Case Study: Marriage Of Convenience: New POS System A Hit


Wincor Nixdorf and Pinnacle executives hope the successful deployment of a POS system at Red Apple Markets signals the beginning of a mutually profitable partnership.

In late April, Pinnacle integrated its Palm software,a Windows-based POS application utilizing touch-screen technology for the convenience store and petroleum industries,with Wincor Nixdorf's Beetle/ iPOS. The solution provider has deployed the integrated Beetle/iPOS system in two of Red Apple Market's 42 convenience stores/gas stations in North Carolina and southern Virginia.

"Our expectation is this is an evaluation that will lead to a bigger opportunity with Red Apple and others,both for us and for Wincor Nixdorf," said Jeff Whittle, executive vice president at Pinnacle, an Arlington, Texas-based software developer and solution provider focused solely on the convenience store and petroleum markets.

Whittle said Pinnacle's Palm POS application is the company's fastest-growing offering in terms of revenue. Pinnacle also sells PCTrain, a Windows-based interactive computer-based training program.

The Wincor Nixdorf Beetle/iPOS system is an all-in-one POS appliance with a small footprint, which is important in the counter-space-conscious convenience store atmosphere, Whittle said. The CPU, power supply and other components are mounted directly behind the device's flat-panel display.

The Beetle/iPOS' features include the choice of a 566MHz Intel Celeron or 600MHz Intel Pentium III processor, both with Intel's 815E chipset for flexibility and stability, according to Wincor Nixdorf. It's available in either a 12.1-inch or 15-inch TFT display with nontouch, resistive-touch or capacitive-touch functions. Dual display support is optional.

"The way the [Beetle/ iPOS] is configured, both in terms of the size of the monitor and a technology that allows the screen to be double-backlit, the screen [is] much easier to see," Whittle said. "That's a big issue because there is a lot of glare in this type of environment."

The Beetle/iPOS is truly industry-hardened, Whittle added. That's particularly necessary in a convenience store, where the machines are constantly in use and are often subject to coffee spills and other environmental challenges.

Adam Coleman, director of retail operations at Red Apple Markets, said the installation represents a natural progression in Red Apple Market's corporate technology upgrade strategy.

The Beetle/iPOS system made sense when considering future POS requirements because of its ability to interface with other Pinnacle software products, including retail back-office management applications already being used by Red Apple Markets, he said.

Dave Murphy, vice president of marketing at Wincor Nixdorf, based here, said that while the company remains mostly focused on a direct-sales and solutions business model, it made a strategic decision to partner with Pinnacle in targeting the convenience store/gas station market.

"With the [convenience store], we decided to go into a reseller-only strategy, and Pinnacle is really the first reseller we've lit up in this segment," Murphy said. "And this is a living, breathing thing and involves person-to-person relationships, but the trust factor is very high and they know we are learning in a lot of ways how to do this."

Whittle said the completion of the partners' first deployment came with the typical challenges, but Wincor Nixdorf stepped up to the plate each time and re-

affirmed Pinnacle's belief in the partnership.

For instance, Whittle said that when Wincor Nixdorf's hardware first arrived at Red Apple Markets, the configuration wasn't exactly what the customer ordered and couldn't be implemented.

"Instead of getting locked into a customer service voice-mail loop, Wincor put people on an airplane with the equipment, got the right stuff there and put human beings on the ground taking care of an issue that, in a worst-case scenario, would have been handled very impersonally," Whittle said. "That was very compelling."


AT A GLANCE: Convenience Sales

> There are more than 132,400 convenience stores across the country. Ten years ago, the official convenience store count stood at 100,800; 20 years ago there were 76,200 stores; and 30 years ago, there were 24,300.

> Convenience stores posted more than $290 billion in total sales for 2002, which included $181 billion in sales of motor fuel.

> Convenience stores sell nearly 80 percent of the gas in the United States.

> The convenience store industry employs nearly 1.4 million individuals.

> Top five products in terms of consumer sales, excluding fuel sales, are cigarettes, packaged beverages (non-alcoholic), food service, beer and general merchandise.

SOURCE: NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CONVENIENCE STORES