“We need every company that has ever accepted Visa and MasterCard credit cards to sign a short declaration that lays out why you feel the proposed settlement is bad for your business,” says NACS CEO.
“I have never been more convinced that when we speak as one, our industry is incredibly powerful and effective,” said NACS President and CEO Hank Armour.
And what an industry it is — U.S. sales alone of $681 billion would rank the convenience store industry the 19th largest economy in the world, between Switzerland and Turkey.
The key to the industry’s sales, said Armour, is one number: 160 million. That is the number of transactions that the industry conducts every single day.
“That’s half the population of the U.S. Another way of saying that is that if you haven’t been in a convenience store today, you’re going tomorrow,” he said.
Convenience stores are so much a part of the fabric of everyday life for one simple reason, said Armour, “We deliver what our customers want, when they want it and how they want it.”
The same holds true at NACS, he said: The association delivers what members want in advocacy, such as with roll-your-own tobacco.
“You told us that this was a dangerous threat affecting your business. Stores with large-scale manufacturing operations were masquerading as tobacco shops and were stealing 10% of your business…Through our grassroots efforts, we leveled that playing field when Congress voted 82 to 16 to pass our legislation,” he said.
Above all, though, there is one issue that members have told Armour — and NACS — to fight: credit and debit card swipe fees.
The decade-long battle to reform the broken system has paid significant benefits. With the implementation of debit fee reform that took effect last Oct. 1, retailers and their customers have seen costs reduced by about $500 million as average debit fees dropped from 44 cents to 22 cents per transaction.
“Normally, we’d all be pretty happy about that,” said Armour. “The problem is that it should be much lower than that,” he said, and NACS sued the Federal Reserve, challenging its final rules. “We presented oral arguments in the case last week. We have a strong case and expect a ruling by the end of the year.”
But there also is potentially some big, ugly news related to credit card fees — unless retailers make their voices heard.
This past July, a proposed $7.2 billion antitrust settlement was announced between Visa and MasterCard and 19 plaintiffs, including NACS. The NACS Board of Directors instantly rejected the proposed settlement, as did a number of other plaintiffs, because it didn’t address the longstanding problems with a broken system.
“The proposed settlement provides a one-time monetary payout — in the ridiculously low amount of about two months’ worth of swipe fees. Essentially that’s all the settlement does. It would actually cement Visa’s and MasterCard’s role as price-fixers,” said Armour.
“And the legal release is ludicrous. It would prevent you — and the associations that represent you — from suing for change in the swipe fee system for years to come. And in the meantime, they can do whatever they want to fees, to merchant agreements, and to your business. Who, in their right mind would agree to this? We didn’t…and you shouldn’t either!”
This week, the judge in the case will receive the proposed settlement for preliminary approval. Over the next 30 days, he will take into account the voice of all industry stakeholders, including convenience store retailers.
“You have an opportunity to make your voice heard, and to stop this move to perpetuate the ever-escalating fees you are forced to pay,” said Armour. “ We need every company that has ever accepted Visa and MasterCard credit cards to sign a short declaration that lays out why you feel the proposed settlement is bad for your business. This is the best way to show the court that this deal should not be approved.”
Declarations are available to any retailers requesting them, whether onsite at the NACS Show or via e-mail by sending a note to [email protected]
“It’s that simple. You told us that this is hugely important to your business,” said Armour. “So do it…and let your voice be heard loud and clear.”
The NACS Show, which begins Oct. 5 in Chicago, is ranked as the 47th largest trade show in the U.S. and is ranked the top show in the country for attracting attendees responsible for buying plans. More than 22,000 attendees from 60-plus countries are at the NACS Show, which features three days of general sessions, 53 educational sessions and 1,200 exhibiting companies in a 380,000-plus net-square-foot exposition floor.