Of the 150,274 convenience stores that were in operation at the end of 2020, 121,538 of them were also in the business of selling motor fuel, accounting for about 80% of the total fuel sales throughout the United States in 2020. That means roughly 122,000 managers and owners struggled with the same challenge last year – effectively managing the purchasing habits of the 40 million Americans who purchase gas every day. A robust fuel management system can handle automated fuel management and oversight of fuel. It is capable of integrating into an operation’s existing back of house and point of sale systems.
Why Invest in Automated Fuel Management and Other Back-Office Solutions
Success Systems, a recognized leading provider of convenience store software solutions, provides clients looking to manage fuel with the ePB Books or ePBA Accounting software packages to help achieve automation across fuel sales and management. This provides a number of benefits to our clients, which can be divided into three categories: improved inventory management, simplified compliance and reporting, and integration with consumer relationship-building tools. Let’s explore each of these benefits more in detail. You’ll see how automation behind the scenes can streamline and improve your operation on the front end.
Reduce the Inventory Headaches Through Automated Fuel Management
Managing inventory for retail items on the shelves is an extremely involved and time-consuming process when handled manually. However, with a commodity such as fuel, it would be almost impossible to track without some automation in place. Operators will gain several direct benefits through the use of integrated systems. These track and report purchase data from the pumps and filter it back into the point of sale as well as the back office systems.
Pinpoint Accurate Tracking of Sales Trends Improve Order Accuracy
Inventory management boils down to determining customer purchase patterns over time. With that information you ensure replenishment cycle of ordering and delivery takes place before you run out of product on-hand. Automated fuel management systems accomplish this down to the fraction of the gallon. As well as being able to determine sales trends, and then coordinate with your fuel vendor’s automated ordering system. This will establish an order and delivery cycle that ensures peak volume of fuel sales are handled and outages do not take place.
Reduced Waste and Loss on Product with Minimal Margins
Ranging from $0.15 to $0.28 over the last few years, the gross margin on fuel is extremely thin. Distributor costs, taxes, licensing, and a number of other costs carve into this number even further. It’s crucial for your automated fuel management system to be able to accurately distribute and track purchases. All this while keeping accurate measures of the on hand product.
Competitive Pricing Through Real-Time Pool Margin Reporting
To the untrained outsider, the process of establishing daily price points for fuel at your gas station must seem extremely arbitrary. However, this changes with the right automated fuel management software package in place. Price setting is not only extremely intentional, but it can help establish a competitive pricing baseline that will attract customers. Being able to set a competitive price is so important in fact, that price is the number one factor cited by consumers when asked why they chose a specific location for refueling.
Automated Fuel Systems
Automated fuel systems helps to keep track of the seasonal pricing patterns that cause wild variation in costs to you from your vendor. The system will also track your cost per gallon by fuel grade, and take into account delivery fees. With the proper integration into your point of sale and back of house systems, credit card processing fees are as well. Combining all of these factors and assessing local market trends in pricing while trying to maintain some degree of profitability per gallon will eventually shake out at around an average of 5 cents profit per gallon. The system will accomplish this all behind the scenes, while also reconciling invoices and maximizing overall cash flow. From this highly accurate model, your automated fuel management system can respond to trends and changes. It can adjust to local market at lightning speeds, giving you the advantage over your competition.
As a convenience store operator, you are likely managing three of the most highly regulated commodities. Fuel, tobacco and lottery and all on a daily basis. The most demanding of the three is fuel. Federal, state and local level all highly regulate it. Fuel management system from Success Systems covers you on two fronts. The fronts of tax liability as well as fuel storage compliance reporting.
Keep Track of Your Tax Liability
Fuel retailers are liable for federal and state levels taxes, and often at the local city level as well. Tax rates fluctuate based on the types and grades of fuel you keep on-hand. Your storage system can also get your taxed. Depending on how your storage system is structured and the state where you operate you could be taxed. The United States Energy Information Administration provides fuel retailers with a comprehensive tax listing for motor fuel taxes they can use to determine their tax burden.
Fuel Management Software Solution
A fuel management software solution can help retailers who self report their liability throughout the year. Retailers can track purchases and sales, calculate tax liability automatically, and subsequently submit the required documentation to the IRS. This eliminates time-consuming filing while also always maintaining an always accurate record of your organization’s financial records. Accuracy of financial records could come in handy if your organization had to undergo an inspection or audit.
Easing the Complexities of UST/Tank Storage Reporting Requirements
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations weigh heavily on gas stations. They are concerned with the use of aboveground and underground storage tanks to house petroleum or other hazardous materials. The EPA defines underground storage tanks (UST) as comprised of the storage container and connected underground piping in systems with at least 10% of their volume underground. Containers that hold petroleum or hazardous materials they are primarily regulated federally. However, oversight of UST programs is mostly executed at the state or territory level. Aboveground storage tank (AST) compliance is covered under regulations concerned with containers used in the storage of fuel or oil.
Meeting EPA Fuel Regulations
To meet the compliance requirements of the relevant EPA regulations and avoid penalties. Gas stations must monitor storage units and generate specific compliance reporting. Reporting includes leak detection records, testing and inspection documentation, repair logs, and your financial responsibilities according to the EPA’s Dollars and Sense booklet. This document includes requirements to prove that a gas station proprietor can cover through insurance or other means the cost of cleanup in the instance of a spill or 3rd party damage to the equipment. Submission of automated reporting to the proper agencies as well as creating and storing the necessary documentation and data. Fuel automation systems by Success Systems has all these regulatory requirements built in.
New Avenues for Engaging Customers
You must be able to engage with customers and capture their loyalty. You must do this when customers are at the pump and before. It is just as important as any signage or advertising you might have in your retail space. In order to accomplish this, your fuel management software should integrate seamlessly with several initiatives. Key areas of integration are your rewards program and your third-party partnerships.
The Rewards Program That Keeps Them Coming Back
The good news is that many convenience stores and gas stations have loyalty programs in place. The bad news is that these programs aren’t being properly leveraged to build long-term relationships with customers. You shouldn’t only rely upon your loyalty app to entice shoppers through your doors. The app should engage them while they’re driving down the road, and while they’re at the pump. Discount incentives on gas are a great way to get their patronage, but further offers and engagement is necessary to then draw them in and take advantage of trends showing loyalty program members outspending non-members by an average of 29 percent.
Integrated Partnerships at the Pump
Fuel Management software can tie back to you credit card processing. This allows you to then integrate third-party programs into the gas purchasing process for your customers. Most notably, it will allow you to integrate partnerships with fleet card providers. Placing you in these vendors’ valuable networks of potential long term customers. You may have not reached out to the major players in the fleet card industry. If this is the case, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. This can quite literally put your operation on a map for people looking for affordable fuel stops.
Automated Fuel Management With Back-Office Integration
Success Systems wants to bring all of the benefits of our automated fuel management solutions to your gas station operation. If you integrate your back of house and point of sale software. We can ensure you get the full impact of our inventory management modules. You can rest easy knowing you never have to worry about compliance reporting again. Then fold in the sales growth you can leverage through the loyalty program and third-party partnerships. You will now have a tool that helps elevate your c-store to the next level. For more on our fuel management system and other c-store solutions, reach out to our team of consultants who can’t wait to see how our c-store portfolio fits into your future success.
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