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    Store 24, NACS Launch XML Project

    Electronic invoicing program looks to develop technology solutions for small businesses.


    ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Waltham, Mass.-based Store24, The Pepsi Bottling Group and Professional Datasolutions Inc. (PDI) went live yesterday with transmissions of electronic invoicing using eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML), setting the standard for how small businesses can use advanced electronic technologies to increase efficiencies.

    The XML guidelines were developed through the National Association of Convenience Stores' (NACS) technology standards project.

    Pilot tests at a Store 24 in Charlestown, Mass. have taken place over the past few weeks, said John Hervey, NACS' chief technology officer. Later this month, Store 24 will begin rolling out the technology to its other 80 convenience stores.

    Electronic remittance and reconciliation between retailers and their vendors has often been beyond the reach of most small businesses, which have limited resources to support its implementation. Instead, most small businesses rely on traditional paper invoices and proof-of-delivery receipts from vendors.

    Of the nearly 120,000 convenience stores in the U.S., more than half of them are classified as small businesses in which they are part of a chain of 10 or fewer stores.

    A solution for small businesses is to use a more user-friendly data exchange system -- XML. The NACS-developed XML guidelines, known as NAXML, use a Web-based technology, making the process much more attractive to solution providers that might be hesitant to work with smaller businesses.

    "The efforts of everyone involved in NACS' technology standards project will reap enormous benefits for stores, their vendors, and, ultimately, customers, as they increase efficiencies and accuracy of reporting and reduce costs." Hervey said

    Store24 is using XML to eliminate the blizzard of paperwork that accompanies every delivery to its stores. XML allows the store track shipments, proof of delivery, and other pertinent delivery details much more efficiently, quickly and accurately.

    "We are excited about the opportunities that XML brings. It lowers some of the barriers that traditional EDI has, and will allow us to do business electronically with more of our trading partners," said Jack McLaughlin, director of information systems for The Store 24 Cos. Inc

    Store 24 is already developing similar programs with two other large suppliers, as well as with the Massachusetts Lottery Commission, McLaughlin added.

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