When you walk into your local retail store you probably don’t notice the cash register that’s ringing up your sales. You notice the cashier, most likely, but not the cash register or point of sale (POS) system being used.
Although many small business retailers use POS systems a good number of them rely on paper/pencil or basic cash register (glorified calculator).
A true point of sale system, as opposed to a basic cash register or paper system can improve your business in so many ways.
- Faster check out of customers
- Capturing important customer information (for marketing, cross selling)
- Better management of inventory
- Reduction of fraud
- Employee Time Management tracking
- and other benefits
One of the lessons Kimberly Kennedy, owner of The Silver Basket, a gourmet gift basket retailer learned from previous holiday seasons, is that poor inventory management can turn the season’s “sweet” sales sour. She gives us a peak into her business and how she’s using technology, especially how things are working out with her QuickBooks Point of Sale system. Maybe you can identify with The Silver Basket.
The Silver Basket is located in Presque Isle, Maine near the Canadian border, in Northern Maine and designs Gourmet gift baskets including but not limited to chocolates, wines, jams, sauces, cheese & crackers, salsas and candies.
Kim has 1 employee and seasonal part time employees, but during the busy Christmas season there are usually 4 staff, including Kim, helping customers. Her customers average from ages of 25 to 65. and include mostly women, but they do have quite a few men who are repeat customers.
Since The Silver Basket is in a small town, their customers also include just about anyone in a 60 mile radius since there is not another store like their for several hours.
Since opening her store in June 2005, Kim has always had a POS system, which was recommended to her from her local computer consultant (more on him below). Kim considered purchased a regular cash register and receipt pads but quickly decided not to. If she had to write 10 to 20 items down by hand for each each receipt, and then at the end of the day take those items out of inventory, she would have been at her store all day (and probably all night). She would have had to order new supplies after getting home at night on my home computer instead of everything at the store, as the POS system enables her to do.
Kim says she can’t imagine hand writing hundreds of tags every time a shipment comes in. With the POS, she enters the inventory, prints tags and sticks them on all the gourmet products.
In addition to the manual work, Kim would have had to have been in the back room away from customers, if she had a traditional cash register.
With the POS system she can ship via UPS on the computer and add any shipping charges to the customers receipt, make customer notes, handle inventory, and scan in every item for sales and see at a glance what her inventory is, what sales tax she has to pay, and what her best selling products are.
“When I think of the hours a day I save, I know I made the right decision”, Kim tells me.
Other merchants have asked Kim about her Intuit QuickBooks POS system because they see how easy it is to use.
Unfortunately, The Silver Basket does not have a web site yet and is not selling online. Kim hasn’t had time to look into creating a web site and wants to create one herself.
Kim’s biggest challenge in running her business is:
- Budgeting for upcoming seasons
- Figuring out what to order next to keep up with current trends
- Staying above the big “box” stores
- Tying to keep new items coming in so customers do not always see and buy the same items for gifts and themselves.
I asked Kim to give the small business owners reading this some words of advice. She advises that you start with small orders, look at trends and spending habits, then increase inventory as needed. You can’t order everything at once. Kim said, “I know what I would like to order but the customer only sees what is in the store at any given time”
What lessons can you learn from The Silver Basket’s experience:
Every small business needs a web site. You can do it yourself, using Homestead (recently bought by Intuit) or Microsoft Office Live or hire a web developer.
Beyond a WEB site, every traditional retailer should consider selling online and marketing online using cost per click advertising from Google, Yahoo or Microsoft’s cost per click advertising systems.
A CRM system is important and will help you know who your customers are, what they have purchased and what they are most likely to purchase. A CRM tool will help you cross sell and acquire more profit from each customer.
Kim has a local computer consultant – every small business should have one. Ask your computer consultant if he can offer you one flat fee per computer, which covers all of his technology services (anti-virus, support, preventive maintenance, etc).
Kim says she met her consultant about 6 months before she opened her store when she needed someone to fix her home computer. IShe says that, “n fact, many people have switched to him over some of the other local competition. He is honest and explains the “tech language” in layman’s terms.”
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