Written by Duncan Jefferies
Duncan Jefferies looks at how a good EPoS system can not only save the retailer money, but also meet retailing needs now and in the future, significantly improving business management and growth potential.
IT budgets may have been drastically reduced over the last 12 months, but it seems there is still scope for investment in new EPoS systems. This year, J2 Retail Systems rolled out 500 J2 560 tills to Greggs, its largest bakery client. Some 800 tills were already in place at the end of 2008. The addition of 500 more marks the next stage of the baker's EPoS replacement programme.
The J2 560 tills can be converted to be flat counter-mounted, or mounted on serving counters with the screen on a bracket at the server's eye level. "All the cable management goes down through the pole, so it looks really neat," says Richard Heitmann, UK sales director at J2 Retail Systems. "Any maintenance that's required, it's just two simple bolts which you unlock and the head comes
"We use Panacea Network Manager which allows the terminals to self-monitor. If the till is not feeling well, it will email our portal. We actually know if the machine is not very well before the customer does. That allows us to be a bit more proactive."
Heitmann claims that internet maintenance can save a retailer around 40 per cent on the cost of maintaining their EPoS estate. "We have failure rates of about 0.7 per cent and lower from our terminals, so it's very, very small. On some models that goes down to 0.5 per cent so it's virtually negligible. Because of that, if you've got a thousand terminals and you're only losing seven a year, you've only got to pay for those seven call outs."
In October, clothing retailer USC implemented a new PoS solution in just seven weeks. Long-time partner Island Pacific linked the store solution to the retailer's existing Island Pacific merchandising solution, delivering end-to-end functionality. "The USC implementation was very quick," says Mike Dotson, managing director - Europe, Island Pacific. "That included analysis, configuration, the pilot stage and the roll-out itself. Within that configuration was the integration of their existing gift card solution, along with a couple of specific functionality requirements that we added to product as well."
The replacement PoS solution will allow USC to manage its offers and promotions more effectively. "With the integrated Island Pacific solution USC are able to benefit from creating deals and promotions within the merchandising system," says Dotson. "It gives them tremendous benefit in terms of being able to quickly put in the deals and promotions that they want to run and track them from the head office."
The integration with back office systems allows for improved monitoring and intelligent analysis of activity throughout the store estate; USC now has flexible real-time reporting across the business. Further benefits of the new system include centralised refund management and added security and support.
Dotson says the aggressive time frame of the implementation posed the greatest challenge along with "the integration with the incumbent gift card system, which will be used for a temporary period until USC roll-out our own integrated gift
Over the last 18 months, the British Red Cross has rolled out a Cybertill EPoS solution to 330 of its stores. Basic cash registers were in operation through the store estate before the Cybertill rollout, leaving the charity lacking the kind of system-generated intelligence and reporting common to many retail operations.
The charity chose the Cybertill solution after conducting an extensive review of its retail operations, which concluded that improved technology and management information at the shop level was needed. "We've also added gift aid into the PoS solution, so it's actually a more complex sale than it would be for a regular High Street system," says Rob Finley, business development director at Cybertill.
"We put a lot of time and energy into getting buy-in across the whole estate, so it wasn't just the directors and the retail team at head office involved, but right down through regional managers, store managers and volunteers."
Training was a key part of the implementation. The British Red Cross stores are staffed by a diverse team of paid and volunteer workers, not all of whom are technology savvy. "You could have somebody that's in their 80s, who is non-paid, and you have to train them to use an EPoS system. That was an education for us as well."
The new system provides the British Red Cross with numerous soft benefits. "We now record the volunteer hours for time and attendance for 6,000 volunteers...Most charities will have a back-end CRM package which handles their donors and now we're starting to integrate that to the PoS as well, so that if somebody walks into the store to donate or buy they're immediately recognised. We can prompt them on whether they've taken part in a charity lottery, whether they're going on Race For Life - all of that sort of functionality can be plugged into the PoS."
WDT Retail has been expanding its Firetrap brand this year with the help of Eurostop. There are currently 10 branches of the clothing store across the country, and WDT has plans to open 12 more along with 40 concessions. Eurostop's EPoS system will be used in the new outlets. This is able to track sales across the entire store estate, linked to a footfall counter at each outlet that monitors the number of visitors. WDT is able to calculate the average spend and number of items purchased by each customer.
"A summary of the customer's purchase history is available on the till," says Phillip Moylan, sales and marketing manager at Eurostop. "You can see the date and time of the transaction, the product that was purchased, whether it was old or new stock, etc. There's a lot of detail available. You can even see whether they've been shopping on the web, through mail order, or in branch. It's a multi-channel solution."
The Eurostop system also allows WDT to monitor stock and respond quickly to bestsellers, ensuring that the right items are on the shelves at the right times. Stock levels are checked daily and items are automatically replenished.
The difficult trading conditions that have afflicted the High Street since the financial crisis are likely to continue into next year. But those retailers with up-to-date EPoS systems will undoubtedly be well placed to take advantage of any upturn in the economy. Judging by the number of standout projects over the last 12 months, it's a fact that many retailers are fully aware of.