Artificially intelligent shop manager scoops international award

Edinburgh-based technology company Hubtil has won the inaugural Global Product Availability Initiative Award at the 2013 Insight NACS International Convenience Retail Awards.

The judges said they recognised the importance of Hubtill’s approach that brings lessons from online businesses such as Facebook, Google and Amazon into the world of local convenience retailing. They also praised its focus on introducing new in-store processes to improve on-shelf availabillity and the blending of aspects of the physical store into online Click & Collect services.

Jason Finch, co-founder of Hubtill, said: “A shop loses a sale, and sometimes a customer, every time a product isn’t on the shelf when somebody wants to buy it. We’ve all experienced it – you go to grab your favourite biscuits, berries or beer and there’s none there. Supermarkets are just as bad on this stuff as independent convenience retailers. Largely it’s because stock is languishing in the back room or, more commonly, the store or its suppliers don’t have the tools to predict demand properly.”

Hubtill’s founders launched Port80 in 1995, becomingEurope’s first business combining internet software development and direct selling retail consultancy. Its main office is now in centralEdinburghfrom where Hubtill is being developed. Finch regularly speaks on the subject of predictive analytics and showing convenience retailers, wholesalers and Cash & Carry operations what can be learned from the creation ofAmerica’s technology mega corporations and the online retail of electronics, books and fashion. The international award is a significant achievement, recognising that there are great opportunities for local independent retailers to grow their businesses using such techniques and technology.

The Awards, sponsored by Imperial Tobacco and PayPoint, were presented during the Insight NACS Future of Convenience event inLondon, 25-26 September 2013. This annual forum for the international convenience petroleum industry, comprising a series of retail store tours and two conference days, attracted delegates from 35 countries this year.

Judges commented: “It is very impressive and seems to have thought of everything. It looks most appealing for the symbol convenience channel as quite a lot of the functionality refers to online sharing of data with suppliers and across stores to accurately predict demand and optimise stock levels across the supply chain. The artificial intelligence elements sound interesting as well as the overlay of data insights in to ‘real life’ images of the shelves and products themselves; very futuristic.”

Finch continued: “We hope the ideas behind Hubtill will prompt suppliers, symbol groups and forward-thinking independent retailers to contribute their own thoughts to the project, creating the next generation of business technology for the convenience retail market. In 20 years time the systems of recent years will seem as dated as the paper-based stock and price management of the early days of convenience retail.”

Separate parts of the Hubtill technology are being developed specifically for a number of independent retailers aroundScotland. Hubtill is looking for investment from FMCG suppliers and an initial symbol group partner to roll out the first major installation.

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