Chain Stores Are Embracing Retail POS Software
Now is the time for VARs to sell point of sale (POS) software to small- and mid-sized retail chain stores.
The market for point of sale (POS) software is exploding. "VARs will find great opportunity to automate small- to mid-size retail chains (two – 50 stores)," says Mark Manesh, president of Micro Technology Industries, Inc. (MTI). MTI is a software development company headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD. The privately-held company has been in business for 16 years and has 22 employees. Manesh attributes his own company's growth to the exploding retail market. "The POS market is one of the last markets where a VAR can expect to make a 40% - 60% margin on total systems," he says.
"The smaller retailers know that to stay competitive, they must automate POS, inventory and accounting functions," says David Bassiri, general manager of Cougar Mountain Software (Boise, ID). His company develops POS and accounting software. Cougar Mountain has also been in the software industry for the past 16 years. Bassiri points out that controlling inventory is crucial. "Retailers can't order too little or too much. They can't place orders too late or too early," he says.
What Features Do Retailers Need?
Manesh and Bassiri both say VARs should look for specific features when evaluating POS software for retail:
- Standard retail features – These features include layaway, discounts, gift certificates, store credits, special orders and multiple pricing. Inventory control and accounting features or modules help maximize transaction information at the point of sale. "Retailers can do 80% of their accounting at the point of sale," says Bassiri. This includes automatically taking inventory out of stock and updating accounts receivable.
- Flexibility – Is the software a true multi-store and scalable for a growing chain? Manesh advises VARs against selling only single store products. It is more profitable for VARs to sell multi-store software that can expand with their customers' businesses, he says.
- Vendor training – "Don't just sell a box of software. Sell software you know," advises Manesh. He says a good vendor will offer – or even require – training on its product for VARs. VARs should take advantage of these opportunities. Training should include how to sell, as well as install and support, the software.
Ease of use - Retailers need software that is easy to use because of the high employee turnover rate. Also, smaller retailers may not be comfortable with computerized systems, points out Bassiri. "The software, however, puts retailers in control. The software doesn't control the retailer," he says. It is this concept that VARs must sell to retailers, he says.
Integrated Systems Vs. Pieces And Parts
"VARs have difficulty pulling pieces (scanners, cash drawers, receipt printers, etc.) together and making them work seamlessly," says Bassiri. He says VARs are looking for more integrated, prepackaged solutions. These often resemble electronic cash registers but are PC-based systems. "VARs can set up these systems in 20 minutes, in networked environments or as stand-alone systems," he says.
Manesh disagrees. He says VARs offer a valuable service by integrating software and hardware for their customers. "Tailoring the system helps build a long-term relationship," says Manesh. "Customers will look to the VAR for support and upgrades."