Two-thirds of independent retailers, it is estimated, have access to the internet and yet they go online for business purposes just three times a week. Other data suggests that only 25% of owners of local stores have installed epos in their shops.

The take-up of technology in the c-store sector is discouraging at best, and pitifully fragmented at worst. Indeed, boffins would suggest that this is an underlying reason for the sector failing to punch its weight in the total market place.

The symbol groups have their excellent tailormade, dedicated epos systems, which supports the theory that epos means profitability.

However, the unaffiliated genuine go-it-alone retailer who is proud of his name over the door faces a dilemma. If he wants epos, which system should he use and how much should he spend on it?

I am told many of these folk follow a word-of-mouth recommendation from a fellow retailer perhaps one they might meet while at the local cash and carry. Nothing wrong with that.

Then there is on-site tuition to arrange so that the owner and the staff fully understand the mechanics of stock control, order history, pricing and margins. If it sounds burdensome, it isn't.

Upfront cost is the main reason cited for the sector's lack of interest in computers but it's worth remembering there are guaranteed rewards, with the investment producing far better returns than any savings account. And you can get into technology in bite-sized chunks.

Once over these hurdles the opportunities are endless. Could we, for example, one day see a local store owner photographing a product in the cash and carry, flashing it to his community focus group and deciding to buy it or not depending on their replies? YouTube here we come.

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