Retail Accounting

Retail Accounting news – brought to you by CounterBooks –

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Creating a Fuel Retail Cloud-Based Ecosystem

Cloud-based EcosystemOne of the key benefits of using CounterBooks is its ability to integrate a number of (otherwise disparate) systems that the retailer already has access to.

When CounterBooks was first conceived and developed, it broke new ground by being the first major UK-based accounting product to be available over the internet.  This brought immediate benefit to our customers in that they became responsible for just the usage of the system, and did not have to worry about managing the installation and support of this key part of their business.  Being able to access their data from anywhere, anytime, was merely an additional bonus to many early adopters.

Several years after the initial launch, we introduced the ability for CounterBooks to import sales and invoice data generated by the existing Point of Sale and Back Office systems already in use at many of our customer’s retail sites.  POS systems that we have developed interfaces for include Wayne Nucleus, Torex Prism, Huth ITAS Vision, Background 2 Flow and Wincor.  This import process now accounts for approximately 80% of all data input into CounterBooks and not only saves our customer many valuable hours of book-keeping time, but improves data accuracy and reporting as well.

We have recently rolled out a further enhancement to this import process that allows us to autonomously collect data on the customer’s behalf and upload it into CounterBooks directly.  The retailer then simply has the responsibility to review and accept the uploaded data before it is saved into their accounts.

We have been able to do this because of recent developments in Cloud-Based ePOS systems that, like CounterBooks, are based on a central data store which is accessed over the internet by the retailer and are designed from the outset with the ability to exchange data with other systems.  These upgrades have also given us the ability to import data from the retailer’s biggest suppliers in a similarly centralised manner.  Providers that we currently work with can be seen here, and we are adding further names to this list on a continual basis.

The upshot of this is that we have enabled the retailer to become part of and to make use of an ecosystem that they may not have realised existed previously.  In fact the process is often so transparent that many of them no doubt remain unaware of its existence even once part of it!  Hopefully, though, all of our customers quickly appreciate the benefits we are bringing them in terms of reduced overheads and staffing costs, improved accounting practices and a better understanding of their business’ financial position.


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Retail Accounting 101: Retail Sales Metrics

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are a type of performance measure.They help you to evaluateKey Performance Indicator Chart how well your retail company is doing within a particular activity. You need to have a good understanding of what’s important to your retail company in order to choose the right set of KPIs. However there are some key KPIs that may be useful in your retail organisation:

Sales per Unit Area
Sales per unit area is a standard measure of success within retail stores. It’s often expressed in square feet but increasingly it is now being defined in square meters. It can measure your retail stores efficiency in generating revenue with the amount of space available to your retail store.  The higher the sales per unit area the better your retail store is doing at positioning products and marketing. Apple for example has twice the sales per square foot of any other US retailer.  It also allows you to benchmark your retail store against your competitors. Such information can often be obtained from trade unions, annual reports or Companies House.  Remember, factors such as location, layout and amount of inventory can have an effect on your retail stores results.
How to work out sales per unit area:

It’s a simple equation which is often expressed as follows:

£ Sales per period  e.g. £200,000 = £100 per sq ft
Sales floor area           2000 sq ft

It’s a very useful comparison tool, particularly if you have a number of different stores of varying size as it allows you to compare performance.

Sales per Customer/Transactions
You can work out the actual sales for a certain period such (month or year) and divide it by the number of customers/transactions.

For example:

Total sales               = Sales per transaction
No. of transactions

Sales per employee
This is helpful in comparing labour productivity between different retail stores.  It can also help in determining the number of sales your retail store will need to make if you take on new staff. When working out sales per employee you will need to account for anyone who is working part-time. So convert their hours to the equivalent full-time hours.

You can calculate the sales per employee as follows:

Net Sales         =   Sales per employee
No. of employees

Sales per hour tells you the speed at with each individual salesperson is selling a product to a customer within your retail store. It’s a great comparison tool to see how well each salesperson is performing in comparison to everyone else.

It’s easy to calculate:

Actual sales         = Sales per hour
Employee hours


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Daily Monitoring of Sales for convenience retailers – German case study

Daily business information is essential to optimize the management of a shop. It allows the performance of the business to be estimated and changes made to improve the operation. What does the CounterBooks bookkeeping system offer the user?

