Putting the ‘Convenience’ in Convenience Store

Dec 15, 2023 | Fintech Friday

So here we are, another year of Fintech Fridays completed. Thanks for your continued readership!

For our December Fintech Friday, we always try and do something different to the usual, and this year we’ve chosen a case study inspired by our favourite feedback of 2023 (Apologies to anyone who was patiently waiting for another ‘Twelve Days of Tech-mas’ like in 2021!)

Nothing beats raw, unfiltered feedback – and that’s what we received earlier this year from Kevin Booth, Owner/Director at Sarah Cope Enterprises.

“Fantastic, I bloody love it! It’s making my day so much shorter.”

That’s it. That’s the quote. Straight-talking feedback from an Owner Managed business, who has seen value almost immediately after switching to Harold Sharp and reaping the benefits of our digital advisory offering.

Where did it begin?

Kevin owns Sarah Cope Enterprises – a large convenience store in Congleton. Kevin came onboard with Harold Sharp in late 2022 to complete his year-end Statutory Accounts and it wasn’t long before we conducted a full review of his existing processes and systems.

April 2023 was the start of a new era for Kevin and his accounts, as we began advising on tech-led solutions to improve the efficiency and accuracy of his finance function.

The complications…

If you’ve ever seen the transactions for a convenience stores, it can get a bit complicated – different VAT rates applied, Utility Top-ups, Lottery Ticket purchases, and let’s just say… cash is still king at times.

There was a lot of information to be extracted from till data, and Kevin needed a solution to Revenue and VAT recognition, along with the correct reconciliation of Supplier payments and various Commission-based incomes and expenses.

The solution…

On paper, we moved Kevin to Xero and Dext Prepare.

In reality, it was a little more complicated than that.

Kevin’s Xero had been created with the recognition Revenue, Expenses and Distributions as the paramount issue. To combat the reconciliations, a matrix of control accounts were created within Xero – for anything from Till Expenses, to Utility Top-ups, to Recognising Coupon Deductions incurred. These allow us to pinpoint any missing items and receive them from Kevin (More on that shortly!).

Quite often you see instances where Accountants have let companies loose on an ‘off-the-shelf’ template Xero license, with no true business specifics applied. This wasn’t the case with Sarah Cope Enterprises, as we’d customised the Chart of Accounts to fit the requirements of a convenience store – there’s no benefit to throwing all purchases in a generic ‘Cost of Sales’ account so care was taken to split this from the off.

Now, we’ve already alluded to how we get information from Kevin, and our choice for invoices was Dext Prepare. At the height of use, Kevin submitted over 700 items to Dext Prepare in a month – a massive achievement!

Again, an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution of Dext Prepare simply wouldn’t work for Kevin – the complexity is too high. So, what did we do?

  • Kevin uses Dext Prepare for both Purchase and Sales Invoice processing, so he has two email in-trays to use.
  • The nature of the work means Kevin isn’t always at his desk, so the mobile app is a must-have for him. He’s now constantly pinging images of invoices across via the app for our reconciliation, giving us timely data.
  • We’ve also taken steps to account for supplier default accounts, so that we can see a consistency in the data pulling through to Xero.
  • As mentioned, cash is still king with a number of suppliers. Where it is the case that the supplier will always be paid from the till upon delivery, the suppliers have been coded in Dext Prepare to be auto-marked as paid from the Till Expenses Control Account as soon as they are published.
  • Daily Lottery slips are also fed through the Dext Prepare Sales module, allowing us to recognise the distributions, pay-outs and commission against our control accounts within Xero.

By implementing these changes, we have clawed back huge amounts of admin time for Kevin and, per his own words, made his day “so much shorter”, whilst also increasing the accuracy of his data and giving him more confidence in his financial information.

Behind the scenes…

For us, this project hasn’t just been about gaining the efficiency and accuracy for the client, but also applying our Digital Advisory processes behind the scenes.

In Kevin’s case, the key complexity for us was that each Daily Till Roll contains 13 data points which need to be recorded within the reconciliations and control accounts. An absolute nightmare if you were to be typing these all out as Sales Invoice line items within Xero.

A bespoke process has been built whereby each Data Point is extracted to an Excel document and there are several error checks built into this document, ensuring no missing information and everything balances along the way. This is where the beauty of automation begins as, once every error check has been satisfied, Zapier is used to fire the data to Xero and create an automatic journal, every single day.

For those that aren’t familiar with Zapier, it’s essentially a program which allows you to say ‘If this happens, do this step’ – so for this case study, once the Till Data is complete, there’s a little ‘Post’ that appears at the end of the row, which is enough to automatically fire the transaction through to Xero. We like to think that’s pretty impressive.

In the near future, we see this initial extraction of Till Data to the spreadsheet being streamlined even further using AI Image Data Extraction, so be sure to watch this space.

Another bit of tech we’re using behind the scenes is Dext Precision – an analytics tool which allows us to dig into the Xero data and ensure consistency across all our clients. We’re using this kit to highlight if multiple different codes have been used across a supplier, or if there has been a potentially duplicate contact created. This ultimately allows us to quantify with a percentage the quality of the bookkeeping for this and every other client, which is always a great conversation-starter!

A note from Kevin

“It is a pleasure to be associated with Harold Sharp. I’ve worked with Ryan in Digital Advisory, Yusuf in Accounts, Dee in Payroll and some of the wider team – They have all been brilliant and I’ve learnt a great deal from them throughout this process. 2023 has been a real gamechanger of a year and we look forward to what other efficiencies we might gain in 2024. If you’re not already adopting processes like these – now is the time. It’s bloody fantastic!”

And with that – that’s a wrap for Fintech Friday 2023. If the above (or any other blogs) are resonating with you, feel free to get in touch and explore the possibilities of tech in your accounts.
Contact our digital advisory team by emailing fintech@haroldsharp.co.uk, call 0161 905 1616 or contact Ryan below.

Ryan Alderson, Lead cloud specialist
T: 0161 905 1616
DD: 0161 926 0512
E: ra@haroldsharp.co.uk