Retail Accounting

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14 things to consider when choosing a CODO / dealer accounting management suite?

Checklist1.    Service station / gas station specific – Traditional accounting systems are not designed to handle many of the industry specific complexities of service station or gas station accounting. The chosen system should have been designed from conception for service station and gas station businesses; this can avoid any unnecessary and expense consultancy fees in adapting the system for a service station/gas station business.

2.    Cloud based / online – On-premise systems are not suitable for Company Owned Dealer Operated (CODO) networks due to their complex reporting requirements and the geographically dispersed nature of the network. Cloud / online systems allow all users to securely access the single source of information under strict permission rights. Cloud / online systems can be deployed rapidly and can reduce the necessity for major capital expenditure as they are hosted and managed by the software company. Upgrades and updates are automatically applied across the network reducing further hassles and complications for both the dealer and the oil company.

3.    Full suite – An online software suite which includes a full general ledger accounting system for the dealer and a management information system for the oil company, will reduce the challenge of collating reports and then re-entering the data into a secondary database which is often costly and can impact the accuracy of data.

4.    Track record – A proven track record is essential. The chosen system should have a history is delivering projects on time and on budget.

5.    Multilingual and adaptable to the local country – Many oil companies operate in numerous geographical markets, therefore deploy multiple systems to meet the requirements of each country such as local languages and accounting standards. Operating multiple systems often result in additional support and training costs as well as consolidation challenges. All of which can be avoided through the deployment of a single “multilingual retail accounting management suite”.

6.    Automated accounting – The chosen system must be able to integrate with other retail IT systems and data sources, this can deliver substantial cost and time savings while increasing the accuracy of the data, as it removes any re-entering errors.

7.    Customised reporting – One size does not fit all and out-of-the-box reports will often not provide the necessary insight, it is therefore important that the chosen system has the ability to have customised reports to focus on the key areas of the business.

8.    Consistent reporting – It is critical to have consistent reporting across dealers to allow for comparisons and provide insight through benchmarking to unlock value within the network.

9.    Easy to use – It is imperative that the accounting system is easy to use and intuitive. A difficult system can prolong the project deployment because of additional training and support requirements all of which can be avoided.

10.    Network reporting – Through deploying an online retail accounting management suite across a dealer network such as CounterBooks, the oil company will gain full transparency and a consolidated view of the network’s performance without spending an extensive amount of time and cost collating and analysing data. Network reports which can assist in the management of a dealer network include:-

  •  Network Profit and Loss report (with budget comparison) which shows the network profit and loss performance by dealer and against budget.
  •  Purchase Compliance to assess dealers spending with approved suppliers and by category.
  • Network Net Worth and Liquidity report to assist in monitoring the financial stability of dealers.

11.    Data analysis capabilities – Through analysing data, oil companies can identify trends and benchmark dealers which can assist in gaining a maximum return on their investment. The chosen system should have an easy to use and powerful data analysis tool to assist in “slicing and dicing” data to aid decision making.

12.    Drill down functionality – Static reports such as spreadsheets and PDFs do not allow the oil company to look beneath the figures. With drill down functionality on reports, it will allow the oil company to investigate any irregular aspects of the dealer’s financial reports which could be mis-postings or legitimate exceptional items.

13.    Period locking – Oil companies can struggle with maintaining the data integrity of the dealer’s accounting records. At the end of the period, the dealer will send their financial reports to the oil company, after doing so, the dealer might make adjustments to “mask” the true financial performance of the business. The “Period Locking” feature is a highly effective control to restrict such circumstances occurring. Once the dealer has finalised their accounts and reviewed by their accountant, the period is locked which restricts the dealer from making any further adjustments.

14.    Budget reporting – Budget comparison reports are indispensable to managing the expectations of the dealers, providing a performance management tool while also assisting oil companies with the distribution of financial support to dealers.

If you are interested in understanding how to you can develop your dealer network into a world class retail operation, please visit our website – or speak with us today.


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Connecting Real-Time Fuel Operations in the Cloud

cloud computingStaying ahead in the convenience store industry has always meant finding innovative solutions to save time and money. Today, that usually means technology upgrades. And the technology upgrade more and more business owners are turning to is the cloud. Also known as SaaS or software as a service technology, the cloud allows c-store owners to connect all their data in one location.

