FRONTEND PROFILE IN LEADERSHIP
the Helm at NACS
Incoming chairman promotes advocacy as he prepares
to battle swipe fees, fuel standards and tobacco regulations
in the year ahead.
By John Lofstock, Editor
Tom Robinson, NACS
chairman and president
of Robinson Oil Co.
Renowned author and busi- ness strategist Tom Peter once said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more
leaders.” When it comes to the challenges facing the convenience store
and petroleum industry over the next
few years, it is strong leadership that
will guide marketers through the
onslaught of regulations threatening
Enter Tom Robinson.
Robinson, president of San Jose,
Calif.-based Robinson Oil Co., is the
incoming NACS chairman. While his
industry experience is extensive, it’s
his passion for advocacy and grooming the industry leaders of tomorrow
that will benefit a generation of NACS
Robinson’s first association involvement was more than 20 years ago
lobbying and testifying on tank regulations at the local, then state level.
That led to his involvement with the
California Independent Oil Marketers
Association, and later to the national
association SIGMA, where he ultimately served as president.
And, while Robinson has always
been passionate about advocacy,
the ability to learn best practices
and share ideas as a NACS member has become more important.
“Participating in associations has
been great for me and for my
business. It’s fun being part of a group,
Today, Robinson Oil operates 34
Rotten Robbie convenience stores in
the San Francisco Bay area. Robinson
is a third-generation retailer whose
children are actively engaged in the
business. He said that much of the
foundation of his understanding of
business and the industry came just
by being around it, whether as a kid
spending the day on the job with his
father and grandparents or as a teen
operating a station that sold a paltry
200 gallons per day.
Robinson sat down with
Convenience Store Decisions to discuss his upcoming term as NACS
chairman and the issues facing
convenience store and petroleum
marketers in the year ahead.
CSD: the convenience store industry seemed to stand apart from other
retail channels in attacking swipe
fees. what does that say about the
resolve of industry retailers and the
influence of naCs? what is the next
step in fighting swipe fees?
tr: All retailers, not just convenience retailers, have been hit with the
high swipe fees and the monopolistic
practices of banks and credit card
companies. We see these practices
as abusive, unfair and too expensive.
I think that convenience retailers certainly have a heightened awareness
of these unfair practices. For example, fuel is such an important part of
what we do and fuel margins are typically low. This is a volume business. We
tend to calculate our margins in pennies per gallon so retailers realize that
at times the swipe fee is greater than
their fuel margin.
As a retailer, I am grateful that
NACS has the resources and the
expertise to wage such a monumental battle against the banks and
the card companies. But going forwarded we have a big battle on our
hands. We are moving forward with
legal action against the Fed on the
debit fees and there’s an anti-trust
law suit against the card companies
that’s going on as well. This promises
to be an enormous industry issue for
years to come.
CSD: how important is retailer
advocacy for naCs? what kind of a
difference can retailers make at the
local, state and federal levels?