With today’s inventory software, retailers can add to their bottom line like never before, with features such as seasonal forecasting, price shopping and a whole lot more.
By Emily Lambert
One of the biggest mistakes a retailer can make when trying to save money is in choosing a cash register over a POS system, said Rob Cook, CEO of 360Pet, developed by Pinogy Corp. in Herndon, Va. Retailers with cash registers, “Don’t buy well, control inventory well or control shrink well,” he said.
Courtesy of Comp-Ware
Creating orders at 360Pet is done without the labor-intensive task of setting minimum and maximum quantities. Instead, orders are placed based on sales history. If retailers desire, the software can also “Weight inventory of profitable products more heavily,” Cook said. In other words, keeping higher inventory levels in products with greater profit margins.
“As sales trend up, inventory goes up. The system looks at it each night and makes small changes,” he said.
Comp-Ware Systems Inc., developer of DARTS, Distributor and Retail Transaction System, in Christmas, Fla., creates orders using, “Sales forecasting for inventory control versus reorder point,” said Richard Kann, president. Rather than reordering when a certain level, or reorder point, is met, DARTS factors in the selling season as well. When a retailer sells her last three flea products in the dead of winter, for example, she probably won’t sell any again for three to four months.
“A lot of product [in the pet industry] is seasonal,” Kann said.
In this particular case, the product would not be reordered until a later date.
Bethany Stockman, co-owner of Laconia Pet Center in Laconia, N.H., and user of the DARTS system, remembered the days her father owned the store and the hours it took for him to place orders. Today Stockman places at least eight to 12 orders a week in just minutes, electronically.
“With Central Pet, for example, we no longer need a fax, it goes computer to computer,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing it any other way.”
Stockman also appreciates the fact she can access her store computer from home.
“It’s great for when we go to trade shows,” she noted.
Click to enlarge
|Software systems for the pet market also assist with grooming services, such as 123Pet Software, developed by CMJ Designs Inc. in Brighton, Mich. Courtesy of 123Pet|
In addition to superior inventory control, today’s POS systems offer many other impressive features. DARTS software comes with a dual screen that faces customers and shows a Power Point presentation, a companion sale prompt on the screen for cashiers, and last, but not least, the ability to price shop. If a retailer has five vendors with the same product, DARTS will look for the least expensive brand to save the most money, according to Kann.
The 360Pet system also price shops. The lowest cost brand is automatically put into the primary position, helping to control margins and forcing distributors to be a little more competitive, Cook reported. 360Pet holds a database of 144,000 products. Retailers simply scan an item to pull up all of their vendors and corresponding costs for that product.
MerchantOS, a web-based software system headquartered in San Jose, Calif., has a database of 17 vendor catalogs for the pet industry, according to Christina Gilpin, customer support representative.
“We are always updating,” she said. “It keeps people from having to manually update.”
One of the most important parts of any software package, however, doesn’t appear on the computer itself: It’s the technical support retailers receive. Thus, retailers should find out the level of support their system’s developer will supply prior to making a purchase, said Cook, because if the computer breaks down, it inevitably happens at 5 p.m. on Friday night. Therefore, 360Pet is available seven days a week.
“We try to maintain retail hours,” Cook said.
At Comp-Ware, support even includes adding beneficial features based on retailer suggestions, free of charge.
“We prefer it be a win-win situation for our clients,” Kann said. “They are not afraid to come to us with ideas and requests that way, and we get a better product in the long run.”
The Customer is King, Even in your POS System
|One of the biggest mistakes a retailer can make when trying to save money is in choosing a cash register over a POS system, according to Rob Cook, CEO of 360Pet. The latter can generate orders as stocks run low, keep a track on inventory and flag bests-selling and slow-moving items. Courtesy of 360 Pet|
“It costs less money to keep a customer than to attract new business,” said Sandy McLain, sales and software development support representative for ARBAPRO, a program developed by ARBA Retail Systems in Naperville, Ill.
ARBA began in the back room of a pet shop 28 years ago. ARBAPRO’s focus is in giving customers incentives to keep spending money in their store, McLain said. Based on ARBAPRO’s preferred pricing setup, customers can get a discount, hear about a sale item of interest or perhaps get their tenth bag of dog food free, when their purchase is being totaled.
