I operate a small garden centre. Can you recommend a stock control program?

No. But I can offer some suggestions for your shortlist. There are also a couple of rules-of-thumb to consider.You need to think about how you are doing things at the moment, look at your future plans and decide exactly what you want to achieve. How are you currently dealing with your customers’ transactions? If you are still using old-style cash registers, it’s probably time to think about electronic point of sale (EPoS). If you are already using an EPoS system, maybe you are missing the stock control module or you need to talk to the supplier about an upgrade?
There are a number of entry-level or “move up from cash register” EPoS systems suitable for garden centres. If you haven’t been using one, you’ll find they have all sorts of benefits. For starters, even the most basic of systems can eliminate silly mistakes, like ringing up £199 instead of £1.99. They also reduce the temptation for a member of staff to sell an item to a friend at reduced cost. And an EPoS system can dramatically reduce queues.
But more than that it can sort out card transactions at a blink, take care of stock control and re-ordering, provide information on buying trends and let you compete with the supermarkets through loyalty cards, linked sales and buy-one-get-one-free offers.
Easitill of Northampton is one company offering a mini EPoS system to help small businesses get started. In effect it’s like a “super till” that allows sales tracking — and it’s just under £5,000 ex VAT. From there you can upgrade to the Easitill multi-till and even multi-site systems. The Easitill stock control or back office system is the key component for all Easitill configurations and is where stock is entered, received and controlled. It also drives the tills, mail-order systems and web product.
G7 Computer Services of Fareham, Hampshire, also specialises in the writing of retail systems for horticulture. At entry level, G7 offers a mini system for under £5,000. It comprises one till with touch screen and a back office system that features stock control, future price management, customer accounts and barcode printing.
Another company offering solutions to garden centres is North West Business Machines of Blackburn. The firm specialises in labelling databases, EPoS installations and head office systems. And Alpha Landsteinar is a Microsoft Business Solutions partner supplying software that runs point-of-sale systems, back office and the supply chain.
If you are retail nursery as well as a garden centre, it could be worth looking at Greenfield Software’s Growmaster stock control system. It allows each batch of plants to be specified individually and records all activities affecting it throughout its life on the nursery. Greenfield also supplies programs and printers for plant-label generation.
All the aforementioned companies understand garden centres — the range of goods stocked and the stocking and sales procedures. Ask them for details of installations they have recently undertaken so you can see for yourself the type of business they service and the benefits they have been able to bring.
It is important, while you are researching the firms on your shortlist, to find out about training. Staff in the garden centre will not appreciate turning up to work to find everything has changed overnight. Your package should include training and a period of telephone and/ or remote-access assistance.

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