipping agreements, vessel charter agreements and service agreements, ocean carrier agreements, terminal agreements and free trade zone (FTZ) arrangements. Our experience includes trucking and logistics contracts and we draft drayage agreements, transload agreements, final-mile customer deliver agreements, and contracts related to ownership/operation of regional distribution centers, flatbed distribution centers, e-commerce direct fulfillment centers and cross-dock distribution terminals. We also handle issues involving tariffs and customs regulations throughout the world.
In the litigation field, we practice before state and federal courts throughout the country and before administrative agencies. The team represents clients in litigation related to maritime issues, such as the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA) and in matters before the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Maritime Commission and Maritime Administration. We also help clients in matters with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including seeking rulings, filing protests, understanding antidumping exposure classifying products. We understand the implications of detention and demurrage and other issues that impact the cost of moving cargo from ships, rail and trucks. The team also mitigates the unexpected costs clients face from delays and problems during the movement of cargo and inventory.
McGuireWoods is a true partner when it comes to supply chain issues and clients retain us to perform risk analyses. We provide customized, comprehensive reviews and evaluations of the contractual agreements necessary to secure a supply chain, and our lawyers understand the language and concerns of the industry. The firm works with new supply chain management technology and assists clients in applying such technology to its transportation goals. Our goal is to address and remedy gaps before a problem arises, so that clients can anticipate and avoid costly disputes and litigation with vendors and institutional customers. Yet, if a dispute arises, we are ready to pursue a cost-efficient resolution.
Food and Beverage
Companies that produce, distribute, and sell food and beverages face myriad challenges, from claims challenging a product’s packaging to regulatory compliance issues to foodborne illnesses and everything in between. McGuireWoods helps clients navigate the evolving regulations and litigation landscape that affect the industry — domestically and internationally. We handle matters ranging from answering thorny regulatory questions about labeling and packaging to responding to warning letters to defending companies facing national class actions. The team often plays key roles structuring business transactions for restaurant chains, manufacturers, private equity and investment firms, food service management companies, and distributors.
Chambers USA, which compiles the most respected rankings for the legal industry, named McGuireWoods one of the country’s top food and beverage industry legal practices. The firm’s attorneys wrote the book “Food Safety Law,” which focuses on recalls, inspections and civil litigation, and they have contributed to other publications, including “Food Law, a Practical Guide” (American Bar Association). Our team also engages in robust thought leadership, providing a free quarterly webinar on food and beverage labeling trends for clients and potential clients, speaking frequently at conferences and industry events, and writing numerous articles on notable developments in the industry.
Cannabis, Hemp and CBD Consumer Products
McGuireWoods’ approach to cannabis goes beyond the typical, narrow view of state regulation or license applications. We guide financial institutions, private equity investors, application developers, food manufacturers, dietary supplement manufacturers, manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter products and cosmetics, employers, healthcare institutions, physician practices, transporters and ancillary businesses on how to evaluate issues related to cannabis and cannabis derivatives, such as hemp and CBD. The team provides experience-based solutions to federal and state enforcement issues, leading to business-oriented outcomes, even in an uncertain regulatory landscape.
These experienced lawyers and government affairs consultants assist clients with issues touching cannabis, hemp and CBD businesses, such as corporate formation, licensing, labeling, class action consumer pricing risk, California Proposition 65 compliance, intellectual property and interstate transportation issues. We also navigate regulatory risks in transactional matters and draft risk disclosures for securities and private offerings so investors understand the financial and legal risks associated with the businesses in which they invest, including the shifting environment involving bankruptcy.