Q: What can an electronic point-of-sale system do for me?
A: That depends on what you want it to do. The right system can lessen queues at the till and help increase security at the exit of your sales area. Stock control should be improved. A system should provide valuable information to improve decision making, enabling the control and management of the business. It should also provide the foundation for growth.
Q: What are the key considerations if buying a system for the first time or upgrading an existing system?
A: Do your homework. This means investigating the reputation of the supplier and its services as well as the hardware and software that will handle your business. Find out all the costs and how they break down - including support and training. You could also look at what your competitors are using and how well these systems work for them. Gather as much information as you can.
Then analyse your needs. And don't just think about the here and now; consider how you want your business to grow and develop in the future.
Choose your supplier - one with business as well as technical knowledge. Has this supplier installed systems at other nurseries and garden centres? Can it provide references? Make sure that those companies on your shortlist provide equipment suitable for life in horticulture and that the hardware can cope with the temperatures and dusty conditions found on nurseries and garden centres.
Obtain a proposal and quotation and ask for a demonstration. Evaluate the total package and take a look at all the extras in terms of data-capturing units, printers and labelling programmes.
Q: So what equipment are other people using?
A: According to G7 Computer Services, more than 130 of its customers are from backgrounds such as garden centres and farm shops. More than 230 nurseries have chosen Greenfield Software's Growmaster system for nursery management functions.
This year, Chapel End Nursery in Essex installed two tills from Nottingham-based Open Retail Solutions. The nursery also uses radio coverage for stock taking of its outside planterias.
Two years ago, Hansons Garden Centre of Clitheroe, Lancashire, called in North West Business Machines to upgrade its existing EPoS terminals for the latest PC technology. The new system incorporates a wireless network giving faster and more accurate scanning, links to chip and PIN, enhanced efficiency at point of sale and the link for providing data for stock management. Last year, Hansons launched its own loyalty scheme and is now able to collect marketing data details on its customers so it can more accurately target marketing campaigns.
This year, K3 supplied and implements its retail system to manage the gift shop at RHS Garden Hyde Hall. The estate attracts 130,000 visitors a year. The gift shop has three till lanes and uses an electronic fund transfer platform supplied by K3. The system also includes stock management and back office facilities.
Q: Can I have a system where customers can order online and pick up the goods in store?
A: Yes, in fact that is something that Beckworth Emporium in Northamptonshire is considering. The store currently uses an Easitill till system at its checkouts.
Beckworth Emporium takes a trader, rather than stockist, approach to business and sells seasonal plants along with fresh produce, meats and bread. It also runs a popular coffee shop and restaurant. Doors opened in spring 2009 and the store quickly attracted in excess of 3,000 customers per week. It has a staff of 70. Founders David Brown and Jon Kitching knew from the start they wanted a powerful but easy-to-use till system. Easitill was chosen after a visit to see the system in operation at Johnsons Garden Centre in Boston.
"We needed a dependable system that could accommodate needs such as price embedded bar codes while minimising training requirements for staff and allowing them to move between departments quickly as needs arise," says Brown. "Easitill impressed us with its willingness to listen and the speed at which it provided an economic solution that was tailored to our specific needs."
The Easitill system comprises eight checkouts, each with touch-screen, keyboard, bar code scanning, cash handling and card payment facilities. Those in the fresh produce department also have integrated weighing scales. To handle table orders in the restaurant, Easitill has developed and deployed a totally new hospitality module.
- Provision of information for management and cash-flow decisions and also for production planning
- Sales and purchase order processing
- Invoicing and word processing
- Sales and general ledger functions
- Stock control
- Loyalty card analysis
- Generation of availability lists, point-of-sale material and catalogues
- Production of spreadsheets for forecasting and planning purposes
- Asset management
- Labelling of plants and produce