AACSA Joins Fight Against Food and Beverage Taxes

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Asian American Convenience Stores Association (AACSA) formed a new alliance with The Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo to fight against the soft drink taxes of 3 cents per can and 17 cents per two-liter bottle, which federal lawmakers have proposed to raise $6 billion in additional revenues to pay for health care reform.

As part of this partnership, the AACSA pledged to collect at least 5 million signatures from customers visiting its members' convenience stores and gas stations over the next five months. AACSA Founder and President Satya Shaw said the organization will send these signatures opposing the proposed food and beverage taxes to the U.S. Congress.

"Improving health care in America is an admirable goal we support, but food and beverage taxes have no place in healthcare reform, particularly taxes that single out one product like juice drinks and soda," Shaw said, noting such a tax would have an adverse impact on convenience store and gas station owners, already hit by the economic recession.

"Our business has already dropped by at least 25 percent. Such a tax would further hit our revenues, as food and beverages are our main items of sale," he said.

The decision to form the alliance was made during the fifth annual National AACSA Convention and Trade Expo, held Nov. 21, in Tampa, Fla. CSNews Online was there as more than 1,500 c-store owners and operators from across the United States took part in the trade show, networking events, educational sessions and a Gala Awards Banquet. The AACSA convention also hosted the 28th Miss Indian American Pageant.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, State Senator and candidate for Florida Attorney General Dave Aronberg, and South Carolina Governor candidate Nikki Haley were among the honored guests and keynote speakers during the convention.

Event chair Vijay Gandhi, who owns seven convenience stores in Florida and is a cigarette wholesaler, told CSNews Online that this year's event was aimed at presenting members with "know-how" from experts in various fields, sharing best practices, fostering better vendor relations, and offering purchasing discounts.

"It's tough to be an independent operator. Day by day, the franchises are taking over, and independent operators are getting pushed out. Independent operators can't get the bulk buying discounts like the franchisees can. That's why we're trying to bring independent owners together for maximum buying power," Gandhi said. "They come here, unite together. Whatever the problem they're facing, we can solve it together."

The educational symposium provided attendees with information on alcohol licenses, crime prevention, financing, PCI compliance and credit-card processing.

On the topic of crime prevention, Carl Bayer, director of industry data acquisition and analysis for NACS, spoke about what robbers look for in a target, and what steps convenience operators should take if a robbery occurs at their store.

According to research cited by Bayer, robbers seek out stores with an escape route, money, no armed guard, anonymity, no interference and no police patrols.

In the case of a robbery, he said the most important thing is to stay calm. "If they want the money, give them the money. If they want the cigarettes, give them the cigarettes. The best path is no resistance ... It's not worth losing your life," he stressed.

While the day's events were marked with high-level networking amongst business partners, the evening was full of entertainment and excitement as the Gala Awards Banquet and the 28th Miss India USA Pageant were held. The evening festivities also included a dance show featuring Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia, who flew in from Mumbai, India.

"Tonight, as we celebrate the fifth annual AACSA Convention, we hope to renew the spirit of our friendship and form an even stronger bond with our members," Shaw said. "It is our privilege to host this national pageant, bringing beauty enthusiasts, convenience store owners and political dignitaries together on a single platform."

For 2010, the association plans to hold several town hall meetings, three regional mini-conventions and the sixth annual AACSA Convention Nov. 20.

Founded in 2005, AACSA is an industry trade association representing thousands of stores nationwide. Its goal is to be an advocate for the convenience retailing industry, providing industry information, knowledge and connections to ensure the competitive viability of its members' businesses. The diversity of AACSA's membership reflects the diversity of the convenience store and petroleum marketing industry.

Tampa Home to Asian C-store Association Convention
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