Q: What can a retail system do for me and how do I know what I need?
A: Electronic point of sale (EPoS) and stock-control systems are designed to process purchases with minimum delay, reduce customer waiting time, process creditand debit-card transactions, organise stock control and re-ordering, provide information on buying trends and allow you to compete with supermarkets via loyalty cards, linked sales and buy-one-get-one-free offers.
The right EPoS and stock-control system should therefore provide you with the information to improve the running and profitability of your business. In order to react quickly to changes in demand for products, you need the right analytical and statistical information at your fingertips.
Choosing a computer system should not be done in haste. Take time to plan what the system must be able to do. Do you need a system that tracks stock items, produces labels and prints barcodes? Or are you looking for a system that links different departments, or different sites, and provides a complete retail or nursery management package?
Q: Who uses EPoS and stock-control systems?
A: The majority of garden retailers will use some form of EPoS system with scanners at the checkout to provide speed and accuracy and record what has been sold. Many now also use total retail management solutions. For instance, earlier this year Notcutts, with the aid of the Microsoft-based retail solutions provider K3 Retail, completed a point-of-sale and back-office roll-out across six of its stores.
These stores are the most recent additions to the Notcutts' family of garden centres and the K3 system will assist them in providing a seamless experience for their customers, at the point of sale.
Notcutts IT director Jason Moon says: "We wanted to migrate these stores onto the same technology we are currently using in our other 13 stores. Having worked with K3 for a number of years, we felt they were the natural choice to provide the point-of-sale and back-office solution. K3 knows the business and most importantly understands our needs. We wanted a one-stop-shop and K3 was able to provide us with the technology we required."
Q: What's new in pay as you go for retail software?
A: Retail software and services specialist CTS Retail, with more than 25 years experience has been granted exclusive UK distribution rights to a sophisticated but cost-effective "software plus services" solution called Cervello.
Billed as the only flexible pay-as-you-go retail software solution in the market, Cervello is a browser-based retail system with the ability to integrate data from multiple retail sites and e-commerce stores and present it seamlessly through one single interface.
"Gone are the days when retailers had to worry about costly upfront software licenses and being tied into one supplier for all their service solutions," says CTS Retail managing director Scott Storey. "Cervello is a flexible pay-as-you-go retail IT solution that gives users total control over both their business data and their budget spend. Cervello can usually be loaded onto existing equipment and trading with it can commence immediately."
With Cervello, small independent retailers can opt to access all their sales and customer data through one user profile, but for larger retail organisations there are multiple user profiles available so that staff in different departments can only access the information that is relevant to them.
Q: Is there anything new to help with ticket display?
A: For garden and leisure retailers wanting to improve the impact, quality and cost-effectiveness of their display tickets, the integration of Swan Retail and Ticketwriter technology offers a solution.
Product information, prices and images are held on the Swan database, with direct import to Ticketwriter for the simple creation of a variety of ticket layouts and designs.
According to Swan, time-consuming data administration is reduced, typing errors are virtually eliminated and product information and pricing becomes totally consistent throughout the company, increasing the clarity and accuracy of in-store information provided to customers and staff alike.
Q: Are there any new hosted services for garden centres?
A: Yes. This autumn Swan Retail introduced Swan Host, which is aimed at the increasing number of garden and leisure retailers considering the move to hosted software for their business. Such software allows retailers to make significant savings on IT administration, security, and capital expenditure on servers and software licences.
"It also gives retailers the ability to implement a relatively simple system and then upgrade performance and functionality as the need arises," adds Swan business development manager Chris Marsden-Jones. "And that inherent flexibility can be of prime importance when operating in a rapidly changing retail environment."
Available for a set monthly fee, Swan Host can be accessed at any time, from any location. It provides real-time data on essential functions such as merchandising, finance, supply chain and logistics. Unique user names and passwords ensure protection of sensitive commercial information.
Q: What's the latest assistance available for online businesses?
A: Supplier of solutions for smalland medium-sized businesses, Actinic, has released version 10 of its range of e-commerce software comprising Actinic Catalog, Actinic Business, Actinic Business Plus and Actinic Enterprise.
Actinic v10 incorporates new features to assist retailers in managing and marketing their online stores. Actinic chief executive Chris Barling says: "The latest version of Actinic E-commerce introduces several new features that many of our merchants have previously requested. Retailers will benefit from real-time stock control and additional marketing functionality to help increase sales, while their customers will see improvements to their shopping experience."
In addition, customer feedback integration with the customer feedback system, Feefo, enables the merchant to display independent customer feedback on their website.