EPoS systems

Software firms can help you to keep customers happy by speeding up your checkout queues.

It has been said that the British like to form queues. Well, that’s not true. On a busy weekend or bank holiday, garden centre customers want to pay for their plants, seeds and compost and get home to the garden. A queue, however orderly, is going to be remembered as an annoyance and a reason to try somewhere else next time.
Electronic point-of-sale (EPoS) and stock-control systems are designed to process purchases with the minimum delay, reduce customer waiting time, sort out credit and debit card transactions, take care of stock and reordering, provide information on buying trends and master those linked sales and BOGOF (buy one, get one free) promotions. In addition, some systems will also take care of plant labelling.
As with any system that involves computers, you should be prepared to spend some time gathering information, planning for future needs, checking out what the competition is using and then installing and learning the system. Think about what you need the system to do and draw up a list. Perhaps you just need a cash register, or perhaps you want to track items, link different departments or branches and take care of the payroll.
The system must suit your business — and your staff. Consider how much training will be required and look into the possibility of upgrades. Investigate the supplier in terms of its track record in the garden centre industry and its commitment to after-sales support and product development.
This year, garden centre chain Dobbies began analysing the performance of its business using OLAP from K3 Landsteinar — a provider of solutions to mid-tier retailers, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers. Since floating on the alternative investment market in 1997, Dobbies has grown its number of stores from nine to 18. Having previously implemented K3 Landsteinar’s Navision-based retail-management system, Dobbies now wants to start taking advantage of the data available.
Dobbies financial director Sharon Brown explains: “We are now able to look at sales by store, time period, item and range, enabling us to make better decisions about merchandising, ranging and replenishing for 60,000 stock-keeping units a year across our growing range of formats. The main benefit of the system is visibility. We know what profit and margin we are making on a line-by-line basis. We can also identify sales trends and introduce discounting on slow-moving lines.”
The point of IT systems is to make things easy, but they must also be easy to use. The IR-700 is Hertfordshire-based Epson UK’s latest addition to its Intelligent Register (IR) series. Using proven touchscreen technology, the IR-700 is the smallest model in its class but includes advanced features to provide what the company describes as a high-performance, easy-to-use, all-in-one system for maximising efficiency at the point of service.
A single-plug system, the IR-700 has been designed for fast installation.
It features an in-built smart cable management system, further saving space and minimising the risk of accidental disconnection. Maintenance tools allow the IR to be maintained remotely via the internet, ISDN line or local area network (LAN) — a feature that should help reduce costs. On-board diagnostic software monitors and identifies potential hardware failures. The system also includes an integrated thermal TM-T8811 receipt printer and is chip and PIN compatible.
This year, G7 Computer Services is introducing several new features and facilities to improve the look and use of its EPoS system. Founded in 1992, G7 is based in Hampshire and operates throughout the UK and Ireland to provide a Windows-based EPoS system specifically to garden centres.
The company’s IT team provides services including support, training and development for a customer base ranging from small, independent centres to large, multi-branch outlets.
The G7 system uses the latest technology to quickly build reports and create and maintain product files. Recent developments include: a user-friendly menu with “favourites” function; item-enquiry filter with easy drill down facility; single screen for product creation, maintenance and ordering; enhanced facilities for promotional offers; live stock updating; cashing-up function; and utility programs to record daily comments.
For grower-retailers, Greenfield Software in Cambridgeshire offers single-package Growmaster software for retail, cash-and-carry and wholesale operations. Sales director Mike Wing says: “Unlike traditional EPoS systems, which are aimed squarely at the retail sector, Growmaster allows grower-retailers to accommodate all their needs in one integrated system.”
Growmaster provides facilities for labelling, stock control and management reporting. The system is used by Kent-based Wyevale East Nurseries. Manager Richard McKenna says: “We barcode all our stock and subsequently record sales orders using the Growmaster Handheld Data Collection Unit. The system works quickly and provides accurate information.”
But, of course, it’s up to you to make the information work. 

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