For c-stores with a fuelling operation, having access to this real-time data is even more important. Fuel costs, competitor pricing and even your profit margins are constantly changing. For those running multiple stores in multiple locations, keeping track of all these numbers becomes even more of a chore. Past technology solutions helped with organization but lacked the connectivity between programs.

With the cloud, anyone with an Internet connection can access and edit a central dashboard from anywhere in the world. Fuel barrel prices went up? One click and all your gas station prices can be bumped up to keep consistent profit margins. Today’s technologies can even customize margins for you.

Say a c-store owner says he or she would like to make X gross margin on his/her fueling operation. Today’s software can incorporate that number and automatically reset retail prices based on cost inputs. Many can even be linked to electronic signage, making the price change and informing customers instantaneously.

In addition to these fuel-centric benefits, the ability to manage all stores based on one dashboard can also pay off when addressing simple accounting and bookkeeping issues. Dianne Bonner, officer/manager at Wykstra Oil Co., which operates five c-stores across Michigan, said cloud technology has allowed management to track sales, payrolls, payables and more across all stores.

“Having all our reports in one place allows us to compare stores, check on item sales or quickly see if the numbers don’t match up correctly,” Bonner said. “It eliminates a lot of the spreadsheet work that would usually be necessary among all the locations.”

Another major convenience of utilizing cloud technology is the lack of physical infrastructure. By eliminating the need to host servers, you also eliminate the need to maintain and service those servers. There is no need to learn IT protocol, hire an IT staff or outsource experts for regular updates/problems.

Kim Higginson, President of One-Stop Express in Poseyville, Ind., learned the benefits of offsite infrastructure through experience. It was not long ago — before he implemented cloud technology — that an ice storm knocked out power to his store, damaged his server and put his business at a complete standstill. Now using cloud technology, that problem was eliminated.

“Just recently we lost power again, but with just a generator and an Internet card, we were back running in no time,” Higginson said. “We were able to run our complete software package while the competition could only sit and wait for a utility crew to fix the power.”

Higginson also noted the amount of travel he was able to eliminate with cloud technology. A former owner of as many as 14 c-stores, he no longer has to visit each location individually to make IT improvements. When upgrades or patches are required, they could easily be implemented to all store locations through one server. He could even perform automatic data backups rather than requiring employees to perform manual backups each night.

Yet will all these benefits, perhaps the best part of cloud technology is the ability to incorporate the unknown. As most people know, technology is considered out of date almost as fast as it is released. With a cloud-hosted software base, new features can be added to your store’s capabilities on a regular basis.

Higginson has been running One Stop Express on cloud technology for five years, but will be adding the ability to automatically reconcile credit cards this month. And this is possible without requiring one infrastructure improvement inside the store.

“I don’t have to take the time to get experts out here and install the software. It’s automatically available to me based on an upgrade to the hosting server,” Higginson said.

So while the cloud certainly offers clear advantages, c-store and gas station owners still need to decide if the time is right to make a switch.

Early concerns over the security of cloud-stored data are quickly dissolving, especially with stringent payment card industry (PCI) compliance requirements in place, and prices have dropped as the technology becomes more mainstream. Owners with several locations, or ones that plan to add to their operations, should specifically be interested in adopting cloud technology.

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Lotos Paliwa’s Latest Fuel Retail Formats

In a Europe of declining growth, markets like Poland are bucking the trend. This  film from Gdansk focuses on the Lotos Paliwa business and its latest fuel retail formats. Lotos are making significant capital investments on expanding road networks and use the KSS Fuels LocationXpert solution to make the right decisions.


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Wincor Nixdorf Enters MobileWallet Space

Service Station Suite provides platform for combining mobile payment and loyalty solution.

Wincor Nixdorf Logo

Wincor Nixdorf Inc., a leading provider of IT solutions and services to retailers and retail banks, is rolling out the Wincor Wallet for mobile cashless payments in all retail sales channels, including gas stations. It turns the smart-phone into a wallet. The Wincor Wallet is integrated into the TP Application Suite, the software platform for retail companies, and in the Service Station Suite (NAMOS) for fuel station companies.

