Integrated PoS drives retail efficiencies

End-to-end retail systems integrating point of sale with the supply chain are delivering the goods

When customers buy their plants at Oderings Nurseries, staff can quickly scan the barcodes on the plants, which instantly tells the customer how much to pay and also records the sale at head office.

The till also feeds through to the back end, including the warehouse system, so the company knows how many items it has left in stock.

Oderings has been using the Quest System, supplied by the Christchurch-based Remedy Group, and plans to extend its use from just two outlets to its other eight.

“It speeds up queue processing dramatically. It allows for more efficient price changes and the scanning always come up with the right prices,” says Oderings retail manager Pamela Thompson.

Canterbury Hospitality, which runs a range of bars and restaurants in Christchurch, also uses Remedy for marketing and promotions.

Group financial controller Aaron Comis says his system can optimise his customer database, has full back up and restore, and allows staff to see full sales reports. It can even link to camera systems providing text over video feed, so if a staffer says they are selling Heineken, this can be checked using the videofeed.

Three of the group’s bars — The Vic and Whale, the Boulevarde and Liquidity — use Quest for customer loyalty, using special cards giving them better rates and tailored promotions. The keypads all look the same and are easy for staff to use, needing little training.

“It lets us track customer spending. We can tailor promotions, see who are our loyalty customers. We can track groups, see what customers are buying.We link back to email marketing programmes as well. The system has increased by sales and quickens them at peak times, as well as reduced our administration overheads,” Comis explains.

Likewise at the country’s Robert Harris coffee shops, another Quest user, though they are supplied by Advanced Equipment Supplies of Wellington.

“We can get very detailed sales reports down to how many cakes sold per day, different types of slices, how many customers per half hour, lots of benefits,” says franchise support manager Roger McKinney.

“You can actually know what your customers are spending, what your breakdown for product groups — totals for expressos, cold beverage, detailed reports so we know whats going on in each café,” McKinney continues.

Robert Harris then uses the data for sales analysis and if one product line is not working, this is quickly found out and can easily be changed. The PoS also links to back-end financial systems, and also records individual clocking on and off for staff.

These examples show what Tony Blandford, director of Remedy Group, says is the promise of PoS.

“Point of sale systems should provide the business owner reporting to ensure the business is running at optimum level by analysing information like who sold what to whom, when, how much for, how they paid, how much profit was made and how many of that item are left,” Blandford says.

“The equipment needs to be of robust design, water and dust proof and must handle the possibility of being knocked during general use. The system should allow for redundancy to provide for continual trading,” he continues.

Hospitality is a major user of PoS, with one supplier ProTouch, which recently expanded operations into Australia, even offering PoS-based kitchen video systems, which help automate the kitchen process and reduce labour needs.

“A customer would order a seafood basket and you might have multiple screens, including one over the chip fryer. It will break out the components and show the preparation process, then the final screen or packing screen, to guide the operators so they don’t have to think,” says owner/director Alister Thyne.

This and other ProTouch PoS systems also interface with video surveillance systems to ensure staff honesty.

Shad Dickerson, manager of CallBat Pty Ltd in New South Wales says his PoS system records sales at the company’s two hotels and transmits them using broadband to the company’s back office server 50kms away.

“It shows the sales on each terminal as they are happening live. We can see what’s been served and who is serving. We can gather the data and go back to any date we want and pick the person,” Dickerson says.

The ProTouch system, which replaced an old Sharp cash register, is “super efficient”, completing sales quicker and keeping a good handle on stock control. Reports are also a main feature, which are easily and cheaply produced.

“The cost saving is unbelievable and rival systems cost triple,” Dickerson continues.

“It has helped us change our product ranges. We do specials every day and the manager on duty can receive a list uploaded every day.”

Such desires and such users reflect the growing market for PoS systems which have since worked their way down the food chain since the first PC-based PoS systems were created by IBM, the IBM4683, in 1986.

Corporate based systems offer more than PoS, with fully integrated accounts, inventory management and customer relationship management. Consequently, PoS is sometimes known as retail management software.

Philip Wheble, managing director of Fieldpine Developments says integrating such functions has been an issue for large retailers, but newer PoS systems make it easy for smaller outfits.

“Now most software products are building-in integration points with the expectation that other software packages will be either providing or using information from the system,” he says.

“Although it’s not quite there yet, in the future, large retailers will be able to look for the best solutions in each area of their business and expect they will then be able to integrate in a near seamless way to provide the best all-in-one system that has been built for their requirements,” Wheble adds.

Fieldpine has built its PoS system with extensive integration points, allowing the easy integration of systems, including accounting packages, corporate CRM solutions and government systems.

One such government customer is Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) which uses real-time validation of customer addresses on the PoS, to ensure accurate future mailouts.

This validation is both application embedded and available to staff via web pages using AJAX/Web2.0 technologies.

VTNZ business cystems manager Deborah Anderson says checking these customer details, using the NZ Post address file, means customers receive a prompt warrant of fitness reminder.

“We have also centralised reporting, how we are doing on a particular day, which is available in real-time via our intranet. It helps us ensure we meet our targets and keep performance indicators,” Anderson continues.

VTNZ has further developments in the pipeline which will come on stream next year.

“There are initiatives around customer management, re-contacting customers who haven’t been to us for a while. The exciting thing is we could not do that in the past,” she adds.

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