What Pet Retailers Can Gain From Investing in Their Point-of-Sale Systems
123Pet by DaySmart Software is just one of many modern POS systems retailers have to choose from.
The days of mechanical cash registers and paper ledgers are long gone in retail. However, having a modern-day point-of-sale (POS) system is only as helpful as it is optimized for the business in which it’s installed—and a system that is underutilized is barely more than a fancy calculator.
Industry insiders report that having a quality POS system is critical for pet specialty retailers, from independent single-store operations to growing chains. In fact, some say that having this vital piece of retail tech can be the difference between thriving in today’s competitive marketplace or shuttering a store’s doors for good.
“As retail shoppers become accustomed to omnichannel experiences with large retail brands, it has become mandatory for small stores and chains to provide their customers with those same options,” said Michael Stefanakos, vice president of FieldStack, a Portland, Maine-based company that sells POS and e-commerce software, services and hardware. “It is a new landscape where everyone needs to play like the major league.”
According to Stefanakos, FieldStack can give pet retailers access to technology that, until now, could only be found in giant retailers such as Walmart and Target.
“We’ve created an entire retail platform, and so, FieldStack can do everything end to end, [including] inventory management; order management; point of sale; time clocks; e-commerce; buy online, pick-up in-store; gift card; loyalty—really everything that a retailer needs to run their business can be done on a FieldStack platform.
“The greatest thing about that is when you do that with an integrated product that has been built from the ground up and not cobbled together, bolted together, you get seamless integration that is built to work together,” Stefanakos added.
And once a POS system is in place, it is the data that retailers can cull from it that is the real prize.
“The core of what we do is analytics, and the analytics is looking at what you’ve done, and what you’re likely to do, and using that intelligence to make those decisions of automation,” Stefanakos said.
Without a good, comprehensive POS system, stores are limited in their efficiency, said Luke Johnson, owner of Luke and Company Fine Pet Supply and Outfitter, a pet store in Denver that uses Lightspeed, a Montreal-based software provider for cloud-based POS and e-commerce platforms.
“If you can’t measure your data, you have no hope of improving your efficiency and, in turn, your profits,” Johnson said. “In a world where most companies generate single-digit net profit margins, you cannot afford to give even 1 percent of your operating revenue to inefficiency.”
Johnson reported that since becoming a Lightspeed customer, ordering has become an exact science, the store can easily pinpoint products with low margins and top performers, and inventory is more manageable, meaning “less money sitting on the floor and more in the bank where it can be used.”
His decision to go with Lightspeed was informed by previous experiences with retail technology. Before opening his own store, Johnson worked at two other independent pet supply establishments and was less than impressed with either’s POS system. In his search, Johnson did a dry run of three systems before deciding to go with Lightspeed because of its “vast analytic capabilities and ease of use.”
“The fee is negligible for the amount of use we get out of it,” he said. “The analytics value and labor hours saved by a well-designed POS system far exceed whatever you spend on it monthly or annually.”
Lightspeed caters to small and medium-sized retailers through its Lightspeed Retail (POS) and Lightspeed eCom solutions.
“We have 74,000 customer locations around the world, and our customers process around $20 billion (U.S.) a year in gross transactional value,” said Bradley Grill, director of public relations for Lightspeed.
“That’s the amount of money that goes through our system,” Grill said. “On average, our customers do about $500,000 in sales per year … and pet stores and pet supply stores are a big part because they have lots of inventory, many SKUs and so on.”
While these systems are designed to make the day-to-day operations run smoothly, they are increasingly more functionally sophisticated and give stores tools they’ve never had in the past. From credit card processing to inventory management, they can provide automation that changes the way stores operate.
“POS systems have evolved into digital solutions that are revolutionizing how small businesses manage their sales, especially if the systems are integrated with the management software of the business,” said Jeff Dickerson, CEO of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based DaySmart Software.
DaySmart offers an “all-in-one, front-desk” POS solution for pet retailers called 123Pet.
123Pet provides all of the necessary POS elements including a receipt printer, cash drawer, credit card processor and barcode scanner, combined with business software that includes digital scheduling, online booking, employee scheduling, payroll, business performance reporting and marketing campaign functions.
Aside from helping a store to run more smoothly, a solid POS system can also help it operate more cost effectively. Labor costs can drain a retailer’s bottom line, but modern POS systems can help reduce these costs through increased automation.
“A POS system that subtracts goods sold from the database simplifies inventory management, potentially obviating the need for physical product counts,” Dickerson said.
And some systems can be designed to generate purchase orders, or automatically reorder, when inventory levels fall below certain thresholds, he said.
“A state-of-the-art POS system can also reduce the amount of labor required for a pet business by automating many of the repetitive, manual tasks associated with customer follow-up, [e.g.] How was your recent visit?, or appointment reminders, [e.g.] Fluffy has a groom scheduled tomorrow,” Dickerson said. “Taken in total, these process improvements might mean that a business could operate with two employees instead of three, or delay the hiring of new staff.”
