Natural Foods Merchandiser


Shoppers Take a Liking To Self-Service Kiosks
A new study shows that self-checkout is gaining acceptance among shoppers across a wide range of markets, from hardware stores to airline ticketers. But naturals retailers have not embraced the trend.

Sales completed on self-checkout stands increased 80 percent in 2003 to nearly $128 billion, according to research by IHL Consulting Group, an analyst firm in Franklin, Tenn. Retailers adopting the technology reported that ?anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent? of purchases were made at self-checkout machines, says Greg Buzek, president of IHL. As many as 70 percent of airline passengers now use self-service machines to check in.

In the naturals arena, information remains the product most likely to be dispensed by a kiosk, says Amy Garland, marketing manager for Healthnotes Inc. of Portland, Ore. Healthnotes? free-standing or countertop kiosks are in use at about 5,000 stores and average 30 to 40 customer queries a day. Although Healthnotes doesn?t plan to venture into transaction processing, she says, ?We?re happy to see the self-service trend? because it means shoppers are seeking out the machines.

Cost-Segregation Rules Promise Tax Savings
New depreciation rules from the Internal Revenue Service could save independent retailers and other small businesses a bundle on taxes—especially those who recently put money into renovation or new construction.

The new rules allow businesses to depreciate land improvements and personal property on a faster schedule than the standard ?business life? of 39 years, says Judith E. Saunders, director of the retail industry group at Filomeno & Co., an accounting firm in West Hartford, Conn. Lighting and plumbing can be depreciated over seven years, landscaping over 10 years and parking lots over 15 years. The approach works for new buildings as well as retroactively for older and renovated stores. The change requires a cost segregation study, in which accountants and engineers work together to identify things that can be depreciated more quickly. The study takes four to five weeks and costs $10,000 to $50,000.

IRS rules now allow the depreciation adjustments to be taken in a single year, instead of spread out over four years, so the tax savings can be immediate and dramatic. Saunders put it this way: ?If you?ve spent over $1 million on your stores in the last 15 years or less, this approach is worth looking into.?

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 9/p. 24

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