Let me start with congratulating David Henry, The Simon Property Group, ICSC and it’s staff for successfully persuading the United States Senate to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act (“MFA”). It was an exhibition of tremendous perseverance and persuasion during a seemingly uphill battle.
The battle isn’t over, however. The House has not yet voted on the bill and I am not encouraged that they will soon do so. Their failure will continue to negatively affect your neighborhood retailers, some of whom may disappear shortly if something isn’t done soon. This is why I am writing this article. I believe Congress can be persuaded by a mass “grass roots” campaign.
I am a supporter of the MFA. I haven’t always been, though. About a year and a half ago, I hosted a show on CRE Radio with Senator Enzi, along with both supporters and detractors of the bill. By the end of the show, I was still undecided. A few weeks later, I attended an ICSC Leadership conference in which I listened to speakers and supporters of the bill. We then walked the halls of Congress attempting to persuade our legislators to support the MFA. I am now an ardent supporter.
I support the law, despite, perhaps my own personal interests. It is the right thing to do and will ultimately benefit our society and economy, as a whole. Granted, I might lose some financial benefits by not being able to buy, out of state, without paying taxes, but it is for the better of us all.
While hopefully and stealthily avoiding the argument that the law is good or bad, let me now address my suggestion of a mass “grass roots” campaign.
Is the general public aware of the Marketplace Fairness Act? I walk into my favorite brick & mortar stores and no one has ever heard of it, no less consciously supported it. It seems only those directly involved in commercial retail real estate have any clue.
The impression I get is that ICSC and other supportive organizations are content with the insider efforts of their lobbyists, while shunning active public support. A few weeks back, after digging through the ICSC website, I discovered I could order some posters and flyers in support of MFA. Unfortunately, I was limited to a total of 5. Yes, you read that right, I could go to 5 retailers and have them put posters on their windows. Boy, was that effective!
As far as I am concerned, the only way you can get recalcitrant congress people to vote for the act is to “hit them where they live.” If you can’t buy them, then have them understand that their voters support marketplace fairness. How? By having it in their face, 24-7, wherever they go.
Every brick & mortar landlord should provide their tenants with posters to go in their windows supporting MFA. Every shopping bag should have a logo in support. How about grocery bags? Even Congress people eat and shop? When their spouses shop, a bag will be sitting on the counter in support of the bill. All retail advertising should contain a recognizable logo in support, including Thursday grocery discounts and coupons. Every Big Mac would have a thumbs up MFA imprinted on the wrapper. Manufacturers selling through the brick & mortar channels should have logos in support on their packaging. And who will pay for it? The brick & mortar retailers and landlords with support from our affiliated organizations and manufacturers. Really, how much could it cost, and to whose direct benefit does it go?
Tell me a clever marketer could not come up with a successful campaign and logo. Seriously, do you want to get this passed or not?
It’s time the lobbyists no longer go it alone. Time for the mighty public to get involved. The “grassroots” public. That’s you, me and our neighbors. Let’s go.