“We may not look the same or operate the same, but we are one,” stressed NACS President and CEO Hank Armour at the NACS Show 2007 Opening General Session. “And our theme for this year’s NACS Show perfectly reflects this mission and where we are today – one industry, one voice and one show.”
Armour discussed “the power of one” and how NACS works on the industry’s behalf not just at the NACS Show but every day of the year.
“The NACS Show is clearly where the industry comes together. This has been reinforced over the past few years through our alliances with PEI and PMAA to make this the one show for the industry,” said Armour. And new alliances in 2007 with the state associations from Georgia , Alabama and Florida “broaden and deepen our reach.”
However, the NACS Show doesn’t work unless the one is really one-on-one, stressed Armour. “The NACS Show is about connections. My first NACS Show was in 1986 and I have made new contacts, found new ideas and used them to improve my business from each and every show since then,” sad Armour. Today, the NACS Show Connect the Internet portal that attendees received upon registration, allows attendees to link with fellow attendees or exhibitors, making the NACS Show very manageable and intimate.
“The NACS Show is one show…and it is your show,” said Armour.
The U.S. convenience and petroleum industry is made up of about 80,000 different companies; 70,000 of them are one-store operations, noted Armour. Yet for all the differences, “this industry is thriving,” said Armour.
It is critical to nurture the smaller companies in the industry, Armour said, through a number of programs like Independents Day (Friday, Nov. 9) at the NACS Show, which features programming developed for smaller operators. “We want to foster that entrepreneurial spirit by giving retailers tools that work for them. By doing so, it makes our industry better; it makes us all better,” he said.
One industry also means one industry across national borders. “NACS plays a leading role in global activities, helping you discover best practices, wherever they may be,” said Armour, citing this summer’s 8th NACS Global Forum in Tokyo and Shanghai, as well as the four-day International Conference at the NACS Show that began on Tuesday. “If you want to find the best practices in our industry from around the world you need to join us next June at the NACS Global Conference in Munich, Germany,” Armour encouraged attendees.
“We are by far and away the most powerful, the most credible and the most trusted advocate for our industry,” said Armour. “We absolutely must stay on top of issues; before legislation is proposed; before votes are cast; before you are impacted by poorly drafted legislation — and we have a dedicated and talented team that ensures your voice is heard.”
Media relations also plays a significant role. As gasoline prices continue to increase, Armour noted that fewer reporters are contacting NACS requesting interviews on the topic. Why? Because the conversations with reporters have evolved. “In talking to reporters over the years about low gas margins and outrageous credit card fees, more likely than not, reporters told us, ‘Yeah, I know, you told me that the last few years and I spoke to a lot of retailers who confirmed it,'” said Armour. “That’s the result of pro-active advocacy efforts with the top reporters in the country. Our message – the industry’s message, your message — is getting out and we are making a difference.”
But many battles will require even more engagement. “Your outreach efforts are critical in the most important fight that our industry faces – our battle to reduce the outrageous credit card fees that we pay,” said Armour. And there has been considerable progress:
* Congress has held at least ten hearings dealing with credit card fees and four specifically on interchange fees. * MasterCard did an IPO to try and insulate itself from go-forward antitrust liability and Visa has announced plans to do the same. “We went four successive rate cycles without an increase in interchange fees for our industry,” said Armour. * MasterCard put a $75 cap on the amount of a transaction subject to interchange. * Visa has recently changed some chargeback treatments in the industry’s favor.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but all of these things occurred because of the pressure that we are putting on them. While we pound away in the courts, in Congress and in the press, we continue to need your help to ensure our victory. We need you to talk with your elected officials about these ridiculous fees. We need you to share this with reporters who are increasingly interested in the topic. And we need your financial support of our efforts by contributing to the NACS Interchange Action Fund. There is no battle that we are more committed to than fixing this system that is clearly broken,” sad Armour.