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    Taking Stock

    Controlling out-of-stocks continues to challenge the c-store industry.

    Always the bane of any convenience store's existence, out-of-stock merchandise can be a chronic ailment with numerous antidotes, but no sure cure.

    Products are out of stock about 10 percent of the time, retailers and consultants say. At times, it is the merchant who is at fault. Other times, it is the vendor, the direct store deliverer or the wholesaler.

    Whoever is to blame, one thing is clear: Convenience stores must get a grip on inventory management. And that means improving tracking basic SKU flow — what's coming in and what's going out.

    The news isn't entirely dismal. Indeed, most observers agree, gains in technology have improved many chains' in-stock levels. But, "It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to implement perpetual inventory," said Jon Bolen, president at Atlanta-based Radiant Systems. "Not many are successful. It's all in the execution. Technology in and of itself solves no problems. The road is littered with failed implementations, but rarely does anyone sell bad technology."

    This is not to say the industry is bereft of successful chains. Several, including 7-Eleven, Flash Foods, Phillips Petroleum's Circle K, Wawa and Nice N Easy, have significantly slashed out-of-stocks, while taking control of inventory costs.

    And others like Store 24, the Waltham, Mass., chain recently acquired by Tedeschi Food Shops Inc., are waging the battle fewer small and mid-size players have dared to fight. "It's something we struggle with," Andy Steele, sales marketing manager, said candidly. "When you sort that information by store and by item, you see big holes."

    It is time to plug the holes.

    Convenience Store News is helping retailers plug the holes with reports detailing the ramifications of out-of-stock situations in three key store areas: the cooler, shelves, gondolas and endcaps, and the front counter.

    Casting a Cold Eye

    Can't Believe the Hole Thing

    In Stock at the Checkout

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