EPoS in practice In the second instalment of a series of features focusing on Electronic Point of Sale technology, we hear from two retailers about how the system works in practice, day-to-day.
he reasons behind investing in an EPoS system will be varied depending on the retailer, but most would agree that achieving efficiencies in the business is at the top of the list. Some older systems have proved a little
difficult to use requiring a huge amount of input from the retailer, but as technology has moved on, so too has the standard of the systems. We caught up with retailers in the health food trade to find out how easy it has been to put into practice.
Alan Martin, Food for Thought, Surrey I first moved to an EPoS system in the ‘90s. The reason is still etched in my family history as Dad was working all the time with no time for the kids, partner or leisure. Most of my working week was spent either checking stock levels on the shelves prior to manually placing supplier orders, then frantically checking retail prices were correct before manually putting it all on the shelves using a pricing gun to price ticket every product. Once I finished, the whole process would start again with a small respite in between just long enough to write out the cheques. This style of working worked well when we were small enough for me to be able to memorise most of the stock holding, its positioning within the store and how much it cost, but as we grew this became too difficult and mistakes started happening and then kept happening – customers noticed. We decided that as soon as we settled in and got to grips with the business that we would look to purchasing an EPoS system. We started looking at various systems in March 2008, a month after we bought Food for Thought (FFT). We looked at various systems but kept coming back to the system from Emporio. The actual setting up was very easy – the guys from Emporio spent two days on site, installing and training and it was literally a case of scanning straight out of the box. Staff felt very comfortable using the system from the word go. It’s a very valuable asset in terms of ordering and pricing, and stock holding has now reduced quite drastically. In terms of ease of ordering, neither of the store managers would want to go back to a manual stock and order system. In terms of 44
pricing up, I think we probably save a good 30-40 man-hours a week by not having to price goods and in the case of deliveries from CLF, not even having to check them off.To give you an example of how helpful it is: however many products a supplier can provide, instead of inputting the products individually on to the system, a complete price list is fed directly into the system, usually overnight, so that the next day all those products will scan and can be sold at the till. It makes ordering special customer requests that are not stocked in our shop from that supplier easily accessible, and the customer is always impressed with the ease of finding that their product can be identified easily, its latest price quoted and hence can be ordered in on the next delivery.The sales data it generates is very helpful to create a clear picture of what in-store events have helped sales and what products sell, so we can include it easily in our regular inventory. Initially, when the system was installed, it was basic and a bit generic. But thanks to the enthusiastic and professional support of the team at Emporio, we have been able to slowly tailor it to our individual needs, as far as manipulating the data information to get out of it all that we find useful. Achieving exactly what we need from the EPoS system has come about due to having a dedicated member of staff whose main duty is the EPoS system in FFT. The system has great potential, but needs to be explored and investing time in this is not always possible in a very small business. However the support team at Emporio are always available to execute any requests that arise from the staff, but we found investing time in it has allowed us to make our business more efficient.
Peter Jenkins, Ceres, Yeovil Setting up an EPoS system from scratch needs careful planning, massive help from the provider, and all the staff on board. The single biggest task was getting stock entered onto a database and then having accurate levels when you open your doors again for the first time – we chose to close for a few days while this was done and definitely needed the EPoS people there en masse while this was happening.
I’m now on my second system. The first was a non-Windows based programme – enormously reliable and practical with excellent back-up from the supplier. It took time to learn how best to use it but once mastered enabled us to provide a level of customer service far higher than we could have achieved before.The system we are using now is a Microsoft-based Windows application, which should enable us to build on what we had before and future-proof our retailing operation using all the resources that become available with access to the Internet. EPoS creates purchase orders at the press of the keyboard, accepts them into stock easily and ensures prices are correct at the till without the need to manually price individual items of stock. It allows the easy setting up and management of price promotions and customer special orders, fast and slow selling items can be identified and managed and mutually beneficial deals done with suppliers. My business has only been able to grow and expand the way it has because of EPoS, without it I would still be a one-man operation (there are 12 of us now). There are lots of practical aspects to it that help the business operation but the single biggest asset is that it has improved and enhanced customer service. Staff will inevitably be very concerned at the prospect, some downright frightened by new procedures and equipment. So I explained why, reassured them that mistakes are inevitable in the early days and that they wouldn’t get fired, promised them it will transform their working day – and it did. Unquestionably the single biggest saving is in staff time, where they were manually doing tasks that are now almost automated. An EPoS system is not a cure-all; it must be properly set up and then managed effectively. New work routines and procedures will be created by having EPoS and it won’t look after itself.The most frustrating aspect of my new system is Microsoft and the limitations it imposes on its partners who basically tailor the megalith’s software to the health food trade. Although the main jobs are dealt with efficiently, many reports, tasks or ways of working I want to use seem to be incompatible with the basic Microsoft EPoS structure. Having said that my EPoS provider is trying very hard to accommodate me and has to date always managed to find a way of achieving what I want with the software. Choosing the right EPoS supplier is vital to making it a success for any business and I am glad to say that both my EPoS providers have given excellent back-up.