High Notes, High Tech

Opryland hosts annual NACStech conference

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The annual highlight of high-tech for the petroleum retail and convenience store industry may also hit record high attendance figures, as retailers gather for the industry's annual technology conference which opened yesterday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Located in country music's recording capital, the NACStech 2005 conference found retailers singing the praises of wide-area networks (WANs), business intelligence systems and other high-tech developments inclusive of biometric payment [image-nocss] and loyalty programs.

For Scott Hartman, president of Rutter's Farm Stores, York, Pa., and active for years with the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and its technology efforts, certain movementsparticularly the wide area networkshave come of age. We've talked for a long time about the networked store, Hartman said. Today, more people have put in wide area networks and there are [more suppliers] here offering advanced uses of the technology.

Bud Young, financial manager, Fred's Minit Mart LLC, Bowling Green, Ky., agreed, saying, WANs make all the difference. There are things you just couldn't do without them. Young said the owner of his 34-store company bought back the sites two years ago and realized their technology was outdated. Coming to NACStech, Young was actively searching out ways to upgrade in-store automation.

Donna Perkins, pricebook manager, Calloway Oil Co., Maryville, Tenn., was also looking to improve technologies at her sites. After viewing a Monday afternoon session on scanning, she was surprised at how many retailers scanned items as deliverymen brought them into the store. She said she may consider that option in addressing inventory concerns.

In that scanning session, five retailers spoke on issues ranging from implementation to data analysis. Danny Norris, controller, Fast Petroleum, Dalton, Ga., noted that however retailers go about implementing scanning, everyone in the organization has to buy into the changes, from top executives to store managers. He said that the owner of the company could walk into a store and unintentionally undermine the integrity of the data. As an example, a CEO could give an informal nod to a practice like allowing cashiers to ring from an informal book of bar codes kept up front.

We allow a few [bar codes] to be up front, but we [authorize those bar codes], Norris said. If you don't, you're giving the employee another opportunity to pad or steal.

See additional NACStech coverage in this and tomorrow's issue of CSP Daily News.