Swipe-Fee Reforms Safe for Now

Retailers can’t afford another squeeze on margins.

Before passing the Financial Choice Act this June, which was aimed at repealing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed in 2010 in the wake of the financial crash, the U.S. House of Representatives dropped the provision that would have removed a cap on the debit card swipe fees that banks can charge retailers. Retailers fought hard for the reforms in the first place. For many retailers, “swipe fees [are] their second or third highest cost behind wages and employee health benefits, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). “With retail industry profits averaging only about 2 percent, there is no room for retailers to absorb the expense, so swipe fees are passed on to customers in the form of higher prices.” Dodd-Frank cut in half the swipe fees banks could charge; this Federal Reserve cap on fees led to $8.5 billion
in savings for retailers per year—$40 billion to date.

This time around, banks lobbied fiercely to have the cap removed, but retail trade associations seem to have won the day with their own intensive lobbying and radio ad campaigns. It is said to be unlikely that the Senate would revisit the swipe-fee issue in its version of the bill. Instead, it is focusing on loosening regulations for smaller community banks, something even former Rep. Barney Frank, whose name is on the original Act, agrees needs to happen. “Anytime you pass a very complicated piece of legislation, you don’t get everything 100 percent right the first time,” he told National Public Radio. Supporting community banks, which are often more helpful than big banks to small businesses, should be a positive for dance retailers, as well.


Another Way to Add Customer Convenience

Need to make shipping easier?

Eliminating pain points for shoppers can make them customers for life. For many shoppers these days, Amazon’s 48-hour shipping, available for millions of items, eliminates a pain point. How can a small brick-and-mortar compete? If you regularly need to ship to shoppers who buy from your website (see “Taking the Plunge with E-commerce?”), the task of wrapping products, lining up at the post office or UPS, and so on can be an unwelcome burden for storeowners. Now, a new type of shipper is catering to smaller retailers or artisanal producers. ShipBob and Red Stag Fulfillment, for instance, take on fulfillment, shipping and even returns for smaller businesses, interfacing directly with e-commerce programs like Shopify, Bigcommerce and Magento. With omnichannel shopping the retail model of the future, services like this will help small retailers stay competitive.


Snapchat Adds Custom Stories

A new way to connect with customers

If you use Snapchat to market your store, you now have another option for posting content: Custom Stories. The new feature works two ways: You can select a group of Snapchat “friends” to create a story together, adding additional friends to just view the story, if you like. You can add snaps yourself, too.

This feature could be helpful in sending your customers only the most relevant snaps, instead of spamming all your Snapchat followers with every post. For instance, you might focus a custom story on ballet dancers getting ready for recital, or competition dancers heading off to Nationals, or college freshmen starting out in dance programs.

The second way to use custom stories is to set up a geofenced group of people who are in the same spot to contribute to a group. This can work well if you’re hosting a store event like a pointe-shoe-decorating party, a book signing with a local dance celebrity, group fittings or a sidewalk sale. Custom stories can help create buzz about the event, drawing more people to the store.

In the case of a larger community event like a sidewalk sale, you could also potentially join a group set up by the organizer to promote the local stores participating. That way you may be able to share your snaps with a wider audience of potential customers.

Custom groups function like regular Snapchat stories, but will disappear within 24 hours of the last update from anyone in the group. For more information on how to set one up, go to support.snapchat.com/en-US/article/about-custom-stories.


Thinkstock; courtesy of Snapchat

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