How Data Drives Sales, Cuts Costs

Conexxus retailer panelists reveal how business analytics help their c-stores succeed

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Jenny Bullard, Donna Perkins and Ed Freels Conexxus PCATS (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

Jenny Bullard (left), Donna Perkins, Ed Freels

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Emphasizing how business analytics help improve sales and cut costs, three convenience store retailers speaking at the Conexxus (formerly PCATS) technical conference in Tucson, Ariz., said their automated systems allow them to generate meaningful reports from data generated at their stores.

Retailers Jenny Bullard, Donna Perkins and Ed Freels each gave summaries of the automated systems and processes they have in place that allow their staffs to generate any number of reports, ranging from overall category sales to loss-prevention alerts.

Bullard, CIO for the 172-store, Waycross, Ga.-based Flash Foods, said her system, an enterprise management solution from Arlington, Texas-based The Pinnacle Corp., runs off of an SQL database and a reporting tool called "MicroStrategy." It allows different department heads to create their own reports, she said.

The types of reports run the gamut from daily and monthly item-level sales on specific products to year-to-date or month-over-month category analysis. Having developed a foodservice concept at one particular store, executives there tied video camera input so as to help the system determine how many hot dogs and sausages to have on the grill during every given day part.

The system also keeps Flash Foods in touch with its loyalty program metrics, analyzing sales and transaction counts.

On an operational level, the system takes point-of-sale (POS) data to analyze event tracking (things like voids, returns and price overrides), tender types and customer-relations alerts. Pumps are tied into the point of notifying staff when printer paper is out.

Bullard said in one instance, its transaction alerts notified staff of potentially fraudulent sales, and with some tracking back on its video surveillance tapes, staff was able to provide footage of a pickup truck equipped with a compartment made to store stolen gasoline.

Like Bullard, Donna Perkins, pricebook manager for Calloway Oil, Maryville, Tenn., is able to track item-level movement and develop comprehensive reports. With a system provided by Temple, Texas-based PDI, she said the open-architecture platform allows for the creation of reports specific to the needs of her 22-store chain.

Perkins said her company recently used data to redo their cooler sets. Initially having a single beverage-cooler supplier, she said they were beholden to the items that supplier chose and where they were placed. As Calloway began focusing on its own sales data, the chain soon decided that "every product had to earn its spot."

In 2013, the company split its contract between three suppliers, shifted product and eventually achieved better results. In one case, it saw a 40% growth in sales of its second-best selling item--one that had a higher margin than the product it replaced (while only sustaining an 8% drop in that replaced product).

The third retailer panelist, Ed Freels, director of information systems at the 36-store, Worcester, Mass.-based Honey Farms, said they also used the Pinnacle system to better understand their product movement. He said such reporting can alert a retailer to anomalies in sales that may require attention, such as a store that falls in sales due to a power outage.

Freels told attendees that understanding who needs what data helps him devise ways to help motivate the proper person to take any necessary action.

Still, with all the data that is available to his company, Freels said his team must continually ask themselves if they're considering the right questions.

"We want to foster curiosity and make sure that the horse not only gets to the water, but drinks it too," he said.

The Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards, created by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), announced earlier this week that it has been rebranded as Conexxus in order to better reflect the increasing importance of connections and technology.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
View More Articles By Angel Abcede