Magazine Article | March 1, 1998

Making The Most Of Pole Displays

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With reports of scanning and input errors at the point of sale on the rise, customers are demanding pole displays to see what price they're paying.

Business Solutions, March 1998
Customers in the state of California were overcharged $250,000,000 in one year due to scanning errors, according to a California public interest group. ABC's "Prime Time Live" and CBS's "Evening News" have both aired similar reports about scanning errors. However, the cause is typically not the scanners but the stores' not changing prices in computerized systems.

One way to prevent this problem is the use of customer pole displays, says Sarah Ahmadinia, vice president and COO for EMAX International, Inc. EMAX, based in Santa Fe Springs, CA, has specialized in manufacturing customized pole displays since 1992.

Gary German, vice president of sales and marketing for Ultimate Technology agrees that by including pole displays in point of sale (POS) systems, retailers are better serving their customers. Ultimate Technology (Victor, NY), started in 1989, manufactures POS hardware, including pole displays, terminals and keyboards.

Selling The Need For Pole Displays
Today's pole displays are providing extra functionality at the point of sale, displaying prices as well as advertisements in restaurants, retail shops and grocery stores. Yet, many end users still question the need for including pole displays (also called customer displays) in POS systems. According to Ahmadinia, VARs must work to convince many end users that pole displays are worth adding to a POS system. She points out that retailers need to consider their customers' needs at the checkout.

"Customers want to see the price they are being charged," says Ahmadinia. She says that consumers are more conscious of pricing errors due to media reports on overcharging. "Retailers who use pole displays inspire customer confidence. It's one more way to build customer loyalty," says Ahmadinia. She adds that at least two states require prices to be displayed at the point of sale, making customer displays mandatory in markets such as retail, grocery and hospitality. She believes that soon other states will require customer displays at POS stations.

Making Pole Displays Compatible
A new industry standard is making it easier to include pole displays with POS systems, says German. A consortium of companies has developed a standard programming interface for POS peripheral devices, known as OLE for Retail POS (OPOS). Designed for the Windows 95 and Windows NT operating systems, this standard dictates how POS peripherals communicate with each other.

For pole-display manufacturers, this means incorporating new OPOS drivers into their pole displays. POS software developers are incorporating OPOS into new software programs. Before OPOS, POS software was written to include a limited number of pole display drivers. Additional programming had to be done if the software and pole display were incompatible.

Features To Look For When Choosing A Display
According to Gary German of Ultimate Technology, Inc., and Sarah Ahmadinia of EMAX, VARs should consider the following factors when recommending pole displays:
  • Character height - German says that characters of 10 - 11 mm (approximately 3/8" - 1/2") in height are generally the easiest to read. This is especially important when a pole display incorporates scrolling message capabilities. Ahmadinia agrees, however, she adds that character heights of 9.5 mm are common and also very visible from a distance.
  • Manufacturer's reputation - VARs should be asking how many years a vendor has been in business and who uses its products.
  • Product warranty - "Can the pole display be returned if it fails?" German asks. VARs should be satisfied with a vendor's warranty and return policy before adopting a pole display line, he says.
  • Customization - Many end users request special pole display options, says Sarah Ahmadinia of EMAX International. Pole heights and colors are easily customizable to coordinate with store interiors, she says. For example, poles can sit anywhere from two to 19 inches (or more) from the counter. Colors can include gray, cream, and white.
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