HOUSE BEGINS TO VET STRIPPING DEBIT FEE REFORM – YOUR ACTION IS REQUIRED

HOUSE BEGINS TO VET STRIPPING DEBIT
FEE REFORM – YOUR ACTION IS REQUIRED

Tomorrow, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) will hold a hearing to discuss the Financial CHOICE Act text that was released last week.

The Committee plans to begin vetting the updated version of the bill at the hearing, dubbed the Financial Choice Act 2.0, which includes a provision that would repeal the Durbin Amendment. Repealing the Durbin Amendment would be extremely harmful to retailers because it ultimately lowered debit card interchange fees and interchange fees are the second highest expense to retailers only behind labor.

PMAA has been working with the Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) and meeting with House Financial Services Committee members for the past year to educate members of Congress about the benefits of the Durbin Amendment. Since the legislation includes the provision to strip the Durbin Amendment, we are going to make this a top issue during PMAA’s Day on the Hill on May 18. In the meantime however, please notify your representatives that consumers and retailers will lose over $8 billion if debit fee reform is stripped. Please click here to send a letter to your representatives.

CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE PASSES SENATE

CIGARETTE TAX INCREASE PASSES SENATE
HEADED TO GOVERNOR BENTLEY FOR HIS SIGNATURE

A little past 7:00 pm yesterday, after hours of debate, the Alabama Senate voted 21-13 to approve a 25 cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax beginning October 1, 2015. Amendments to add smokeless tobacco and cigars to the increase were tabled as was an amendment to include vapor products.

Obviously the Department of Revenue will need to begin working immediately to issue guidelines on any floor stocks taxes or other regulations associated with this change. P&CMA will provide you with information as soon as it becomes available.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Vacations

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Vacations | NACS Online – News & Media Center – News Archive

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Vacations

Forgoing time off could cost you a promotion, according to a recent study.

​NEW YORK – The U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off initiative seeks to shift workplace culture so that taking a much-needed vacation is recognized as essential to strengthening families and improving personal health, as well as a business investment with proven returns and an economic necessity.

Citing the benefits of taking a vacation, last week author Shawn Achor penned an article in the Harvard Business Review on Project: Time Off, suggesting that people who take vacations tend to have a better chance of receiving a raise or promotion than workplace peers who don’t use their paid vacation time.

Instead of assuming that paid taking time off will send a negative message to a manager and slow career advancement, Project: Time Off research reveals the opposite. According to Gary Oster, managing director of the initiative, “Many people don’t take time off because they think that it will negatively impact their manager’s perception of them. But, that isn’t the case at all.”

Achor cites four reasons why using vacation time makes good business sense:

  1. Taking a vacation increases your chances of getting a raise or promotion.
    According to Project: Time Off, those who use all of their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a promotion or a raise than people who leave 11 or more days of paid time off on the table.
  2. A positive, engaged brain improves important business metrics.
    A study by Michelle Gielan from the Institute for Applied Positive Research and Achor found that 94% of vacations result in higher levels of happiness and energy if travelers plan and prep their colleagues a month in advance prior to taking time off, actually travel instead of taking a “staycation,” and made sure all travel details were set before hitting the road.
  3. Your manager will perceive you as more productive.
    U.S. Travel Association research found that managers associate personal happiness with productivity, and that most managers understand happy employees are more productive and collaborative.
  4. Not taking time off is taking a pay cut.
    “There’s no research necessary for this one; it’s just simple economics,” says Achor, meaning that salaried employees with paid vacation are taking a voluntary pay cut if they choose to work instead of take vacation time.

“Four out of 10 employees say that they can’t take their vacation because they have too much work to do. But, think about it this way: Whether or not you take a vacation, you’re still going to have a lot of work to do. Life is finite, and work is infinite,” Achor wrote.

“Start changing the conversation in your own company right now,” he advises. “Then, start planning your next vacation. It’s good for you, and your career.”

Craft Beer Boom Puts Pressure on State Regulations

Craft Beer Boom Puts Pressure on State Regulations
Some states consider changing their current laws to capture the craft beer industry’s tax revenue potential.

​NEW YORK – Bloomberg reports that the U.S. craft beer business — the fastest-growing segment of a $102 billion market — has some states looking closely at “an opportunity to capitalize on the nation’s growing thirst for India pale ale and imperial oatmeal stout.”

Convenience Tracking Program

NACS Online / Solutions / Business Intelligence & Data Analytics / Convenience Tracking Program

 

What drives consumers to shop in convenience stores? What are they buying ― or not? Do they notice promotions? How can we extract additional sales from shoppers?

NACS launched the Convenience Tracking Program (CTP) in 2009 to answer these questions. Partnering with him!, a U.K.-based retail consulting firm with more than 17 years of consumer research experience.

The NACS Convenience Tracking Program (CTP) is based on shopper intercepts conducted on-site at the retail “moment of truth”. The program is designed to capture actionable insights based on: customer perception; experiential factors; opportunity gaps and conversion rates for specific categories; category drivers/destination categories; and effective forms of promotion that customers find most engaging. The insights facilitate the development of strategies that increase brand equity and customer loyalty, and ultimately grow sales and gross profit dollars.

