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Top Technology Trends for Convenience Store Retailing

NEW YORK -- Convenience Store News hosted a Webinar Wednesday to highlight results from its 2009 Technology Study, along with other trends in convenience store retailing. The Webinar, sponsored by NCR Retail, featured Chris Trusedell, CIO of Quik Trip Inc. as well as Brian E. Kilcourse, managing partner of Retail Systems Research (RSR).

During the free, hour-long presentation, which is now available on demand at, CSNews Executive Editor Tammy Mastroberte presented the some of the findings of the 2009 Technology study, which will be published in the May 11, 2009 issue.

More companies spent money on technology (93 percent) than the year prior (89.1 percent), and the average amount spent per company rose to $1,114,353 from only $632,694 in 2007.

However, the outlook for 2009 doesn’t look as promising. In an almost even split, 33 percent of chains plan to spend less this year compared to last, while another 33 percent plan to spend the same amount. Only 34 percent report plans to spend more.

Guest speaker Kilcourse presented a study the firm conducted across convenience, drug, mass merchants and club stores, regarding real-time business intelligence; integrated planning and localized assortments; and store technology and employee enablement.

"Retailers are very concerned that they don’t get actionable information fast enough to react to real time conditions [at the store]," he said, noting the way information is analyzed has evolved as technology advances.

In the past, facts went from stores, distribution centers, logistics, manufacturers and e-commerce sites into a pool, then were mulled over by analysts at the retailer's headquarters, Kilcourse explained. "What is changing now, is the facts are being turned into actionable information in near-real time, and they're being sent back to the areas of operation, whether it’s the stores, the distribution centers, logistics or back to the manufacturer."

Regarding integrated planning and localized assortments, Kilcourse said offering a unique product assortment tailored to the customer mix is more important today than ever before, as retailers strive to deliver very high service levels to their consumers, without having too much inventory. The RSR study found 56 percent of respondents said localized assortment is extremely important, with another 37 percent saying it is somewhat important.

Kilcourse also discussed the importance of customer- and employee-facing technology. "Employee facing tools are rising in importance for most retailers," he said, noting other retailers still believe the importance of technology lies in product mix.

"What we've noticed for a lot of retailers, that attitude—which we consider a 'legacy attitude'—is diminishing. It's now about the employee and the customer," he said.

The topic of implementing self-checkout technology was also addressed during the Webinar by John Saccomanno, director of industry marketing for NCR Retail, who noted c-store chains considering cutting technology budgets should be wary of slashing those projects that face the customers, such as point-of-sale systems.

The timely topic of the impacts of cost-cutting in the information technology department was discussed by NCR director of industry marketing, John Saccomanno.

"Retailers must consider the adverse consequences these cost cuts will have on customer service," he said, adding information technology is "fair game" for cost cutting, but before "taking an axe" to that department's budget, retailers should weigh the short-term savings against the long-term customer service impact resulting from any cost reductions.

In addition, when considering which area of technology to cut, convenience store operators should be extremely careful not to cut any customer facing technology, namely those systems that provide convenience, such as the point-of-sale systems, Saccomanno said.

"There is no other more mission-critical issue for c-stores than to maintain the convenience promise to the customers," he said.

Closing out the Webinar was Chris Truesdell, CIO of QuikTrip, who spoke about the benefits his company is seeing from high-speed connectivity. Not only has it allowed the company to increase its ability to be PCI compliant, but it increased transaction speeds, which is the first reason the company decided to implement it, said Truesdell.

And now the company is taking advantage of the high-speed connectivity for security. They have around-the-clock monitoring of employees, and the cameras can offer higher resolution and a clearer picture.

QuikTrip owns its own distribution center, and the system lets them track trucks and drivers, and has "allowed our business partners more visibility into our environment," meaning better vendor relationships, said Truesdell.

View the free Webinar here.

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