Dealer Outlook

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Nothing beats face-to-face contact

Technology (email and texting) has taken the place of face-to-face contact, the swipe fees war isn’t over and newly proposed underground storage tank rules will impact dealers and marinas with fueling systems.

Want to be a successful dealer? Get out of the store and visit the front lines where the customers are. That’s what good leaders do, according to John Baldoni, author of “Moxie: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership” and chairman of leadership development at N2Growth. It’s how to get firsthand impressions of what is happening or what is not. Moreover, it cements relationships and could ensure repeat business.

In the same way, it’s good policy for executive directors of our industry’s marine trade associations to hit the road and visit members in their locations. But as Baldoni points out, it’s not enough to just show up. Engagement is mandatory. Ask questions. Have a real conversation about how the business is going, what’s strong or weak and, most of all, listen carefully to their responses. That’s how good trade group leaders will learn the needs of members and develop ways to help meet those needs.

For a dealer seeing customers where they are, it’s an opportunity to be sure they’re getting full use and value from their boat. Equally important, it can reveal that another product might be better suited for them and puts you in a position to recommend ways or products that could make their boating even better.

“Hitting the road” to discover what’s going on in the field is time-consuming, but it’s necessary for any dealer or executive director who expects to lead with a clear vision. You’ve gotta know what’s happening out there.

Swipe fees

Wasn’t this issue settled in the courts? Yes, well, maybe. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a group of retailers, including names like Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and other majors, plan to challenge the $7.25-billion class-action swipe fee settlement with Visa and MasterCard.

It seems emails between a plaintiffs’ attorney and a former MasterCard lawyer have surfaced that lead to allegations of improper communications (wire fraud) resulting in improper representation. The retailers will ask a federal court in New York to reopen and overturn the settlement. The retailers will assert the lawyers’ communication included confidential information and contributed to the plaintiffs receiving inadequate representation in the case.

You’ll recall that the original lawsuit filed by retailers alleged that Visa and MasterCard illegally fixed the $30-billion-per-year credit card interchange fees, also known as swipe fees. After being heard in several courts, the $7.25-billion settlement was proposed in July 2012. However, 10 of the 19 plaintiffs, including all involved trade associations like the National Retail Federation, rejected the settlement.

Retailers opposed the credit card settlement because it failed to reform the cartel-like system where Visa and MasterCard set a rigid schedule of swipe fees all banks agree to follow while refusing to negotiate with merchants. The card companies proposed in the settlement that the fees be passed along to consumers in the form of a surcharge instead. The National Retail Federation holds that surcharges would only drive up prices for consumers, the opposite of retailers’ goal in filing the lawsuit.

UST rules

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to roll out new regulations, this time proposals dealing with underground storage tanks.

EPA has proposed revisions to the 1988 UST regulations by “increasing emphasis on properly operating and maintaining equipment.” The agency claims these significant revisions are the first since they were first promulgated in 27 years. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on July 15.

Specifically, the revisions are to the UST technical regulations in 40 CFR part 280. Some highlights:

  • Adding secondary containment requirements for new and replaced tanks and piping
  • Adding operator training requirements for UST system owners and operators
  • Adding periodic operation and maintenance requirements for UST systems
  • Adding new release prevention and detection technologies
  • Updating codes of practice

For dealers, marina operators and yacht clubs that have fueling facilities, it appears the rule revisions might require actions ranging from new training regimens to the installation of new equipment. In any event, affected dealers can get information and read the final rule here.

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