Future Forum Finds Tech Needs Outweigh Wants

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Future Forum Finds Tech Needs Outweigh Wants

NEW YORK -- Despite the recession, convenience store retailers increased technology spending in 2008, but funds went more to needed investments than "wanted" ones, and similar results were expected for 2009, according to the panelists who spoke during the session "Tomorrow's Technology Today," taking place earlier this week at Convenience Store News’ 2009 Future Forum Virtual Tradeshow.

Citing figures from the 2009 CSNews Technology Study, CSNews Executive Editor Tammy Mastroberte noted three-quarters of technology investment was made at the store level, likely in response to the looming PCI compliance deadlines.

"Retailers are telling us they are spending on technology that’s absolutely necessary," Mastroberte said, adding: "A big majority also said their focus is on PCI and all other developments are on hold."

Regarding PCI compliance, the majority of survey respondents said they had reached compliance for their level or were in the process of becoming compliant, while only 8 percent said they weren’t compliant and hadn’t yet started the process.

As for technologies being explored and implemented in the convenience channel, Business Intelligence (BI) saw the greatest gains in adoption and exploration than any other technology in the survey. BI is most often being used to identify sales and category performance, as well as loss prevention and detection, Mastroberte noted.

Also speaking during the panel discussion was Lee Holman, with global research and advisory firm IHL, who began by examining the economy. With the unemployment rate "knocking on the 10 percent door," and the recent Cash for Clunkers program, it is a hard environment for retailers, he said. The recent government program offering incentives to consumers for trading in their cars is a big deal for convenience stores, he explained, as the new cars have an average mile per gallon rating that 58 percent higher than the cars they replaced.

"The owners will be buying less gas," he said, adding, "the worst thing about this program is the government could do it again."

Holman also detailed some of the emerging technologies that will play a role in convenience retailing going forward, such as self-service and small-footprint self-checkout; cash recycling devices; and mobile commerce devices.

However, there are hurdles to acceptance of these technologies, including the space required. "It’s going to be tough getting more services in there than what we currently see," he said.

RFID is another future technology that will come to convenience stores, but only after it has been accepted and proven in both large retailers and supermarkets, according to Holman.

View this presentation in its entirety, along with the keynote presentation by Gulf Oil/Cumberland Farms chief, Joe Petrowski, and other sessions on retail format innovation and foodservice.

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