Cash In On The Grocery Market
In the last three years, this POS (point of sale) VAR landed 72 grocery clients. Should you be looking at the grocery vertical to increase your sales?
When Sean Martin started his POS business in 2002, he decided to stick with a market he knew well — grocery stores. “I have been involved in the grocery industry since I was 16 years old,” comments Martin, who is the president of Martin Business Systems. “I have worked in multiple positions in grocery including service, checkout, management, and data entry. I believe that kind of experience is valuable when I am pitching my products and services to grocery clients.”
Martin estimates that within the territory he covers, there are nearly 400 possible grocery clients. According to a study by Willard Bishop Consulting (WBC), in 2004 there were 14,690 conventional supermarkets and 9,500 small grocery stores in the United States. The conventional supermarkets have at least $2 million in annual sales and carry approximately 22,000 SKUs (stock keeping units). Small grocers earn less than $2 million in annual sales and carry approximately 3,000 SKUs. The WBC study does identify some other grocery categories, but conventional supermarkets and small grocers make up the biggest opportunities for Martin.
OS System Upgrades Are In Demand
The grocery market is indeed a current growth area for POS VARs. The beginnings of this growth started back in the mid-1990s. During that time, the economy was strong and many grocery stores had the budgets to upgrade their POS systems in preparation for the impending doom of Y2K. Of course, nothing happened after the calendar turned to 2000, and the lackluster economic conditions of the following years didn’t spur a technology spending spree. But, during the past few years a significant change to the grocery landscape did occur, namely in the form of the introduction of superstores (e.g. Wal-Mart-like stores that also carry groceries). Since smaller grocers couldn’t compete with the superstores on price, they needed a technological advantage. They needed to offer a faster shopping experience. They needed to capture more data on customer buying habits. They needed new POS equipment — new more powerful and faster POS equipment. And they needed VARs to help select and install this equipment.
“Today’s grocery stores want new POS technology such as check scanning devices, faster receipt printers and bar code scanners, and quieter equipment overall,” Martin says. “All of this new equipment should manage turnover and training better than their legacy systems and give valuable insight into customer buying habits. Further, these stores want to offer advertising at the checkout [e.g. via two-sided pole displays or LCD flat screens], gift cards, and a modern-looking appearance at the checkout.”
Understand More Than Just POS Hardware
Keeping up to date with their competitors’ modern POS systems isn’t the only reason grocery customers seek Martin Business Systems’ help. They want more integration between their PC-based back end systems and their POS systems. That’s why the company offers more than just POS equipment repair and installation; it provides network (wired and wireless) support, analysis, and installation.
Martin himself also helps his clients with issues such as becoming EAN (electronic article number)- and DUKPT (derived unique key per transaction)-compliant. EAN is a fixed-length, numeric-only bar code symbology that is Europe’s equivalent to the U.S.’ UPC (universal product code). DUKPT is the preferred technique for providing high security for PIN-based events such as debit transactions at a cash register. “In the past few years, I was helping some clients upgrade to be DUKPT-compliant,” Martin comments. “The bigger demand has been EAN codes, which are starting to emerge, especially in the wine and beer import areas of grocery. Grocers need to have bar code scanners that can read these codes and POS systems that can accept this data. With any of these updates comes a realization by clients that newer POS systems provide a lot of functionality they didn’t know they missed before.”
Know All The Grocery Vertical’s Decision Makers
Since many of Martin’s clients are small grocers, he is commonly pitching his products and services to the store manager and sometimes the store owner, depending on the size of the project. But he notes that the store’s wholesaler could be another contact that has an impact on the purchasing decision for a new POS system. For example, one of the largest wholesalers Martin deals with stipulates that if one of its stores buys a new POS system with integrated credit card processing software, the wholesaler must approve that system first. While this scenario is rather unique, it did pose a problem for Martin, nevertheless. To get his POS software recognized by the wholesaler, he first pursued selling some POS systems with no credit card integration to smaller stores using this wholesaler. Once he had that client base, it was easier for him to make inroads to the wholesaler’s larger grocery clients in need of full-functioned POS software systems.
Expand To Complementary Verticals/Technologies
In his first three years of business, Martin amassed a client roster of 72 grocery clients all through word of mouth. While he plans to continue his focus on the grocery vertical, he anticipates a future expansion into two similar markets — convenience stores and hospitality. “Although much of the hardware is the same in the hospitality market as compared to grocery, the software and reports are very different,” he states. “To wholeheartedly serve hospitality clients, we would have to add an employee with expertise in that vertical.” He says he is also trying to add other technologies to his current grocery solution. For instance, he recently started selling a solution that includes time and attendance hardware/software from TimeCentre.
Martin understands that to be successful selling to the grocery vertical, you have to be able to sell more than just POS terminals and bar code scanners. This industry is changing, and for progressive VARs like Martin, the sales opportunities are huge.