Last week in Washington, catalog business leaders met for the 10th year to hear from key D.C. decision makers and discuss ways to improve the climate for catalogers’ most crucial bottom-line matters. Below are the key takeaway snapshots of each session, along with scenes from the memorable two-day event.

ACMA’s Policy Work Yesterday & Tomorrow:

  • ACMA President & Executive Director Hamilton Davison outlined the group’s numerous accomplishments over its first decade as well as the many challenges ahead.
  • As a “little engine that could,” the ACMA early on beat back doubters who said a catalog-focused advocacy group was unnecessary, and instead has been responsible for lower catalog postage rate increases, while beating back a Big-Box Retail onslaught to rewrite the 1992 Quill v. North Dakota sales tax precedent, fighting off more recent state efforts to sidestep Quill, and becoming a major player in D.C. in reach, access and effectiveness, and giving catalogs an organized and now recognized voice in Washington.
  • ACMA has worked tirelessly to promote positive postal reform and to defeat postal legislation that would have enabled runaway increases or an unregulated postal monopoly.

State of the Business:

  • USPS Postmaster General Megan Brennan engaged with the audience on her goals for the future survival of the USPS and the key role catalogs will play going forward.
  • Emphasized USPS’s desire to break the CPI-capped postal rate setting system in the 10-year review, while trying to appease catalogers’ concerns that this wouldn’t lead to enormous postage increases as a result.
  • Her intent to see the value of catalogs in the mail enhanced.
  • And the useful role the USPS’s Informed Visibility program can have for catalog delivery for marketers and Informed Delivery for mail recipients.

How to Win Friends & Influence People in Government:

  • ACMA lobbyists Alex Vogel & Kristin Smith (left to right in picture at right) of VogelHood Research reviewed productive ways catalogers can get active in advancing the catalog cause both in Washington and in local politics.
  • They then brought up Government Accountability Office Senior Analyst Brett Caloia (in picture at left), who is in the process of interviewing as many catalog execs as possible to gather info on the potential damage the Marketplace Fairness Act (or comparable bills) would have on their businesses.
  • Getting cataloger feedback is critical to providing balance to this study. If you’d like to provide your input to the GAO, click here, include your contact details, and the ACMA will be happy to put you in touch with Mr. Caloia and his team.

ACMA Legacy Awards:

  • In recognition of the ACMA’s 10th Anniversary, ACMA staff (Davison, Paul Miller, Lynn Noble & Cathy Roden) honored the many members who have helped the ACMA cause throughout its first decade. Then special commemorative vases, produced and generously donated for the occasion by member Baudville Brands, were handed out to the following five star players:

    • Bob Webb, Potpourri Group
    • Nancy Cushman, Crate & Barrel
    • Larry Kavanagh, NaviStone
    • Allen Abbott, NaviStone
    • Terri Alpert, Uno Alla Volta (pictured)

10-Year Review of Postal Rate Making System – A Life Changer?

  • Longtime postal consultant Larry Buc, former POTUS special assistant Denise Wilson & former PRC Chairman Dan Blair (pictured left to right) exchanged thoughts how they believe the current 10-year review will turn out.
  • They hotly debated whether or not the CPI-capped system will be broken.
  • They revealed the assorted details the PRC is currently sifting through that could lead to its final decision, expected later this year.
  • And they discussed the likelihood of what’ll happen next once the PRC reaches its verdict – namely, the good chance the Review will ultimately be decided by the courts.

New USPS Research on the Catalog Customer’s Experience:

  • USPS Director, Customer & Market Insights Dan Barrett (pictured) revealed new research findings from USPS’s recent survey of catalog consumers.
  • USPS’s most recent results clearly indicate catalogs are an important part of the “mail moment” and that they work for both older and younger consumers.
  • He also discussed how ACMA and its members can get involved and help refine subsequent research.
  • ACMA announced the formation of its own research committee.
  • (Attendees will be getting an email on this topic shortly. Please let us know if you’d like to join the committee.)

USPS-ACMA Progress for Catalog Volume Growth:

  • USPS execs Steve Monteith (pictured), Elke Reuning-Elliott & Lauren C. Williams discussed the progress of the ACMA-spearheaded catalog postage discount.
  • Potential savings could run from 15%-25%.
  • Path to making it a reality is very close, except a final sign-off has to come from the USPS Board of Governors. At the moment, there are no sitting governors, and it’s up to the Trump Admin. to name them.
  • ACMA will continue to keep members apprised of the progress.

Update from ACMA’s Postal Committee:

  • Committee Chairman Anita Pursley of LSC Communications and ACMA’s Hamilton Davison outlined the many challenges and achievements of the Committee over the past year.
  • USPS projecting a 2% CPI increase for January 2018.
  • ACMA’s input into the 2016 Annual Compliance Determination: Standard Flats continue to be underwater despite flawed calculations; 21 workshare discounts out of compliance
  • PRC to initiate a strategic rulemaking to develop proposed reporting requirements related to flats cost & service.

States on the Attack – A Remote Sales Tax Debate…and quite the debate it became between ACMA attorney George S. Isaacson (at right)
and Alabama Department of Revenue Deputy Commissioner Joe Garrett (at left):

  • Garrett was steadily challenged by Isaacson and many attendees as to the logic behind Alabama’s 2016-initiated remote sales tax law and its national implications.
  • States like Alabama, South Dakota, Tennessee and others want burden to fall on catalogers to collect all taxes in the different states, but states are unwilling to simplify their own tax complexity.

Turning the Keys to Your Future:

  • USPS Executive Director Brand Marketing Chris Karpenko, Ipsos Neuro & Behavioral Science Center CEO Elissa Moses, and MeritDirect VP Andy Joyce (pictured left to right with ACMA’s Davison 2nd from left) discussed the current and future value of the Integrated Media Research Center, which is dedicated to improving the efficacy of marketing.
  • They emphasized how to create a way of assigning a value to assorted marketing channels going forward.
  • They examined the consumer’s mind and how it interplays with the advertising media received.

How the Trump Era is Impacting Your Business:

  • ACMA lobbyist Alex Vogel returned to reveal where the catalog industry might stand on the Trump Administration’s radar screen.
  • How House Government Oversight & Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz’s recent disclosure that he won’t run for re-election and may resign before the end of his term could impact postal reform and the remote sales tax debates.
  • What the significance of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the only SCOTUS member who helped rule on the 1992 Quill v. North Dakota ruling, is in his joining the late Associate Judge Antonin Scalia’s concurrence, which argued that Congress has plenary authority to regulate interstate commerce and that states cannot chip away at these constitutional protections unless and until Congress grants states such authority.

Receptions Bring Rare ‘Down Time’

As in the past, ACMA forums pack a ton into a day and a half. Sessions run throughout the days with little time for breaks. But we did allow for some evening unwinding with the opening Welcome Reception (graciously cosponsored by Verso & Epsilon) and the VIP Reception (graciously cosponsored by Arandell, Infogroup & Oracle Data Cloud). Below are some scenes from the Forum’s lighter moments. For the complete photo gallery, click here.

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors:

And our thanks to all who attended and took part in this year’s 10th Annual National Catalog Forum, and we hope to see you again next year.

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