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Over the years, we at Convenience Store News have been impressed with — and extremely grateful to — the many retailers in this industry who have seen the value of sharing information and participate enthusiastically in opportunities to do so.
For example, back in August we held a roundtable meeting in our New York office, at which CIOs and other top technology executives from the c-store industry gathered to discuss opportunities, challenges, innovations and trends in the area of retail technology (a full report from the roundtable will be presented in our Special Technology Report in December). What was especially interesting and rewarding to us was how willing these executives from different companies were to share their experiences.
Few industries we know are as open and as willing to share as the convenience industry — whether it be through the pages or Web site of a trade publication such as ours, a presentation at a NACS workshop or participating in one of the many retailer share groups that have cropped up over the past few years. Certainly there are competitive issues to take into consideration, but when there's something big going on out there, c-store operators are generally willing to spread the word and share insights and possible solutions.
For instance, during our Tech Roundtable, Jenny Bullard, CIO at Flash Foods Inc., told the group about her company's success with item-level inventory and computer-assisted ordering (CAO) in the cigarette category — and how they're looking to expand that chainwide across all in-store categories.
That bit of information led to this month's cover story, "Redefining Retail," on Page 26. Our newly named managing editor (and longtime tech guru) Tammy Mastroberte spoke in-depth with Bullard and Phil Settle, Flash Foods' director of marketing, about their plans to implement the systems and processes to achieve that daunting task.
"This has been a goal of our company ever since we started scanning back in 1997," said Bullard. "It has been one of the big automation leaps our CEO [Jim Walker] has been wanting to make for several years. As we started doing item-level inventory with CAO in our cigarette category, we saw the benefits of having better control over our inventory and eliminating out-of-stocks and overstocks."
While Flash Foods has been working toward the goal of item-level inventory and CAO for years, the company is just beginning the testing of these systems storewide and eventually chainwide.
"Moving your inventory from retail to cost and down to item-level is a culture change for your company because most of the company is centered around retail," said Bullard, but the benefits outweigh the struggles to get started, and the company hopes to have all stores up and running on the new systems by the third quarter of 2006.
We're sure that many retailers out there will relate to and learn from the experience of Flash Foods, and we're happy to bring that kind of information to you. We'll be doing more executive roundtables in the future, all in an effort to keep the industry better informed and — as always — ahead of what's next.