Dealer's 12-Unit ECR Install Leads To Massive Add-On Sales
This dealer achieved trusted advisor status and a potential 700-unit ECR (electronic cash register) sale.
The mention of a thrift store commonly conjures up visions of disheveled racks of 1970s-styled plaid polyester suits and neckties wide enough for an airplane to land on. However, if you walk into a thrift store today, you may be surprised to find chic designer dresses and suits, electronics, and home dÃ©cor items. Savers, Inc. is the world's largest for-profit thrift store chain, with 200 stores in the United States and Canada. While the company is privately held, much can be surmised from the amount of money the company paid to its charity partners within one year's time — $130 million. This isn't a garage sale, it's a growing industry. The company has been in business for 50 years, and, for the past 20 years, it has relied on Portland Cash Register Systems for its POS (point of sale) hardware and support.
Richard Johnson, general manager of Portland Cash Register Systems, says that despite the great health of Savers' overall POS system, many stores' ECR units were reaching end of life. "I had numerous meetings with Savers management and stressed that the company's standard-issue Toshiba TEC MA-1650 ECR would no longer be available in early 2007," says Johnson. "Rather than wait until a machine went bad and then be forced to put a new unknown ECR in its place, we recommended a pilot program to test a new ECR and work out any kinks." The new ECR is the Toshiba TEC MA-1595, which is similar to the MA-1650 but has the added functionality of integrated LAN and sports a thermal printer as opposed to dot matrix. According to the plan, two six-unit test sites close to Portland Cash Register Systems would be chosen, and, eventually, an orderly company-wide rollout would follow. Savers agreed to the plan, and the test proceeded.
Stage And Test All Equipment Before Delivering Your ECR Solution
The typical Savers store uses up to seven ECRs connected via RS-232 to a back office computer running Savers' custom programmed software. The back office computer is connected to Savers' headquarters via a WAN. To avoid potential networking problems, Johnson's team configured six MA-1595s and tested communications prior to implementation. All the equipment was staged in the Portland Cash Register Systems' office exactly as it was going to be deployed in the store. The pilot installation took less than half an hour.
The new units have a 10BaseT Ethernet connection in addition to RS-232. The greatest benefit of the Ethernet connection is that it provides increased data transmission speeds. Since the old ECR units were connected to the back office PC via RS-232, some speed issues concerning PLUs (price lookups) existed. (A PLU is a code number used to identify store inventory and associate a price with it.) At a maximum transmission rate of 9.6 Kbps (kilobits per second), the ECRs were able to send approximately five PLUs every 1 to 2 seconds. The process of sending a file that contains 10,000 PLUs takes close to 30 minutes. The 10BaseT Ethernet connection on the new units reduced the PLU file transfer time to about 1 minute.
While Savers has completely trusted Johnson with its ECRs in the past, there was one objection to proposing the MA-1595 as a replacement. The MA-1595 uses a thermal printer while the older MA-1650 uses a dot matrix printer, which Savers uses for validation purposes. An example of validation is when a customer pays by personal check. The clerk will take the check, place it in the throat of the printer, and the printer will print the date, time, operator info, and price on the check to provide a record of the check being processed through the register. The same happens with coupons, credit vouchers, and gift certificates. The MA-1595 has no validation capabilities since it is a thermal printer and needs special paper to print. Savers currently is using a receipt copy function of the new ECRs to take the place of validations.
Johnson credits his constant communication with Savers as the major key to Portland Cash Register Systems' success. Johnson has weekly meetings with the client's POS team to review issues or projects the thrift store chain is planning. In addition, Johnson initiated a toll-free number 15 years ago to provide telephone support for all Savers stores across the United States.
Since the MA-1595 performed as expected at the test site, Johnson is slowly earning additional ECR sales for the remainder of the Savers stores across the United States, a number that could reach 700 units. He and the Savers POS team also currently are implementing checkout bar code scanners to all the Savers stores.