Fabric Stores: The Right Fit For PC-Based POS & Bar Codes
House of Fabrics chain adopts technology to increase worker productivity and provide better inventory control during company downsizing.
Business Solutions, February 1998
Re-Stocking Process Is Inefficient
Inventory management and price control are key elements of the new House of Fabrics. With thousands of craft items and fabric spools in each store, fast response to changing seasons and fashions is crucial to financial success. Store managers were used to tabulating their monthly purchase requirements based on a "gut-feel" of what products were moving. Centralized purchase decisions were made based on managers' requests and market trends. Regional differences in consumer tastes or preferences were difficult to accommodate.
The electronic cash register simply recorded purchases at the till. All transactions were performed manually; product bar codes were not used. The tracking of its core product - custom cuts of fabric - was done on paper. Information about the fabric type and length was written at the cutting station and reinterpreted at the check-out counter. The customer was given a simple receipt which did not provide any information about the item purchased.
New POS System Tracks Bar-Coded Items
DMF designed an automation solution using bar-code and computer technology. All items sold required bar codes. For many craft items, UPC bar codes were already in place. The cutting stations were set up with bar-code printers, bar code scanners, programmable keyboards and Pentium PCs. Fabric cutting was done as it always had been, but paper tracking was replaced by bar-code scanning and programmable keyboard data entry. Each spool of fabric was assigned a unique bar code which was scanned before cutting.
Keyboard layouts were customized to match the requirements of the cutting process, making data entry easy for House of Fabrics sales personnel. After the custom cutting of the fabric, new bar code tags were printed on-the-spot and each fabric cut was tagged for quick processing at the check-out counter.
Components In The New System
The POS check-out stations were outfitted with Pentium PCs, Metrologic scanners, Jarltech programmable keyboards, Star Micronics receipt printers and cash drawers from M-S Cash Drawer. Bar code scanning and simplified keyboard entry improved the speed and accuracy of each transaction. DMF put systems in place so that the sales information from each POS station within each store would automatically be polled by corporate headquarters at the end of each working day. In addition, systems were installed so that each station in each store would be updated overnight with new item pricing as required. To prevent information loss during breakdown or power failure, DMF's system offered the redundancy of a fully powered PC at each station.
Benefits Of The New System
The automatic polling of sales information from each store has provided corporate office with the capability to restock or redistribute craft and fabric items as required. This has provided a new ability for fast response to regional differences and changes in consumer preference.