How to buy EPOS retail systems

Electronic point-of-sale technology can increase efficiency and help save you money, finds Sally Drury.

EPOS systems can help with promotional activity and provide link-sales reminders - image: Alamy
EPOS systems can help with promotional activity and provide link-sales reminders - image: Alamy

Q: What can an EPOS system do for a small retail outlet?

A: Lots, especially if you are looking to develop and grow your business.

Your customers are busy people. The last thing they want to do is queue to pay. And the last thing you want is queue rage - the dumping of the basket and the stomping off and accompanied mutterings.

Using a system that reads barcodes should speed transactions compared with searching for, and trying to interpret, faded price tags. It also eliminates the ringing in of wrong prices. But the real benefit is in the collection of sales data for stock control and promotional activity, instant discounting on multi-buys, link-sales reminders, maintenance of trade accounts and sales pattern identification. It also, of course, allows various tendering methods including chip-and-pin-compliant debit and credit cards.

The right system for your business can not only increase accuracy and efficiency, it can also boost profits. EPOS systems such as Open Retail's OpenXpos provide all the tools to manage sales reporting, stock levels and supplier ordering, taking into account the sales background, current stock, existing orders and stock held in other locations.

Q: How do I choose an EPOS and stock-control system?

A: Do not rush. Take time to think about what the system must be able to do. Perhaps you need a system that tracks stock items, produces labels and prints bar codes? Or are you looking for a system that links different departments or sites and provides a complete retail or nursery management package?

Be sure to look for a system that also offers hardware tough enough to survive in what is often a hot and humid retail environment.

Most retailers use some form of EPOS system with scanners at the check-out to provide speed, accuracy and a sales record. Many now also use total retail management solutions. For instance, garden and retailer Van Hage, with two stores near London and a new one in Peterborough, runs K3 Retail's POS and back-office solutions with stock control and procurement. this includes electronic funds transfer (ETF) across the three stores.

With a business approach of "trader rather than stockist" Beckworth Emporium, a single site near Northampton, maximises year-round sales by selling plants and produce that "looks good". It attracts more than 3,000 customers a week and uses an eight-checkout Eastill system with touch screens, keyboards, barcode scanning, cash handling and card facilities, plus integrated scales for fresh produce.

Q: Is there anything new to help with an online business?

A: Actinic has introduced web-based e-commerce solutions to enhance options for the UK smallto medium-sized enterprises market. The new Actinic Online e-commerce range comprises five monthly subscription packages. All the packages include everything needed to design, build and manage an e-commerce website.

In a break from traditional software pricing, where additional fees are often charged for high-level features, Actinic Online pricing is based on use, with all the subscription levels offering identical functionality including features such as integration with eBay and Amazon marketplaces, the publishing of products on a Facebook business page and promotion and tracking of products on price comparison sites such as Google Product Search, Kelkoo, Twenga, Pricesavvy and Ciao.

Actinic Online managing director Nick Kington says: " With this range, we are looking to provide British businesses with competitively priced, all-in-one e-commerce applications, with all the integrated functionality necessary to build a successful online store."

The launch follows a joint venture announced in June between Actinic and Oxatis, the top-selling e-commerce provider in France, Spain and Italy. The resulting pan-European group has a customer profile approaching 20,000 e-tailers with more than 11 million orders processed and more than £1bn of online sales per annum.

Actinic has also recently released v11 of its desktop software. This allows customer accounts to be created automatically and enables shoppers to view account details and track their orders online. It adds support for single-use discount coupons, usability enhancements as well as search-engine optimisation improvements.

Actinic Online monthly pricing includes telephone/online support and hosting. The packages are Bronze (£19) and Chrome (£35).

There are introductory discounted prices (until 31 December) of £59 for Silver, £99 for Gold and £149 for Platinum. All prices exclude VAT.

Actinic Catalog v11 desktop starts at £449 + VAT.

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