Torex eyes Asia for new growth

Running petrol kiosks alongside convenience stores is a growing business, where rising oil prices are pushing companies to look at retail to stay afloat.

With the petrol and convenience store industry cornered in Europe, point-of-sale (POS) vendor, Torex, is now looking to Asia for new opportunities, according to one of its executives.

Huw Carey, petroleum and convenience industry manager, global solutions management at Torex, said the saturated European market has led the company to look for new business deals in the region.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia in an interview, Carey was keen to distinguish between the business of petrol kiosks which house convenience stores and regular standalone shopping marts.

Although petrol is mostly regarded as yet another commodity in stores selling both regular products in addition to petrol, these stations need specialized software to control the pumps as well as take into account laws governing petrol handling, and additionally provide business analytics and dashboarding for companies which want such advanced features.

And the business of running convenience stores alongside petrol kiosks is growing quickly, as evidenced by global deals between petrol companies and retail stores, such as Caltex and StarMart, said Carey.

Most of the impetus is coming from rising oil prices, which have turned out so little profit that kiosk operators have to look to convenience stores to maintain margins, said Carey.

"There's only a couple of cents profit per liter of fuel," said Carey, adding that countries such as India in which petrol companies are government-owned focus on keeping costs lower, and thus even run at a loss.

Furthermore, as economies grow and people get busier, shopping at convenience stores become more common, so petrol kiosks are increasingly focusing on growing that aspect of the business.

"Convenience stores are now like supermarkets, with the amount of stock they have to carry...you can't strip convenience stores from petrol kiosks anymore," he said.

The opportunity in Asia lies not only in countries which are growing rapidly, such as India and China, but also in mature markets which are looking for next-generation POS software, which provides deeper insight into business operations such as business analytics and trend prediction.

It is the fierce industry competition which Carey hopes will move customers to looking at Torex, which he claims will help preserve their bottom lines.

But will petrol prices go down if customers choose Torex? Carey responded with a smile: "It's up to the customer whether they want to pass on the savings to the people."