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National Association of Convenience Stores CEO Henry Armour told another packed crowd Tuesday morning at the Las Vegas Hotel that every retailer needed to speak out to prevent a proposed credit card swipe fee settlement with MasterCard and Visa.
“The week, the judge is receiving the settlement for preliminary approval, and for the next 30 days, he will take into account all … voices, including yours,” Armour said. “We need every company who has ever accepted Visa or MasterCard to sign a short statement on why this settlement is bad for your business.”
Earlier this year, a proposed $7.25 billion settlement with the credit-card companies over the fees charged to retailers for every credit-card transaction was announced. Armour said the NACS board of directors – NACS is the lead plantiff in the lawsuit against MasterCard and Visa – immediately rejected the settlement.
“This was never about the money,” Armour said. “It’s about fixing a broken system, and this proposed settlement doesn’t do that at all.”
Armour said the deal provides the equivalent of two months’ worth of swipe fees, with no proposed change to the amount the credit-card companies can charge retailers.
“It would prevent you from suing to change the system, for years, and in the meantime, they can do whatever they want to fees, to merchant agreements, and to your business,” he said. “Who in their right mind would agree to that?”
Instead, Armour urged decision-makers to sign a statement prepared by NACS, or to drop off a business card and get the statement and instructions sent by email. Retailers not in attendance can receive the information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Armour kicked off the second general session speech by touting the industry’s performance the past four years, the best performance of any retail channel and the four most profitable years in the industry’s history, he said. That in the face of Wall Street analysts, who said the channel was entirely dependent on discretionary visits from customers.
“Once again, Wall Street got it wrong,” he said. “They didn’t change their daily habit of coming to their local convenience store to get refreshed, to get fueled, and sometimes, for a little indulgence.”
The convenience store industry tallied $682 billion in sales last year, which would have made the industry the 19thlargest economy in the world, behind Turkey but ahead of Switzerland, he said. That success has come on the basis of 160 million transactions each day, or half the population of the U.S.
“Which means, if you haven’t been to a convenience store day, you probably will tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve become part of the everyday life of the American consumer.”
But Armour urged retailers to remain innovative and forward-thinking to continue the channel’s growth.
“Many of you have raised the bar by improving your offer,” he said, citing better stores, broader food and fuel choices, and better-trained staff. “To continue our success, we’re going to have to raise that bar again.”