A well-integrated POS system can also help a retailer put the staff it does have to better use by employing inventory automation, Stefanakos pointed out.
“You want your superstar staff on the floor serving customers while your retail system does the busy work of building orders in real-time,” he said. “With a glance, you can review and submit replenishment orders with confidence. Also, we find that our clients enjoy having a system that integrates
POS with back-office, inventory, loyalty, and e-commerce functionality because it simplifies their technology stack and, hence, their IT staffing needs.”
Growth, if managed correctly, can be wondrous; however, if left to its own devices, it can be the undoing of a business. That said, growth management is yet another way in which these systems can be of service.
NorthPoint Pets and Co., a pet nutrition and pet supply store in Cheshire, Conn., had been “growing in leaps and bounds,” according to owner Nicci Cammack. “I realized that it was going to be impossible for me to handle the growth without a sophisticated system,” she said.
As a result, Cammack said she upgraded NorthPoint’s system a couple of years ago but only recently implemented all of the features that her POS system from Springboard Retail has to offer.
“This includes purchase orders and receipts based off of what target points and reorder points we have set,” she said. “Obviously, this has to be managed and tweaked as we grow; however, it is working out pretty well so far.
“New functions can still be added because it is a cloud-based system,” Cammack added. “They are always making improvements and take our feedback seriously. The customized reporting is invaluable.”
Asked how NorthPoint has benefited from Springboard, Cammack said, “It prevents a lot of errors,” such as over or under ordering.
“These little mistakes really cost a ton of money at the end of the year,” she said.
A quality POS system can provide a technological assist to businesses that are not only growing, but also adding locations or expanding into online retail.
“In 2020, systems need to talk,” said Alex Therrien, strategic solutions manager for Lightspeed.
Therrien is talking about a “unified” POS system, where one store is easily connected and synced with similar systems at other stores, including e-commerce sites, as a business expands.
“There’s a unified customer database; it’s a unified inventory when I open my second store,” he explained. “I’ll have my master store, and the second store—I won’t have to do everything again.”
Retailers that are in the market for a new system certainly have plenty of options today. However, those who have been through it often warn that retailers need to do their homework when choosing the best option for their business to avoid what ultimately may be a poor fit.
Laurie Wilson, owner of Teca Tu–A Pawsworthy Pet Emporium & Deli, a pet store in Santa, Fe, N.M., decided about five years ago that she needed an updated POS system.
“We had a very old system, and I wanted to do a Mac-based system with iPads for an improved way of doing business as well as something that looked awesome,” she said.
After looking around, she went with ShopKeep, but she admits the transition did not go smoothly.
“ShopKeep was originally set up for restaurants, so there were many features that just didn’t work for retail,” Wilson said.
This seeming incompatibility led to several issues and inconveniences, Wilson explained, but the saving grace has been ShopKeep’s willingness to fix problems and listen to feedback.
And when asked what the new system can do that her old system could not, she said, “just about everything.”
“I am sure we don’t use half of the reports that ShopKeep has, but it was cool to finally be Mac based—so much more intuitive for me,” Wilson said.
Teca Tu’s POS system tracks inventory, it makes checkout a snap and customer loyalty programs are easier to implement.
“And best of all,” Wilson quipped, “the cash drawer makes the old-fashioned ‘cha-ching’ sound when it opens.”
Retail in the Time of COVID-19
Never before, it seems, has it been more pressing for pet specialty retailers to consider either building an e-commerce site or expanding on what they have offered up until now. Shifting consumer behaviors spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic have many brick-and-mortar retailers wondering how they can bridge gaps in their sales when shoppers opt to order their pet foods and supplies online. One way they can stay in the game, according to some pet industry participants, is simply by joining in.
Michael Stefanakos, vice president of FieldStack, a Portland, Maine-based company that sells point-of-sale (POS) and e-commerce software, services and hardware, said the company has been focusing on how to help pet specialty retailers weather the storm.
“We want to make it possible for local, brick-and-mortar, mid-to-large-size pet specialty retailers to be able to continue to service their customer base,” Stefanakos said. “There are a lot of pet specialty retailers out there today that don’t have e-commerce sites, and if they do, they don’t have the ability to do things like buy online, pick up on the curb, or same-day delivery, or even just being able to ship products to people.”
FieldStack is able to help retailers get such services up and running as quickly as possible, with the end goal being for these stores to stay in the black until the crisis subsides, Stefanakos said.
“If you don’t have an e-commerce site, and if you’re not giving your customers the ability to buy online [and] pick up at the curb or, in some cases, same-day delivery, you might not be around at the end of it,” he said.
The company has been well positioned to help retailers in this way well before the crisis hit, he added, but some of the services FieldStack offers may be particularly needed today.
“It is a business opportunity, but we’re looking at this more from the standpoint of how can we help,” Stefanakos said, “because at the end of the day, if these retailers aren’t around, it hurts us later on too. How do we all work together to keep retail and commerce flowing?”