Christine Walter does not want to imagine having to do her bookkeeping again without CounterBooks. The operator of a franchise site in Hagen-Hohenlimburg, she intends to build up a network of around 40 sites with Bald Mineralölvertriebs GmbH (BMV). Several months ago she changed from another well known bookkeeping system to the online retail accounting system – CounterBooks. Looking back this has been a cost effective and time saving decision.

The principle: As soon as a supplier has made his delivery all invoices are entered directly into CounterBooks at the site by sales group, Groceries, Drinks, Confectionery, etc. Mrs Walter rarely enters the data herself but has it entered by a trusted employee. Similarly the daily sales entries are also regularly booked online.

Mrs. Walter describes the time needed, “In the morning a Daily Report is received and when someone has time they sit at the computer and the work is completed in five minutes”.

“Previously our tax advisor was also doing part of this work. This was costly and we only received the first overview a long time later”. A delay in seeing the business performance is now a thing of the past in Hagen-Hohenlimburg.

True to the Online-Principle the performance of the business can quickly be viewed either as a whole or broken down into different sales categories/groups of products. As soon as the data has been entered in the system it can be analysed in different ways. Stock levels can be seen as well as the shop sales and margins for different categories.

High transparency instead of “flying blind”

Mrs Walter explained that she did not have such a convenient way of viewing things before. In many cases she did not receive a profit analysis until the 20th of the following month. For site managers operating a business like this is like “flying blind” as they are not aware of the actual liquidity of the shop.

The online retail accounting system makes the display of this information possible. The online retail accounting system does not need to be installed on your own PC and does not require any accounting knowledge. The input screens are designed to be user friendly and the navigation easy to use. Using a personal login the data can be accessed from any PC – from the office, as well as from home, or on the move. The number of different software programs required to manipulate the same data can therefore be reduced to a minimum.

Today, especially for medium sized companies, there is no choice but to process the same data in parallel in different software programs. Tax related items are often processed by external tax advisors using their own software. At the same time, for the reasons explained above, many site managers use standard bookkeeping programs themselves, sometimes supplemented by other specialised solutions.

The crux of the matter: So far there has been no possibility to compare the information in the individual systems with each other. CounterBooks, by contrast, combines the requirements in one software package which satisfies all financial, tax and legal reporting requirements.

The system was launched on the German market about four years ago. Since then around 150 medium-sized sites have started using the online retail accounting software. “In addition we are in discussion with some significant medium sized companies,” says Markus Stille, Diplom-Kaufmann and Tax Adviser, from the Contax Group, a network of advisors, which specializes, amongst other things, in providing a tax advisory service to petrol station managers thanks to CounterBooks.

“And even Esso takes advantage of our offer”, adds Stille.

This is not without reason as the accounting software can do much more. A further benefit is, for example, the low rate of false data entry, claims Mrs. Walter. This sounds plausible. The staff entering the data have the knowledge required to book the different products against the correct category groups. This level of accuracy could not be achieved by external tax advisor offices where the employees enter the documents at a later date and without any depth of knowledge, explains Mrs. Walter.

The electronic data processing is not only of interest for the single convenience retailer. Group managers or small networks can also benefit from the high level of transparency they get when viewing the business performance.

For example: There is a big difference in the sales of tobacco between three sites but the monthly average sale of fuel is similar, this would indicate that a closer investigation is required.

Perhaps the difference in sales can be explained by local factors. Maybe it is the result of a gap in the range of products, incorrect placement in the shop, or less attractive presentation. The high sales might be the result of a new promotion. To better asses profitability of a particular site the system provides a comparison with average industry data.

It can often help to identify low turnover products faster than before. “If, for example, you have a freezer in your shop but you sell only one pizza per day for 3,89 € you should ask yourself if it would be better to substitute it with a more attractive and higher turnover product” says Mrs. Walter. “Thanks to the detailed information available you develop a much better feel for the optimal management of your business”. Mistakes in the ordering of products are also immediately obvious. For example, if there are only sporadic sales of engine oil but a new order for €3,000 you would spot this inconsistency immediately and the order can then be quickly corrected.