Whether in stationary retail, web shops or mobile stores, the Wincor Wallet can be accessed for mobile payment by all standard smart-phones through the use of QR codes or near-field communication (NFC) technology.

The Wincor Nixdorf’s Payment Gateway server operating in the background enables the solution. In addition to processing traditional, card-based payments, this also allows modern Wallet transactions to be processed in an IT environment certified by the Payment Card Industry (PCI), which ensures the security of the cashless transactions.

The Wincor Wallet provides a platform for combining different mobile payment and loyalty solutions such as mobile use of debit or credit cards, mobile coupons or redeeming mobile vouchers at the checkout via smart-phone, the company said.

“Retailers and service station companies thus have a platform that they can adapt individually to offer their customers optimum payment convenience and set themselves apart from the competition,” said Jurgen Manske, senior solution manager of retail at Wincor Nixdorf.

Austin, Texas-based Wincor Nixdorf USA will introduce this checkout-independent payment solution at the upcoming National Retail Federation (NRF) Annual Convention & Expo in New York City from Jan. 13-16, 2013.

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Top Five Risks Concerning How To Buy Gas Station Business Opportunities

Those seeking to buy gas station business opportunities need to know about five factors that can make this purchase Gas Stationparticularly risky compared to other businesses. Along with food, clothing and shelter, Americans consider the fuel needed to run their vehicles a necessity. The chance to be on the selling end of that commodity is what drives a number of entrepreneurs to buy gas station business opportunities.

But there are at least five substantial risks awaiting the buyer interested in this industry. And it is critical to know about them.

1. What’s underground? Among the costliest mistakes in a buy gas station plan is to examine only visible assets. While aboveground equipment might be functioning just fine, an underground disaster is occurring if gasoline is leaking from storage tanks. The state of California is diligent about enforcing environmental rules for gas stations. For the new owner, especially one not protected by a franchisor, that means enormous clean up costs, not to mention the loss of business while the tractors dig up contaminated soil and the station has to be rebuilt. Requiring both Phase I and Phase II soil testing as a condition of purchase, is a must for the prospective buyer.

2. About those tanks. One of the first questions about California gas stations for sale is whether it has DWFG (double-walled, fiberglass) fuel storage tanks with leak detection sensors. If fuel storage for a possible purchase candidate has not been upgraded, it’s best to focus the buy gas station business effort on other offerings.

3. Who’s the real property owner? The land may not be owned by the seller, even if seller is a name brand franchisor dispensing its product at the station. Imagine buying a Chevron or a Shell Oil franchise and learning that the company holds only a lease–being sublet to you–which soon will expire. Anyone wanting to buy gas station business opportunities must insist on knowing who owns the property, whether mortgage payments, if any, are being made on time, and the duration and terms of any lease held by the seller.

4. Future traffic patterns. Many investors who have searched to buy gas station businesses have learned, too late, that a road construction crew would soon tear up the route motorists use to access the gas station business. This fact often is known by the seller. It might even be the undisclosed reason for the sale. So a trip to city hall and a conversation with planning and roads department people is an essential part of the pre-offer due diligence process.

5. Paying a fair price. Some California gas station brokers and sellers like to tie the business asking price to the gallonage pumped or to gross revenues. But the smart entrepreneur pursuing a buy gas station business objective looks at actual earnings before the seller pays, or sets aside money for interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. In many cases, markup on the fuel sold may not be enough to cover overhead. The profit might come from a related business, such as mechanical repair, convenience market or car wash.

Knowing that most California gas stations sell at a price equating to the range of two to three times the annual EBITDA figure, not including real estate or inventory, a buyer can be prepared when talking price with the seller or broker. And whether the price at which to buy gas station business assets belongs at the bottom, the top, or in the middle of the range, depends on factors such as terms of the lease, seller’s willingness to help finance, and condition of the equipment and improvements.

An entrepreneur on a buy gas station purchase mission is investigating an industry with solid opportunities. But he or she needs to be mindful about the five risks.

About The Author: Peter Siegel is the founder and President of BizBen has over 500 gas stations for sale and lists numerous gas stations brokers and agents who assist buyers and sellers of California gas stations. You can reach Peter Siegel at 866-270-6278.