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February 27, 2018 | Tom Ballard

Chattanooga’s Rapid RMS focused on “mom and pop” stores

Rapid RMSRapid RMS, a Chattanooga company located in the Edney Innovation Center, is laser-focused on serving convenience stores and liquor retailers, most of whom are what Jason Luna describes as “mom and pop operations.”

The company, which was founded by Nirav Patel a little more than four years ago, provides a cost effective suite of integrated business applications that allow owners to track sales in real time, issue purchase orders as needed, update gasoline prices at the pump remotely, optimize their inventory, implement a customer loyalty program, and even provide an electronic timecard for employees.

“Mom and pop operations are 58 percent of the convenience store segment,” Luna says. The Middle Tennessee native cited the numerous independent operators that dot State Highway 64 across Tennessee’s border with Alabama and Mississippi as typical clients of Rapid RMS’s software.

Luna, who co-founded 38 Degree Draft and has been involved in the Chattanooga start-up community for years, joined Rapid RMS in March 2015 to help raise funding and grow the company. He serves as Chief Operating Officer and brings to Rapid RMS an understanding of the retail sector.

“We’re giving them tools they’ve never had before,” Luna said of the Rapid RMS offering. Corporate-owned stores utilize a point of sales (POS) system that is very expensive. In addition to that initial capital cost, the chains typically support their individual stores through a centralized IT department.

“That’s not feasible for an operator that has one or two stores,” Luna says. That’s where the Rapid RMS system comes in. It is a Cloud-based solution that uses an iPad as its cash register, something that we are seeing more frequently at independent coffee shops and restaurants. Additional equipment like a receipt printer, cash drawer, Bluetooth scanner and other peripherals can be integrated into the system.

“We’re finding that convenience stores are changing,” Luna explained. “Like the bigger stores, the small ones are starting to offer healthier foods.”

That shifting in terms of type of inventory and shelf life affects inventory planning and management. It calls for a more integrated technology approach like the one Rapid RMS offers that is both less expensive than existing options and easier to use.

“Most small convenience stores get deliveries every two weeks,” Luna noted. What happens if a store is running out of several popular items? Rapid RMS is working on an industry-first feature that will help retailers never run out of inventory between major deliveries.

Luna says the capital cost of the hardware for a typical Rapid RMS client is $3,000 at most, a much more affordable solution for budget constrained convenience stores that are already facing a daunting deadline in less than two years. That’s when the nation’s two largest credit card issuers – Visa and MasterCard – will shift responsibility for any fraudulent use of a credit card at the gasoline pump to the retailer. The requirement was originally set to be effective this past October, but will now become effective October 1, 2020.

“According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, 25 percent of independent owners will not have the cash needed to upgrade their pumps to the new technology and will go out of business,” Luna says. For those who cannot, Rapid RMS is exploring offering an app for mobile phones that would offer an alternative for those small operators that dot the more rural highways across America.

While not exclusively, Rapid RMS primarily serves convenience and liquor stores within an hour’s drive of Chattanooga. Why liquor stores? Luna explains that their owners also tend to own convenience stores and the two businesses manage inventory in nearly identical ways.

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