Executive Overview

It is often said that big things have small beginnings. That is certainly true of Minnesota-based convenience store chain Holiday Stationstores. What began as a single-store operation in the North Star State grew to become one of the larger c-store chains in the United States. Today, with more than 300 corporate owned stores and over 100 franchised locations, its distinctive red, white and blue insignia can be seen throughout 10 states in the northern tier region of the United States.

Holiday Stationstores

But more than memorable logos and eye-catching color, Holiday’s goal is to create a special experience for the many customers who enter its c-stores every day. While numerous chains promise big stores, wide aisles, and even wider product selections, Sherri Binger, assistant controller for Holiday, says her company actually delivers. “When customers walk in our stores, they can expect a shopping experience that’s really unique to the convenience store industry.”

Business Challenge

Despite its more than 400 locations, Holiday’s business issues weren’t unique to large chains. Prior to becoming a PDI customer, the company found itself encumbered by a rather common malady: spoiled product loss. Binger explains. “We really wanted to improve our merchandise ordering process. It seemed many of our managers were operating by ‘gut feel’ ordering methods and causing unnecessary waste. We needed a solution that could pinpoint the problem sites and helps us correct the issue.”

In addition, Holiday’s previous software lacked the tools to track inventory for a very important product—fuel. “Our back office system was limited in several areas, but that was especially the case as it pertained to fuel inventory,” says Mary Debing, assistant controller for Holiday. “We calculated fuel margin through entries in our general ledger on a monthly basis, so it was very difficult to research margin variances.”

PDI Solution

In 2009, Holiday began using PDI Enterprise, a network-centric business management software system that spans the home office, warehouse, site-level, and mobile applications. Shortly after, the c-store chain began taking advantage of the system’s suggested ordering capabilities. Using historical item level data, PDI Enterprise is able to provide accurate projections for future sales. “Through the PDI Store Assistant home office features, we are able to monitor general ordering, offer suggested orders for direct store delivery (DSD) vendors, and keep tabs on order statuses through schedules and alerts,” says Binger.

Even with the predictive ordering tools at its disposal, Holiday continued to experience abnormally high stale loss percentages at some of its stores. “With the built-in inventory reports in PDI Enterprise, we quickly determined which locations were outside our stale percentage goals at the financial level,” explains Binger. “We were also able to ascertain if the financial losses were the result of operational ordering decisions. In most cases, we found that managers who didn’t trust the predictive abilities of the suggested ordering software were inflating their orders unnecessarily,” Binger says.

To address its fuel inventory dilemma Holiday implemented PDI Retail, a comprehensive product suite that allows convenience retailers to eliminate manual processes and create operational efficiencies. “PDI Retail’s fuel inventory module lets us see margin by store on a daily basis, and it can run a variety of reports to help us identify margin variances,” says Debing. “We’ve also been able to take advantage of its automated bill-of-lading (BOL) and reconciliation features, and that alone has saved us lots of time.”

Customer Results

Reducing stale loss percentages at several of its sites proved to be extremely beneficial for Holiday. “Once we identified the stores with stale issues, we were able to correct the problem store by store and manager by manager,” Binger says. “For a chain of our size and volume, even a 10 percent reduction in stales can result in tens of thousands of dollars being saved annually.” Ultimately, by cutting stales on a few items at a third of its stores, Holiday improved its bottom line by nearly $100,000 over the previous year.

As Holiday discovered, saving the company money wasn’t the only return PDI Enterprise delivered. “The software’s BOL matching capabilities has reduced the time spent manually matching BOLs and reviewing margins by about 40 hours a month,” says Debing. “We’ve really enjoyed working with the team at PDI, and the product is well worth the investment.”

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