At Pet’s Palace in Louisville, Ky., mice are big sellers. So big, in fact, they instituted a mouse club. After customers have bought a total of ten mice, ARBAPRO deducts the price of the next mouse purchased automatically. ARBAPRO also helps increase light bulb sales.
“We sell a lot of expensive light bulbs,” said Jay Hockersmith, owner of Pet Palace. “After six months, they need to be replaced. The system will cue you when it’s time for customers to replace them.”
Another customer-based feature is the ability to identify past purchases based on a customer’s phone number.
“Say the hubby gets to the store and doesn’t remember what brand of dog food the wife buys,” McLain said.” We can look it up.”
What to Look for When Purchasing Inventory Software
- A system that is easy to use so you will get the benefits out of it -- Lauren Stier, software and website development representative, 123Pet Software, developed by CMJ Designs Inc., Brighton, Mich
- A system where retailers can get support, and get answers to questions from a knowledgeable source, promptly -- Bethany Stockman, co-owner of Laconia Pet Center in Laconia, N.H., and user of the DARTS system.
- A program that helps you get add-on sales --Richard Kann, president, Comp-Ware Systems Inc., developer of DARTS, Distributor and Retail Transaction System, in Christmas, Fla.
- A system that meets your long-term goals. --Christina Gilpin, customer support representative, MerchantOS, a web-based software system in San Jose, Calif.
- A system that helps you with loss prevention and identifies items before they get too old to sell --Barry Berman, founder of NexPet Inc., a national co-op of independent pet retailers, New York, N.Y.
And Make Sure To:
- Ask software system developers what makes them special to this industry. Our industry is unique. Regulations and laws vary from state to state as far as what information is necessary to keep. Some retailers have binders to write it down, but a POS system can do it for them.
- Ask what the developer has added to the system lately. The industry changes quickly and you want a developer who is responding to these needs.
- Ask about website development and support. This is an area 360Pet expects to grow tremendously in the next six months. --Rob Cook, CEO of 360Pet, developed by Pinogy Corp., Herndon, Vir.
- Check a company’s references. The ARBAPRO website lists retailers that agree to talk to other retailers. --Sandy McLain, sales and software development support representative for ARBAPRO, a program developed by ARBA Retail Systems in Naperville, Ill.
- Come up with a punch list of what you want a system to do and get your top five. --Bethany Stockman, co-owner of Laconia Pet Center in Laconia, N.H., and user of the DARTS system.
Software systems for the pet market also assist with grooming services, such as 123Pet Software, developed by CMJ Designs Inc. in Brighton, Mich.
“To help make grooming easy, 123Pet holds information about each pet in individual profiles,” said Lauren Stier, software and website development representative. “Personality, vet information and grooming notes can be kept for each pet and can be printed out for a quick reference during a grooming appointment. All service and product purchase history is also kept, so that a groomer can refer to past appointments quickly and easily, as well.”
Linda Sallee-Hill, owner of Canine Design in Pawcatuck, Conn., has used 123Pet for four years.
“I mainly groom, but I also sell holistic and organic products,” she said.
She purchased 123Pet because of its invoice capabilities and easy learning curve. With her past software system, she had to manually compute commissions, among other things.
Use it Well
Software that comes with all the bells-and-whistles isn’t worth much, if retailers don’t use them. Especially valuable, said Barry Berman, founder of NexPet Inc., a national co-op of independent pet retailers in New York, N.Y., are reports showing each category of item and its percent of total sales and margin dollars.
“[Retailers] need to know that regularly,” said Berman, because they might find out they’re doing 30 percent of their business in food, say, and only allocating 15 percent of space to it.
Another handy report Berman suggests retailers make use of is who their top 100 customers are, on a monthly and/or quarterly basis, so retailers can thank them. Retailers should also look at last year’s top 100 customers to find out who is buying less and why.
Reports Hockersmith values tell him what items have sold out, what his sales by department are and what his employees are sellin--and when.
“You can see when your people are idle,” he said.
Making use of reports, and choosing features that address a store’s unique needs, are what justify the cost of many systems. Retailers want to make sure they purchase a system that will pay for itself, whether they’re buying for the first time or upgrading, Kann noted. With all the options to choose from in the marketplace, it’s important to establish goals, shop around and once the right system is found, use it to its fullest potential. <HOME>
Industry Professional Site: Comments from non-industry professionals will be removed.