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Paul Miller's ACMA Journal:

'Keep Calm’ Alright, but Take Control of Your Destiny
 

For this edition of the ACMA Journal, I have a little bone to pick with Multichannel Merchant, one of the catalog industry's trade pubs for which I wrote and edited during most of its prior Catalog Age years. In his well-crafted Editor’s Note from the November issue, I must call out my former colleague Tim Parry a bit, as I believe he errs with his “Keep Calm and Carry On” theme. (Click here for the full piece.)

In a nutshell, Tim’s piece says that multichannel merchants basically should make sure they focus on their own internal affairs, such as top-grade customer service, making the most of the latest web and mobile technologies, and maximizing social media, among others. That’s the “carry on” part and it makes perfect sense. The “keep calm” part refers to his thesis paragraph (reproduced below) — and note that “these three instances” refers to the government shut down, the USPS exigency rate hike filing, and the Marketplace Fairness Act:

These three instances have one thing in common, besides causing headaches for merchants as they get ready for the holiday season. They are out of your control. You cannot flip a switch to stop the turmoil in the Capitol. You cannot push a button and make catalog mailing prices stay the same. And who knows when Congress will resume talking about the Marketplace Fairness Act?

Tim’s intentions are noble, but to the above (most notably the parts in bold), I cry foul! Having an “ehhh…I can’t do nuthin’ about my postal rates, tax situation, or the government – they’re all a bunch of distractions” attitude is precisely what led to the killer 2007 postal rate increase for catalogs, which led to ACMA’s formation as catalog mailers’ first and only advocacy group. You can do something about each of these and, in fact, we already have. Our work not only requires member funding, but member action.

If you want to sit tight in a cocoon and watch your costs skyrocket and your business go down the drain, you’re obviously not ACMA material. But consider all that ACMA, through its members’ support and activism, has accomplished over the past six-plus years by taking action on such “distractions”:

  • Catalogers have enjoyed mostly stable postal rates, largely due to ACMA’s and its members intensive educating of USPS and Postal Regulatory Commission officials. In fact, catalogers have endured rate increases well below the trajectory from before ACMA’s advocacy.
  • The postage incentives the USPS has offered starting with its “summer sales” in 2010 on through to a complete ‘menu’ of discount offerings this year and next. Most of these incentives are applicable to catalog mailers, largely due to ACMA and member education of postal officials on the needs of catalog mailers.
  • ACMA’s vital contributions and member action with the Affordable Mail Alliance (AMA) helped defeat the 2010 postal exigency case; now ACMA has a seat on the AMA’s executive committee and with member action and support, we’ve turned the current exigency rate case from a slam-dunk to a toss-up. As USPS Deputy PMG Ronald Stroman said recently in another publication, the exigent increase “is not a done deal.” With member action, we got in the USPS’s ear and they’ve heard us loud and clear. We’re doing all we can to defeat, reduce, delay or make any exigency increase separate from the ongoing rate base.
  • Our work with True Simplification of Taxation (TruST), a coalition ACMA cofounded last year, led to the House slowing down the potentially disastrous freight train-style momentum in the Senate last spring when it passed the horrific Marketplace Fairness Act. Our aggressive input helped House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte form a list of seven very rational principles, which are laying the groundwork for a much fairer House bill.
  • In response to a troublesome Sec. 301 of the Senate’s Postal Reform bill that would free up the USPS to use its monopoly to raise rates to unsustainable levels, effectively busting the CPI rate cap, several dozen companies took action over the past week in response to an ACMA alert. As a result, we are now expecting amendments to be offered to address this, due to industry work.
  • Last in my list (and I could easily go on for much longer), the catalog industry also can control its fate by taking action to avoid federal privacy legislation. ACMA has worked behind the scenes for several years to ensure that its members continue to responsibly respect opt-outs to their mailings. We got a scare three years ago when the FTC issued a report calling for a do-not-track law - such a law would include a do-not-mail provision. Imagine not being able to mail your catalogs to prospects? This isn’t a dead issue: We expect the do-not-track/do-not-mail issue will rear its ugly head again in 2014.

ACMA and its members have definitely taken action on a variety of game-changing issues. Together, catalogers and suppliers taking action is, in fact, completely within our collective control.

As Catalog Age magazine’s former senior news editor, I know where my friend Tim was coming from. But to anyone running a catalog or really any type of business, always remember that there’s far more to taking action on governmental affairs than the occasional letter to your congressman.

 

Best,

Paul Miller

Vice President & Deputy Director
American Catalog Mailers Association
www.catalogmailers.org
914-669-8391
pmiller@catalogmailers.org


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