Any convenience store retailer who wants to succeed in today's competitive market should be using an epos system to make their business more efficient, but it's not just a tool that's good for stock management and pricing. Technological innovations now allow it to be linked to CCTV, opening up a whole new dimension of control.

Competition has meant more convenience stores than ever are using epos systems, according to Torex senior product manager Andy Payne. "The growth in epos is being driven by the larger multiple retailers and buying groups who provide systems to convenience stores in order to tie retailers into their product sets," he says. "This is encouraging smaller retailers to turn to epos to remain competitive."

Actinic CEO Chris Barling agrees. "I expect to see an increase in epos penetration in the next 12 months. With Tesco rampant in the sector and the need to be super-efficient to compete, it makes sense. In addition, prices of systems are falling and the rollout of contactless payment is likely to accelerate uptake."

While more retailers are switching on to epos, plenty more have CCTV. Mirasys managing director Iain Cameron says that most retailers in the UK currently have some form of system in their stores, and the rise in crime will prompt a large number of system upgrades over the coming year. "The latest British Retail Consortium's annual Retail Crime Survey (2009) showed that the number of thefts from stores has risen by 33% since 2008, with an incident occurring almost every minute," he says. "Retail crime cost shops £1.1bn in 2008-09, a 10% increase on the previous year. This increase in retail crime will likely be followed by an increased demand for CCTV solutions to help prevent further loss."

However, while epos and CCTV are out there, how many retailers are using them in tandem to benefit security? NCR retail specialist Helen McInnes believes the time is right for retailers to explore the benefits of a link-up. She adds: "Although most convenience stores have epos and CCTV systems, many of them will be upgrading to a more high-tech system which provides the perfect opportunity to introduce a link-up. We are also seeing an increasing number of convenience stores whose current technology is over 10 years old and will require upgrades within the next three years."

Barling says that although linking epos and CCTV systems is not new, retailers have not welcomed the idea with open arms. "The system has been available for some time now, but uptake has been slower than might have been expected," he says. "This suggests that it's either too costly, not seen as effective enough compared with the effort of policing it, or simply addresses a problem which isn't seen as a major issue."

Cameron believes joining the two technologies isn't as difficult as retailers may think. "Epos and CCTV systems can easily communicate with each other to pass data into video management databases," he says.

Barling says that the major draw is linking the systems to dramatically cut fraud. "The big benefit of integration is in eliminating 'sweetheart' fraud, where a shop assistant and a friend collude to allow items to be taken at the wrong price, or not to be scanned at all," he explains. "The description of the product can be superimposed on the video recording, allowing management to easily check that the correct bar codes and prices are being applied to the correct items."

He adds that simply making staff aware of the set-up could stamp out fraud. "Just having such a system is a discouragement to fraud," he says.

Payne says that having epos and CCTV linked up will cut down the amount of time a retailer needs to spend in their store. "Retailers who link these systems can maintain far greater control over in-store activity without needing to be present 24/7," he says.

Indigo Retail Technology managing director Baljit Tank adds that dialling into stores from home also allows retailers to keep an eye on both the store and the tills, and provides the ability to take a snapshot of suspicious behaviour without the customer or staff being aware.

With epos and CCTV costing less and being easier to integrate, retailers have a greater opportunity to add another layer of defence against crime.
How to make sure your CCTV is up to the job
l Install high-definition cameras to ensure best images, providing good evidence and reducing the number of cameras required

l Use an IP (Internet Protocol) system to take advantage of POE (Power Over Ethernet) to reduce the number of power points running to cameras

l Make sure your CCTV software is easy for staff to manage and operate, and is part of a reliable system so that evidence is readily available when required

l Use wall-mounted recorders to reduce the risk of theft or destruction of recorded evidence

l The use of hi-def PC-based systems can be expanded to support other add-on features such as till integration, alarm integration, people counting and other sales-related behaviour