A Call To Action

Sukhi Sandhu, NCASEF Chairman

In the current economic climate, it’s more urgent than ever that we get involved in legislative affairs that can significantly impact our businesses’ sustainability and growth. Engaging with local, state, and national legislative processes is a strategic imperative that can protect the profitability of our stores and help us thrive during regulatory changes and economic challenges.

One pressing issue many of us face is the proposed bans on flavored tobacco and other age-restricted products. These bans, while designed to improve public health and prevent sales to minors, can severely affect our revenue streams. Flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, make up a significant portion of our sales. There are many other ways to protect the public’s health and deter sales of age-restricted items to minors that also keep small businesses and the economy going, as well as provide revenue to municipalities via taxes and license and permit fees. 7-Eleven already utilizes Electronic Age and Identity Verification on its branded websites and is working to launch it on the 7Rewards app. Working with SEI we can deploy the latest age verification technology at the store level. We can also train our employees to follow the latest age verification requirements, and as far as protecting the public’s well-being, educational programs can be developed by health organizations.

Interacting with legislators allows us to voice our concerns and advocate for balanced laws and regulations that protect the public without devastating our bottom lines. Participating in public hearings and joining forces with convenience store groups can ensure our perspectives are heard and considered in the decision-making process.

Retail crime—including shoplifting, organized retail theft, and smash-and-grab robberies—is another growing concern that threatens our profits, as well as the safety of our employees and customers. By actively participating in local crime prevention programs and supporting stronger penalties and better enforcement, we can help create safer environments for our stores. Building relationships with local police departments and law enforcement officials—like meeting often with the police chief or district attorney, and inviting police officers to visit your store—and supporting community policing initiatives can build mutual trust and cooperation, making our stores less attractive targets for criminals. Additionally, joining local business associations can amplify our collective voice, pushing for more resources and attention to combat retail crime effectively.

Finding unique items and categories that generate incremental income to offset our increasing operational costs is vital for our growth, and one such opportunity lies in the legalization and regulation of skill games. These games, which require a degree of skill rather than mere chance, can attract customers and provide an additional income source. However, the legality of skill games varies widely across states. Promoting clear and fair legislation at the state level can ensure that these games become a viable option for our stores. Working with state legislators, providing testimony on the economic benefits, and collaborating with other business owners can help push favorable legislation, opening new avenues for revenue not only for our stores, but also for cities and local municipalities through taxing and regulation.

Joining regional and national trade organizations like the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the California Fuels and Convenience Alliance, the New York Association of Convenience Stores, or other small business associations can significantly enhance our ability to influence local, state and federal laws that affect us. Attending the NACS Day on the Hill event, held annually in Washington, D.C., allows us to meet directly with members of Congress and other policymakers. This face-to-face interaction is crucial for discussing critical issues such as credit card swipe fees, labor laws, and other regulations impacting our store operations. By participating in legislative advocacy, we can share our perspectives and campaign for balanced policies that consider the economic realities of running a small business. Labor laws directly affect how we manage our workforce. Through NACS and other trade organizations, we can work to influence these laws in ways that support sustainable business practices.

Understanding the legislative issues that impact our businesses is the first step towards effective advocacy. Regularly reviewing updates from NACS and other industry associations helps us stay informed and prepared. Building relationships with local, state, and federal representatives by inviting them to visit our stores and discussing our challenges and potential solutions can make our voices more influential. Participating in NACS Day on the Hill and other advocacy events provides valuable opportunities to connect with other convenience storeowners and promote our shared interests. Joining local business associations helps us stay informed about local legislative issues and provides a collective voice in promoting favorable policies. Hosting community engagement events in our stores, such as meet-and-greet events with local officials, can gain us support.

For example, on a local level, working with city councils on ordinances that affect store operations, such as license fees and transfer restrictions, can ensure that our interests are represented. On the state level, engaging in discussions about state-mandated restrictions on certain product sales, like alcohol or tobacco, can help mitigate potential negative impacts on our business. Federally, issues like changes to labor rules require our collective voice to ensure that legislation is balanced and considers the needs of small business owners. By having a seat at the table, we can educate lawmakers on how certain laws and regulations affect our businesses, and how much we contribute to the local economy.

Together, we can influence the legislative landscape to create a more favorable environment for our businesses. Involvement in legislative affairs is about protecting our interests and ensuring the growth of our 7-Eleven stores. Let’s take this call to action seriously—engage, advocate, and lead by example. Our efforts today will shape the business landscape of tomorrow.