Although convenience store owners in 2015 will still pride themselves on human interaction and the personal touch, the technology used in stores will take significant leaps over the next five years, especially when it comes to payment systems.
Contactless payment has been the great white hope for the epos industry for several years, and while it hasn’t come as far as expected, one epos manufacturer believes that convenience stores will be the ones to popularise it.
Actinic chief executive officer Chris Barling says: “The success of the Oyster card has shown how popular contactless payment can become. Currently, we’re suffering from chicken and egg syndrome there aren’t enough people trying to use contactless payment and not enough retailers accept it. However, the number of contactless-enabled cards in circulation is rising sharply, and a point will soon be reached where it becomes a significant disadvantage to not take contactless cards. At that stage, I expect usage to rise rapidly.”
Barling adds that transactions could potentially be completed via mobile phones in 2015. “It’s difficult to be sure whether contactless payment will be delivered by mobile phone. It’s certainly a possibility as we’ve seen this in other countries, notably Japan.”
While contactless payment may be looming on the horizon, the epos market itself will see several changes over the next five years. According to Barling, epos penetration in UK convenience stores stands at 34%, but he expects it rise to close to 100% by 2015. “The rise of contactless payment will fuel an increase in retailers installing epos systems as they won’t want to get left behind,” says Barling.
Helen McInnes, retail specialist at epos manufacturer NCR, claims that new systems coming on stream will help retailers save money by becoming more energy efficient. “In the next five years we are going to see more environmentally designed systems,” she says. “There are some epos machines on the market today that incorporate energy-efficient technologies that are helping to drive down convenience store owners’ power consumption by up to 50% over previous generations of epos terminals. However, many systems are only 50-60% efficient when the system is idle, so hopefully future systems will incorporate lower-power consumption technology, saving retailers money.”
Londis retailer Arjan Mehr, who owns a store in Bracknell, Berkshire, processes his credit card payments through broadband and believes that many other retailers will be doing the same in 2015. “It’s much faster than dial-up and more reliable,” he says.
Arjan predicts that a lot more services will become integrated in the next few years. “CCTV can currently be hooked up through epos and I think that when the technology advances, it will become more popular,” he says.
Barling believes that once the UK broadband network becomes more reliable, retailers will start integrating their epos systems more. “It would be great if an epos service could run reliably over the web, allowing retailers to order and monitor their businesses remotely,” he adds. “Retailers are still wary of their broadband connection going down, so I guess that once internet connectivity reaches that standard of reliability, it will be game on.”
Even with a top-of-the-line epos system, retailers need reliable staff to operate their stores. Nisa-Today’s director John Heagney says that busy retailers will have to utilise technologies available to help train staff.
“For independents there will be a huge change in staffing and training retailers will become substantially more efficient with their time-management to control costs more effectively,” says Heagney. “This will all be handled through their IT and epos systems to ensure stores are properly staffed for the peaks and troughs of trading.”
Spar Henderson human resources director Sam Davidson agrees that technology will be key for training and adds that courses now available will make the retail industry seem a more lucrative option as a career.
“We are seeing recognition at government level that specific retail skills training is both overdue and vital for our economy. The sector skills council Skillsmart Retail will, I hope, continue to play a lead role in advancing innovative types of training solutions,” he says.
Heagney adds that National Minimum Wage (NMW) may be an issue in 2015. The NMW has risen every year for the past 10 years and recently the Prime Minister promised an increase every year for the next five years.
“This is a crucial area the minimum wage will probably rise faster than the Retail Price Index, therefore strong wage cost controls will be key to retail profitability,” he says. “This does not mean that stores must have skeleton staff they just need to properly manage the hours that are worked and ensure that they select the right staff to deliver the best customer service possible.”