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    NACStech Tackles Industry Challenges

    Mobile commerce, loyalty systems, PCI compliance and more highlighted at c-store industry's largest technology-focused event.

    By Tammy Mastroberte

    GRAPEVINE, Texas -- During the opening general session, Jenny Bullard, conference chair and CIO of Flash Foods Inc., located in Waycoss, Ga., took attendees back in time to when NACStech first started 13 years ago and the average gasoline fill-up was $9.92.

    "Customers could come into the store, pay with a $10 bill and actually get change," Bullard joked. "Now they would get less than three gallons of gas with that $10 bill."

    She noted that 13 years ago, the competition from other retail channels was not as prevalent, and the industry did not face the same challenges it does today, particularly with credit card fees. However, thanks to technology and the industry's standards body, PCATS (The Petroleum and Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards), productivity and profits are being increased, she explained.

    And the first day of workshops jumped right into the biggest issues currently facing the industry, with sessions on PCI compliance, PCATS and what it is doing for the industry, mobile commerce, incorporating technology into category management, utilizing store data to reduce theft and more.

    During the session called "Reducing Store Theft Using POS Data," attendees learned how two retailers are mining and utilizing their point-of-sale (POS) data to alert management about potential theft issues. Donna Perkins, who is in charge of POS and pricebook at E-Z Stop Food Marts Inc., a 22-store chain in east Tennessee, is using 11 Gilbarco G-Sites and 11 Gilbarco Passport POS systems along with DVR cameras linked to the company's wide-area network (WAN) to accomplish this goal.

    "Our WAN is self-installed and self-managed, and our process for polling the POS for security is also self-written and self-managed," she explained, adding that retailers do not need to invest in what can be expensive pre-packaged programs.

    E-Z Stop's back office pulls no sales, voids, returns and more from the POS scan data and tracks them along with transactions under $10 and unknown UPC's, which are e-mailed to the pricebook daily and any suspicious activity is reported to the store supervisors, she said.

    "We installed our first store at 7:15 a.m. and caught our first thief at 9:00 a.m. after seeing two voids from $19.99," said Perkins.

    Additionally, the company posts pictures of any external thief to its intranet Web site so employees can see them.

    A typical alert will show the scan code, price of the item, cashier and transaction number, date and time, and is in real-time from the Passport system, said Perkins. The alerts come from the POS, and "we can go into the DVR, put in the transaction time and look to see what was going on," she said. "We can even search for all beer sales with our DVR."

    Parker Cos. COO, Amy Lane, detailed a similar process using Dresser Wayne's InSite at her 26-store chain in southeast Georgia, explaining that the national average shrink is 1.1 percent, but since implementing new procedures, her company shrink was just under a one-half percent last month.

    Lane gets daily exception reports based on key performance indicators (KPIs) that were set in advance, such as voids, safe drop highs and safe drop lows. Also, the data can be reviewed by hours, days, weeks or months.

    "We track for employees violating our safe-drop policy, which is not more than $200 should be in the drawer at any time," said Lane. "We had one cashier dropping $800, and we also track low safe drops or zero safe drops."

    One of the highest instances of theft at her stores was with scratch-off lottery tickets. "If several $20 tickets are sold within minutes it is suspicious," she said.

    She recommends retailers determine what KPIs are most important to them and start with a summary report. "Flag the key offenders, drill down into the data and follow through with your investigations," she said. "We require managers to view the data daily, and we let every employee know what we are doing."

    Since implementing the system last year, the company has saved $118,000, said Lane.

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