Cash register on sale
Point-of-sale leaps forward at the register
Point-of-sale technology in general is perceived as pretty low-tech stuff-many smaller stores employ a cash register, and DOS is still dominant in slightly more complex applications such as inventory and data mining. But a revolution is coming as more retailers realize the competitive advantages of the latest point-of-sale (POS) technology.
"I would say that, at the front end, it's still predominantly DOS-based," said Mabel Eng, channel sales manager for point-of-sale at Markham, Ont.-based IBM Canada Ltd. "People are starting to talk about Windows products, but that's still very new and it's not as stable yet. The stability is still there for DOS."
Eng said she sees a boom coming in the Windows products for POS, but says there's a need to educate and train retailers so they understand the advantages the technology can have, even for a small- or medium-size business.
Mind the Store Inc. in Toronto already offers its V98 POS software for Windows.
"Recently we've moved our platform to the Windows platform and we've wrapped the Internet around it so that we can tie retail point-of-sale applications to electronic stores and distribution and warehousing and so on," said Tony Comparelli, president and CEO of Mind the Store.
But Comparelli is already looking past Windows to a Web-based system.
"We're moving now to platform independence so it can run on any machine that has a browser. We're actually beta testing a version so it doesn't really care about the platform, as long as a browser can run that is Java-enabled. It'll actually run your whole point-of-sale program through a Java browser," he predicted.
The advantages of such a system include inventory consolidation, networking information on credit notes and gift certificate information to various franchises, and tying in the brick and mortar store with an on-line store.
Certainly there's room for improvement in the way retailers handle things at the point-of-sale. In December, Montreal-based Option consommateurs released a study that revealed significant discrepancies between price tag amounts and the amount charged by many store bar code scanners. The consumer advocate magazine made purchases at a number of large retail stores, including The Bay and Canadian Tire, and compared the sticker price with the amount charged at the cash. In 14 per cent of purchases made there was a discrepancy, resulting in a net overcharging of 2.5 per cent to the customer.
Sidney Ribaux, project coordinator at Option consommateurs, said he didn't find fault with the software or hardware. Usually there were problems with the organization making sure the machines were programmed properly.
For example, Ribaux says if there's a one-day sale, stores will change the price on items but they won't do it on the scanner, so the cashier's supposed to know about it. "If you go to a cashier that doesn't know about it, obviously the scanner is just going to charge you the regular price," he said.
But by taking advantage of the technology that's available, retail stores can cut down on mistakes at the point-of-sale.
"It's a great argument to have centralized inventory," said Comparelli of Ribaux's findings. "Controlled by a central source as opposed to having fragmented inventories sitting at a location and having it managed by multiple touch points."
COPYRIGHT 1998 Plesman Publications
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