Seeking Affordable Security Solutions

Amer Hawatmeh, president of St. Louis-based St. George Oil, believes in secure cash management, and that manufacturers of the newest systems need to work with retailers to make them more affordable.

“The bottom line with cash management, my golden rule, is that once you have $100 in the drawer you need to get rid of it for security on both sides of the counter,” said Hawatmeh, whose chain operates three  Coast to Coast convenience stores. “The more money you leave in employees’ hands the more temptation it creates. The more money you leave visible to prospective thieves also creates temptation. That’s why the golden rule is drop, drop, drop.”

St. George is in growth mode, so it is in the process of developing a uniform set of security standards it expects employees to follow. In addition to its three stores, it closed on three additional locations in February.
Hawatmeh prefers the newer safes that actually take and count the drops. “They’re very expensive, but I’m hopeful that the manufacturers will focus on getting the cost down to make it more affordable for small chains to take advantage of the benefits. If we’re looking at adding two of these units to six stores, it’s a pretty big investment for us.”

If the price does come down, Hawatmeh predicted those manufacturers could actually increase sales in the year ahead.

“If you look at the industry as a whole, the majority of stations that are out there are over 30 years old,” Hawatmeh pointed out, “so I would think the safes out there are probably at least 15 years old, although it’s probably higher—more like 20. So the majority of the safes out there are nothing more than a metal box that has some kind of lock mechanism on it so people can just drop money. There is a significant opportunity for the company willing to take the first step.”

Increasing Productivity
In addition to providing a greater level of security, investing in new safe technology can help convenience store managers to be more productive.

“On these new systems managers can literally check to verify drops are being made right from their cell phones. They can also set up alerts to get a text message to find out exactly how much money was dropped and when. That frees managers up to interact with the customers a little more,” Hawatmeh said. “Whether it’s back-office systems, safes, camera systems, coolers or foodservice equipment, the industry needs affordable, reliable solutions from our supplier partners.”

Retailers, Hawatmeh believes, will pay for such advances in the upcoming years even in this down economy. “Retailers are being squeezed from all directions, so it would be nice to catch a break from some of these manufacturers. The bottom line is if you don’t work with the retailers how is anyone going to survive?” he said. “I hope the next big trend over the next 12 months is that these suppliers start focusing more on how they can help us be more competitive in a very difficult market. After all, when sales are up we all benefit.

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