Young POS Fleet
The small number of POSes on location means that any hardware delay is extremely noticeable. Although 7-Elevens POS fleet is relatively young (averaging about six years old, while many larger POS systems today are pushing the 20-year-old mark and beyond), the company is looking forward to platform upgrades, store by store. "There are a lot of pent-up demands with our POS," Morrow said. Because of that diverse customer base, product mix and huge number of inventory turns, 7-Eleven has had to delegate an unusually high percentage of its purchasing decisions down to the store manager level.Given the differing tastes and needs, 7-Eleven wont even leave many of those decisions to the regional managers. Customer demands "vary greatly from street to street" in some areas. "We have to be the local neighborhood-type store [so that we can have] the right products at the moment of truth, which is when the customer wants to buy," Morrow said.To see how retailers are exploring using consumer PDAs and cell phones as checkout devices, click here. Thats a lot easier said than done. The CIO points out that such a system "is hard to execute consistently because its reliant on [a lot of] people in the work force." The retailer has combined a homegrown proprietary retail information system with repurposed hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co. (back-office servers), NCR (POS terminals) and NEC handheld ordering devices (docked, not wireless). HP recently announced a five-year, $55 million deal with 7-Eleven to deliver more than 5,000 custom, factory-bundled technology packages and on-site installation. But 7-Elevens homegrown software doesnt just deliver the standard inventory and ordering data. With an eye on helping local managers stay locally current, it integrates national weather service updates with local event news. A blizzard, a tournament ballgame and a parade will all have major impacts on proper purchasing decisions. "We make it easier to use with lots of charts and graphs," and the system reports back to headquarters every two hours, Morrow said. The retailer said that his chain was very interested in RFID, but its the most futuristic elementssuch as item-level trackingthat interests him most, although he agreed with other major retailers that such deliverables are likely a half-decade away. "We want that information at a more granular level about products, especially at the food and drink level," he said.The temperature tracking example "is one piece that we are very interested in" because of the chains heavy reliance on perishables."In a perfect world, wed be able to monitor [everything] through the life of fresh products," Morrow said. Next Page: Great capabilities, but at what cost?