Subscribers are using these insights to identify opportunities and gaps in performance, including:

•What drives customers to shop in convenience stores?

•What are the most important factors to deliver in the shopping experience to drive frequency

•How do shoppers rate our current ability to meet their expectations?

•What are shoppers buying and why?

•What did we fail to sell shoppers that they intended to buy and why?

•Do they notice promotions and what type/method are most effective?

•Do they engage in promotions that they notice?

•How can we extract additional sales from shoppers?

•What is preventing Fuel Only shoppers from entering the store or shopping when they pay inside?

The NACS CTP sample size has grown to more than 15,000 interviews per year across 40 states. This robust sample size enables the insights to be segmented by missions, demographics, day-part, product categories/subcategories and brand. Interviews are conducted throughout the week. The questionnaires, developed in consultation with all participants, include store profiles (i.e., Rural, Urban, Interstate, Fuel/No Fuel, Beer Cave/No Beer Cave, Franchise Food/Proprietary, Size, etc.) and characteristics.

Primary research of this scale and scope has never been conducted in the U.S. market. CTP provided participants with vital insights into shopper intentions and behaviors. Because it’s a syndicated program, the cost to participate is far lower than that of independent, proprietary consumer research and allows for benchmarking performance over time.

To learn more about CTP, contact Leroy Kelsey, NACS director of industry analytics.

Autonomous Cars Get the Green Light

NACS Online / News & Media Center / News Archive

Autonomous Cars Get the Green Light
Google’s self-driving cars are hitting the roads this summer in Mountain View, California.
May 18, 2015

​MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Self-driving cars of the future may not be too far off. Google announced in a blog post last week that a few prototypes of its autonomous car will be hitting the road this summer, literally, and test driving around the streets of the company’s California headquarters.

“We’ve been running the vehicles through rigorous testing at our test facilities, and ensuring our software and sensors work as they’re supposed to on this new vehicle. The new prototypes will drive with the same software that our existing fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs uses. That fleet has logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the roads since we started the project, and recently has been self-driving about 10,000 miles a week. So the new prototypes already have lots of experience to draw on — in fact, it’s the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience,” Google writes.

Google’s autonomous vehicles won’t be able to hit the freeway, however. The company is capping the vehicle speed at 25 mph, and “safety drivers” with access to a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals will also accompany each ride.

Gassed Up: Americans Ready for Summer Road Trips

NACS Online / News & Media Center / News Archive

NACS study shows majority of Americans planning summer vacations will be driving.

May 19, 2015

​ALEXANDRIA, Va. — One in four Americans (27%) say they will take more time on vacation trips this summer and 86% of these vacationers say they will travel by car, according to new NACS consumer survey results.

Affordability is the top reason for vacationers to travel by car, cited by 61% of drivers. That’s up from 54% last summer, when gas prices were just over $1 more per gallon, on average. Freedom to choose where to stop was cited by 59% of vacationers who intend to travel by car, up from 52% a year ago.

While more vacationers will be traveling by car, they also will be staying relatively close to home. Four in 10 (42%) vacationers say they will vacation within their state, up from 38% last year.

Regardless of the length of the trip, vacationers on the road this summer say they plan to stop along the way, whether to use the bathroom (76%), get gas (69%) or buy food or drinks (67%) — and convenience stores will be a popular destination to fill these needs.

While more than half of all drivers (54%) say they will select a specific store to stop based on gas price, quality food options (44%, up from 39% in 2014) and cleanliness/bathrooms (39%, up from 36% in 2014) are both growing in importance for customers.

“Consumers increasingly want to go beyond the gas pump,” said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard. “What we are seeing is Americans are seeking out stores that are more appealing inside with fresh food and an emphasis on cleanliness.”

Drivers ages 18 to 34 are most likely to visit convenience stores on their vacations: 78% say they will purchase a snack, 74% will buy a drink, 73% will use the bathroom, and 40% will buy a sandwich or meal. ATMs at convenience stores are also a draw; more than one in four (26%) drivers ages 18 to 34 say they will use an ATM.

Overall, more than nine in 10 consumers (91%) say low gas prices are good for the U.S. economy, the same percentage who indicated so in January 2015.

(Sited from NACSOnline.com/News/Daily)

Lower Gas Prices Push Consumer Optimism to New Highs

ALEXANDRIA, VA — For the first time in two years, a majority of Americans are optimistic about the economy, thanks to the continuing slide in gas prices. A survey of gas consumers found that 57% of Americans are optimistic, including nearly two-thirds (65%) of those ages 18-34.

The levels of consumer optimism are the highest measured in the more than two years that consumer sentiment has been measured by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). Consumers are obviously pleased with the continued falling price of gasoline. Almost nine in ten consumers (88%) say gas prices are lower today than they were last month, and they report that gas prices are 50 cents per gallon lower than they were 30 days ago.