Monthly Fees from 470 to 580 Euro

Users of the retail accounting system can be supported in their tax issues throughout Germany by the offices of the Contax Group. The monthly basic fee is between €470 and €580 +VAT. This includes the year end finalisation, tax declaration, access to CounterBooks, assistance with the bookkeeping during the first few months, and an average of three on-site visits per year.

Mrs. Walter comments that, “If you add up the monthly fees for the whole year and compare this figure with other solutions you will quickly realise that you can save several thousand Euros”.

CounterBooks can be quickly set up or a new user. “If a prospective client calls in the morning he can usually have the system ready to use in the evening”, remarks Mr. Stille of the Contax group.

The categories that need to be set up can be agreed over the telephone and the input screens modified. Afterwards an individual login will be created and, if required, different logins for the staff. A Contax advisor will visit the site to train the new user and the system can be adapted to meet any local requirements.

If you are interested in finding out more about CounterBooks, please visit,

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NISA unveils new facia

NISA’s new fascia, Loco, was unveiled to the wider world yesterday – with two stores in Newcastle. The name, I am assured, has its roots in ‘Local Convenience’, rather than the 90s pop song Livin’ La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin.

The format is aimed at stores that are on the whole slightly smaller than the average Nisa shop. On the face of it, both the Newcastle stores are very impressive. And what is for certain is that the format is adaptable, because both shops are so different. One store, quite large at around 3,000 sq ft, is located in a heavily studenty area of the city and will I have no doubt be a hit with young adult shoppers. The other, in leafy Gosforth, has more in common with a Waitrose store, offering fine foods alongside basic convenience (what percentage of UK convenience stores also offer pomegranates presented in beautiful wooden crates, I wonder?). This shop has invested heavily in local suppliers and premium products, and has attached a great deal of value to the heritage of the area, striking up a deal with the local library to blow up black and white images from the village’s past and use them to deck out the shop’s walls.

There are 10 more Loco stores due to open in the next eight weeks, and Nisa has set a target of opening 150 stores by the end of March 2013. It’s an ambitious target, and it will be of great interest to see how retailers respond to the fascia.

NISA unveils new facia

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10 things you should look for in a retail accounting system

10 things you should look for in a retail accounting system

1. Is it an accounting system designed for retailers? – There are numerous general accounting systems, however you should use an accounting systems which is ‘built for purpose’, if you are running a retail business, you should use a retail specific accounting system.

2. Can it integrate within your existing POS/BOS systems? – Very often retail businesses have a high volume of transactions which can be expensive and time consuming to enter manually. For many businesses, this is a non value adding process and can be liable to mistakes, therefore you should automate and integrate as many processes as possible.

3. Does it have a list of long established clients who recommend the system? – You should look for similar sized and larger companies and ask for a reference.

4. Is the system based in the cloud? – If you are a multiple site retailer, you will spend much of your time offsite, therefore having access to performance data, anytime and anywhere is critical.

5. Is the reporting flexible to your needs? – Many accounting systems do not allow for customisation and therefore time is often spent working within Excel to get the information into the reporting format you need.

6. Does it allow for quick data analysis and data mining needs? – The biggest asset for many businesses is the data locked within their accounting system. Being able to easily analyse data to recognise trends and share the data with colleagues is essential for business improvement.

7. Can you import electronic invoices from your main suppliers? – Our experience with many retail businesses is that they often have one or two major suppliers where a majority of the goods are brought, therefore importing electronic invoices reduces the time spent doing the data entry and bookkeeping.

8. Is it available on a monthly subscription reducing initial capital expenditure? – Many retailers require low upfront costs to reduce expenditure due to strict cash management. The main benefit for cloud based systems is that they are purchased through a monthly subscription which includes hosting and updates keeping costs low and affordable.

9. Is it easy to use? – Is the system built so it is quick and easy to use without sacrificing the functionality? Ensure you get a demonstration and ask about the training and support post purchase.

10. Are software updates and helpdesk support included in the price? – Many traditional accounting systems will charge for annual updates and have a separate pricing package for support.