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Getting the Upper Hand with POS Systems

Retailers find that good point-of-sale units make their lives easier.
By Ann Springer and Scott Springer, MBA


Courtesy of Systems West
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But never underestimate the story that numbers can tell, says Michael DiTullio, president of Especially for Pets, a small chain of pet shops in Massachusetts.

 DiTullio uses the numbers he pulls off his point-of-sale system to tell him everything from who his best customer is to how many items he loses to shoplifting.

“In our stores we say that our POS system is mission critical,” DiTullio says. “The operation just couldn’t run effectively without it.”

DiTullio discovered the wisdom in an electronic inventory system a few years after he opened his first store in 1988.

“We started out using register tape and spreadsheets for the first few years,” he explains.

“Now we couldn’t live without [a POS system],” he adds.
 
Customized for the Pet Industry
A whole host of electronic inventory management products is available on the market, and now even more of the products offer specialized software that is pet-industry specific, says Leon Bodzin, president of Systems West, a San Diego-based manufacturer of POS systems.

One system features the ability to manage all of the paperwork associated with the sale of live puppies. Everything from breeder information to vaccination records can be stored and recalled electronically, Bodzin says.


Courtesy of Natural Pawz
One store used this particular software to track and manage  17,000 puppies in its seven store locations over a three-year period, Bodzin says.

“They love the system because at the touch of a button, they can access that information and not have to dig through boxes of paperwork to find the records for one dog,” Bodzin says.

Additionally, some POS systems track insurance or warranty agreements for puppy sales, says Jack Mitchell, president of Pets Computer Systems, a Germantown, Tenn.-based manufacturer.

“They’re now able to move this information electronically,” he says.

Sales of live animals as well as merchandise can also be tracked in real time through a store’s website, Mitchell says.

“It can show pictures of the puppies that they have available on their website,” Mitchell says.

Stores with grooming or other scheduled services now have access to software that manages the schedules of both groomers and their scheduled clients, Bodzin says.

“The grooming industry is seeing the biggest growth and change right now,” Bodzin says. “More stores are offering grooming services and need a way to manage their system.”

This software also allows customers to pay for grooming up to a year in advance and receive discounts and promotions for paying for it upfront, Bodzin says.

“It encourages stores to bundle those services into a plan or a joint membership,” he says.
 
Growing Pains

5 Ways a POS System Can Help Boost Profits

  1. Seeing the products with the highest profit margins. Knowing which types of products will be most popular will help with purchasing new inventory.

  2. No more sticky fingers. Tracking products from delivery to sale and helps a retailer easily see which products are lost to theft.

  3. Preventing inventory bloating. Reordering products based on reports helps to minimize the chance of over-ordering merchandise.

  4. Monitoring staff performance. Store owners can’t supervise their staff members constantly, but a POS system can monitor employee performance when owners can’t do it themselves.

  5. Getting organized. Whether scheduling grooming appointments or tracking records of live animals, a POS system can create a paperless trail that can even be followed remotely.
While some retailers still prefer to manage inventory with a pencil and paper, most new pet shops invest in a point-of-sale system from the first day, Bodzin says.

“However, time marches on,” he says. “And then it’s time to upgrade as they grow out of the software they’re using because their business grows.”

Julie Paez, owner of The Big Bad Woof, a retailer in Washington, D.C., knows all about growing pains. She recently upgraded the inventory software she uses as she prepares her store to be franchised after only three years in business.

“As we grow larger, the new system helps manage what we’re doing a lot easier,” Paez says.

Paez started out with a basic system and soon found out she was limited by its capability. She  began looking for a product that would be more customizable and professional.

She uses her new system to make shelf tags with her logo embedded in them, to make and track special orders for customers, to adjust prices with ease and to do myriad time-saving tasks.

“What we have now is a more fluid system,” she says.

She also says the information in her POS system is accessible to her remotely on her PDA.

“I can be at a trade show and see what we have in our inventory and easily make a decision,” Paez says. “Before that I was printing reports, taking them with me, and trying to figure it out.”

Loyalty programs are also more easily managed when linked to a POS system, DiTullio says. He uses the information in his system to identify his best customers’ buying habits and to send out direct mail to his entire customer base.

More specific e-mails can be generated to target customers by the type of animals they own, Mitchell says.

“Information can be sent out to customers based on the type of pets they own, or to those customers with multiple types of pets,” Mitchell says. “It can be a really nice piece of sales information.”

Additionally, DiTullio uses his POS system to reward his top-performing employees.

“We track the average dollar amount and the number of items per sale of each employee,” he says. “It’s very revealing. It’s hard to track that kind of information without a computerized system.”

While some products may fly off store shelves and need more frequent replenishing, they may not have the same high-profit margins as products that are sold in fewer quantities.

“Having a POS system frees up your time so you can really analyze your operation,” DiTullio says. “It shows where to focus.” <HOME>


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Getting the Upper Hand with POS Systems

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Reader Comments
I enjoyed the article. I am opening a pet retail/grooming business in New Orleans, LA & am over whelmed by the POS Systems available. It would have been nice to have a list of recommended systems.
Belinda, New Orleans, LA
Posted: 2/27/2013 4:36:20 AM
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