Looking forward, consumers are evenly split about where gas prices will go from here. Nearly one in three (31%) say gas prices will be lower next month, which also is the largest percentage recorded. However, an equal number (31%) expect gas prices to go up over the next month. There is an interesting regional split when it comes to expectations of price: those in the Northeast are more likely to expect gas prices to fall (37% expect prices to go down vs. 21% who expect prices to go up), while those in the Midwest expect gas prices to go up (43% expect prices to go up versus 22% who expect prices to go down).

It remains to be seen if lower gas prices will result in more spending or driving. One in four consumers (24%) say that they will drive more this month, significantly higher than the 19% who said so each of the previous three months. However, only 16% of consumers say that they will spend more (excluding gas purchases) this month, while 25% say that they will spend less.

“Consumers generally pay down expenses in January after holiday spending so it’s not surprising that they may not shop more as gas prices fall. But if consumers do, in fact, travel more this month it would be a significant departure from previous years when January travel tended to fall off after the holidays and as winter weather keeps people indoors more,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS’ vice president of strategic initiatives.

NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells 80% of the gas sold in the country, conducts the monthly consumer sentiment survey to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The NACS survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC; 1,108 gas consumers were surveyed Jan. 6-8, 2015. Summary results are at www.nacsonline.com/gasprices.

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Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS (nacsonline.com) is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 151,000 stores across the country, posted $696 billion in total sales in 2013, of which $491 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.

2015 Economic Forecast

Looking at 2015, the domestic economic landscape finally looks solid if unspectacular.  Unemployment rates should keep falling, house prices are likely to rise by 5%, and despite poor global economic conditions, the American economy will strengthen.  Moreover, despite a deep partisan divide in Washington, the government will not close down nor will it fail to pay its bills.  In addition, the ongoing improvement in household balance sheets, the improving fiscal health of state and local governments, and the likely rise in capital expenditures by firms, albeit not very large, all but insures better economic growth.  The only serious domestic problems are weak wage growth and inflation that is a bit low.

With this in mind, I expect full-year 2015 GDP to come in at no less than 2.85%, a healthy rise from the expected 2.4% GDP growth experienced in 2014, and the strongest since 2005.  As for new housing starts, they should rise by about 14%, with total starts coming in at 1.14 million.  For all of 2015, single-family starts should total 750,000 up from 640,000, while multifamily starts should hit 390,000, up from 350,000.  Housing sales should rise by about 5% and end the year at 5.6 million.  Housing inventories should rise by about 200,000 units, to 5.5 months of inventory up from 5.0 months now.

Given the improving labor market, expect net new monthly job growth to average roughly 220,000/month, which while down from 240,000/month in 2014, is excellent given the shrinking size of the working age population.  As a result, the unemployment rate should steadily fall from 5.8% today to 5.2% by year end and possibly lower, depending upon the behavior of the labor force participation rate (LFPR).  If the LFPR rises, and that would be a good thing, unemployment may end at 5.3%, but if the LFPR falls, an unemployment rate of 5% would not be out of the question.

Inflation will remain completely benign, with overall inflation possibly drifting lower, while core inflation (which excludes food and energy) shows modest upward drift.  The combination of anemic growth in Europe and Japan and declining oil, gas and commodity prices will keep the CPI essentially where it is now, slightly below 2%.  Add to this declining import prices due to the rising US dollar and slow wage growth,  and core personal consumption expenditure inflation, the Feds preferred inflation measure, will not exceed 1.7%, well below their 2% target.  This will give the Federal Reserve ample time to slowly raise the federal funds rate from where it is now, between 0% and 0.25%, to 1% by year end, with the first rate rise probably occurring in June.  The thing to keep in mind is that this rate rise, the first in a decade, is likely to be accompanied by some stock and bond market volatility.

As a result of faster GDP growth in 2015, 10-year Treasuries will end the year at 2.7% and 30-year mortgage rates will probably hover around 4.5% as the yield curve flattens due to faster rising short-term rates.  But a combination of slightly easing credit market conditions and increasing consumer spending due to increased employment and rising wages will keep the economy and the housing market on track despite mildly rising interest rates.  Finally, I put the chances of a recession in 2015 at 5%.  So look forward to steady economic activity in 2015 and fear not rising interest rates.

Elliot F. Eisenberg, Ph.D.

GraphsandLaughs, LLC

House Passes Tax Extenders Package

December 4, 2014 NFCH-14-11
 
Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly approved a one-year tax extenders package (applies to calendar year 2014 only) that would revive over 50 expired tax incentives by a vote of 378 – 46. The extender’s package includes the one-dollar-per gallon biodiesel blender’s tax credit, a 30 percent investment tax credit for alternative fuel pumps, bonus depreciation, and Section 179 expensing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has not indicated how the Senate will move forward on tax extenders. However, due to the overwhelming bipartisan support for the one-year deal in the House, the Senate will most likely follow suit and pass tax extenders for calendar year 2014 before leaving town. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have expressed their support for a two-year retroactive extension deal, but a Wyden spokesperson indicated following the House vote that “at this point there doesn’t appear to be a procedural path forward for a two- year deal.” The Obama Administration has said it could support a retroactive short-term extension. PMAA urges quick action on tax extenders and supports at least extending the biodiesel blenders tax credit along with the other provisions noted above.