Guest Column | November 26, 2013

Convenience Stores' Small Footprint Doesn't Mean Small Technology Needs

By David J. Gosman, CEO, pcAmerica

Convenience stores are the go-to source for people who need to make a quick stop for milk, eggs, or a Sunday newspaper. They’re smaller than the average grocery store and carry mainly the staples, but that doesn’t mean their technology needs are small as well.

There are several technologies that all VARs should make sure they introduce to convenience store owners, many of whom depend on their employees to maintain inventory levels, check IDs for age-restricted items, and understand the store’s loyalty programs. This is a tall order for people to take on and perform accurately, so having a POS system that offers these functions can help a convenience store owner protect their business while saving time and money.

Convenience stores have limited shelf space, so understanding the buying habits of customers can be the difference between a profitable bottom line or a dwindling cash flow. Inventory is one of the largest, ongoing investments a business owner will make, so it’s imperative that proper steps are taken to manage this important asset. Accurate inventory reporting capabilities help stores keep hot items in stock and avoid being overrun by products that don’t sell. Inventory management features help to reduce or eliminate shrinkage, stock outages and discrepancies, and monitor overall inventory movement for merchandise and packaged or prepared food items. A well-stocked and smartly managed inventory can be the deciding factor in whether your client’s shop is the “one that has everything” or the one that patrons avoid because it “never has what I want.”

In addition to retail items, many convenience stores are starting to offer prepared food, which can have higher profit margins — some stores are reporting margins of more than 50 percent. This is an unprecedented opportunity for VARs to offer clients a POS solution that handles both retail and foodservice. A single point-of-sale station can process traditional convenience store sales, alcohol and tobacco products and food service items such as coffee and sandwiches, breakfast items, and packaged products.

Digital signage is a great upgrade for convenience stores, even if it’s a small display at the register. VARs should encourage their customers to consider implementing digital signage because it ensures that information about loyalty programs, new products, or limited time offers reach shoppers at the most important point — while they are in the store browsing or waiting on line. Some convenience store owners can even turn this into a revenue-generating opportunity, by selling their digital signage space as an advertising medium to vendors wanting to showcase new products and information.

VARs that aren’t selling loyalty technology could very well be losing their clients’ customers and money. It may seem like a small change, but loyalty programs such as “buy 10 gallons of milk, get one free” or a coffee club can make a big difference in a retailer’s customer base and the amount of money customers spend at a store. Statistics show that customers enrolled in loyalty plans will return and spend more money — about 67 percent more than first time shoppers — and more than 70 percent of families participate in a loyalty program of some sort. Many POS software packages have loyalty functions that will track and issue rewards, give frequent visitor discounts and offer in-store promotions and sales.

ID verification is lacking in many convenience stores and this could cause some serious — and expensive — problems for any store that isn’t careful. For any business selling alcohol or tobacco, Federal regulations stipulate that employees need to check IDs and verify the customer is of legal age before completing their purchase. Doing this job manually is not only time-consuming, but has a large margin for error.

According to the National Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, nearly 80 percent of convenience stores sell beer and in 2011, sales of beer topped out at $15.4 billion. Cigarettes and tobacco products are also major income drivers for c-stores. That’s a lot of sales — and a lot of chance for error. It’s important to encourage your clients to consider an age verification system that will prompt cashiers to check or scan the shopper’s government issued-ID license with the system’s barcode scanner, validating their age before proceeding with the transaction. Clients will thank you for automating their age verification because it not only protects their business, it also helps reduce transaction times and ensures regulatory compliance. Lines will move faster using automated age verification — it takes the average cashier 45 seconds to manually enter license data, compared to the two seconds it takes to scan it. The average person also makes an average of one error for every 20 words typed, a risk factor that’s eliminated when IDs are scanned instead.

Convenience store clients could benefit from the POS technology that many grocery stores and large retailers use to process transactions. It’s easy to overlook the c-store market as one that doesn’t need the same level of technology detail, when it’s actually the opposite. With a compressed footprint, alcohol and tobacco for sale, and limited space for products, every sale counts, so it’s important for VARS to empower their convenience store clients with the right technology.


Founded in 1985, pcAmerica has been providing computerized point of sale software solutions to the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries for over 20 years. With over 50,000 users worldwide, pcAmerica offers point of sale software solutions, such as Cash Register Express™, which handles both retail and foodservice, and digital signage functionality on a variety of POS peripherals including LCD pole displays, full-size LCD displays, and pin pads.