ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- At a time when a bevy of new legislative restrictions and costs are pummeling convenience-store owners, officials with NACS are suggesting retailers take the offensive and start building meaningful relationships with lawmakers who could potentially draft future, often burdensome regulation.
In an interview with CSP Daily News, Paige Anderson, director of government relations for NACS, Alexandria, Va., said the c-store industry is facing so much regulatory and legislative pressure from Washington, D.C., state capitols and city halls across the country—everything from increases in minimum wage to bans on the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes—that it’s important for retailers to take a proactive stance.
“The best voice and advocate is our retailers and their employees,” she said. “Now, more than ever, it is critical for convenience retailers to build relationships with their elected representatives—whether it be with their member of Congress, a state representative or a city council member.”
Anderson made three points:
- Make an active choice. Convenience retailers have so many competing priorities and challenges in running their businesses, but with a little investment of time in building a relationship with their elected representatives, retailers can make a difference.
- Build relationships. Anderson encouraged retailers to make a commitment to meet and begin building a relationship with at least one elected official. She said retailers should attend a town hall meeting and introduce themselves, or contact lawmakers’ offices and request a meeting or invite them to tour their stores. She said NACS can help with federal officials, and state associations can help at the state and local level.
- Think long term. Building relationships with city council members, members of Congress or state representatives is a long-term effort. It’s not a one-meeting-and-done proposition. It takes time to build trust and to educate the official and his or her staff. There will be times when retailers will get the nod saying, “Sure, sure, I’m with you” and then the legislator will vote another way, but it’s a long game. The more retailers get to know lawmakers and they see retailers in the community, visit stores and meet employees, it becomes more difficult for them to just brush retailers’ concerns aside.