'We Sued the Fed & We Won'


ATLANTA -- NACS President and CEO Hank Armour drew rousing applause this morning when he boasted, "We sued the Fed and we won!" during his NACS Show general session address, in which he detailed the convenience store industry's achievements and challenges.

"Wow, that's a big deal," he continued, referring to the interchange fee victory that NACS scored recently when a judge ruled that the Federal Reserve disregarded Congress' intent when it decided how much banks can charge retailers to process debit card transactions.

"Who beats the government? This time, we did," exclaimed Armour.

He noted, however, that the war over swipe fees has been raging now for more than a decade and it's still far from over. In regards to debit fees, the Fed has appealed the judge's ruling and Armour said it will likely take another year to reach a final resolution.

Meanwhile, in regards to credit card interchange fees, the NACS chief said it's quite possible the court will approve the proposed class-action settlement even though most of the retail industry has objected. "It's a horrible deal," he said, noting that if it is approved, NACS will vigorously appeal and fight in the courts. "And if that doesn't work, we will go back to Congress."

While the big financial institutions usually wait for their opponents to either run out of money or run out of passion, Armour said NACS has not done either -- and will not. "We are absolutely right on this issue, but being right is not enough. We need to fight…and be persistent."

Convenience stores are a vital part of the U.S. economy, according to Armour who cited that U.S. c-stores topped $700 billion in sales last year and conducted 160 million transactions a day. "That's half the population coming to our stores every day," he explained. "While other retail channels struggle, our industry continues to thrive."

As for current and future challenges, Armour discussed what he calls "demand destruction" happening in both the motor fuels and tobacco categories, as well as increasing regulation industrywide. These obstacles mean c-store companies have to ask: "How do we replace those sales?"

He vowed that NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, will continue to help its members grow their businesses and fight on their behalf on Capitol Hill. "When we speak with one voice, we are an awesome force to reckon with," he concluded. "Rising up together, we can accomplish great things."

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