Some small retailers are just happy to make the sale. In today's competitive retail market, who could blame them?
However, a growing number of store owners are seeing the benefit of automating their point of sale operation and integrating storefront transactions with their back-office accounting and inventory systems. Using products such as Intuit's QuickBooks Point of Sales, small retailers are able to both reduce the potential for data-entry errors and increase the amount of data available to make more informed business decisions. That is, they know more about what's selling in trenches.
Trendy Clothing Store Gets the Point
When Stylz Clothing opened its doors a year and a half ago in Sacramento, Calif., owners Chris Loftin and Melina Koccha knew they wanted sales info fed directly into their QuickBooks accounting software. The business partners had previously owned a music store and were veteran QuickBooks Pro users. Having the point of sales system in place for the new business was a natural decision for the mall-based store that specializes in, as the name implies, stylish clothing, watches and jewelry.
The owners' next decision was how to implement QuickBooks Point of Sales. Intuit offers the product in several configurations. You can buy the software only, mix and match it with the receipt printer, bar code scanner, credit card reader or cash drawer. Or you can by the turnkey package, which includes everything in one box. "I think we got every option cash register, the printer for receipts, scanner ...," Loftin said. Although Loftin claims, "I'm no computer whiz," he was able to setup the business's two point of sales systems himself. "It was very easy to setup."
|QuickBooks Point of Sale is available as a complete retail system that includes software, cash drawer, credit card scanner, bar code scanner and receipt printer.|
For Stylz Clothing ease of use was just as important as ease of setup. In addition to owners Koccha and Loftin, Stylz Clothing has two other employees and is about to add a third. "Everyone is trained to use the system," Loftin said. He described the interface as looking "kind of like Internet Explorer." The system, he said, is easy to navigate. You click New Receipt, scan the bar code, enter the payment type and that's about it. He added that you can also set what you want employees to be able to access. For examples, the employees can't change security settings, adjust prices and so on.
So Little Space, So Many Products
While the 1,300 square feet that Stylz Clothing occupies isn't a huge space, the inventory the store carries belies its cozy confines. Loftin said the store carries 12,000-13,000 SKUs (or stock-keeping units). Loftin said that Stylz Clothing has a bar code for each product, allowing the store to track sales in any number of ways. The company can then generate reports based on what's selling. "You could tracks just hats or different teams, styles or colors."
|QuickBooks Point of Sale boasts a simple interface to make transacting a purchase a straightforward process.|
If a particular product isn't selling at the mall store at in Sacramento, the owners know that doesn't mean it won't sell to a much wider Web audience. Rather than devoting valuable floor space to a clearance section, Loftin said Stylz Clothing will offer the merchandise through eBay. eBay has proven to be a good source of revenues Loftin said Stylz Clothing does about $5,000 or $6,000 a month through eBay.
Being dedicated QuickBooks users, the store became a beta software site for the recently released QuickBooks Point of Sales 4.0 a version that boasts improved inventory management. With this new version retailers can e-mail purchase orders directly to their vendors, automatically generate purchase orders for all re-order items instead of manually generating reports, and account for special order items that are not currently tracked in inventory.
When it comes time to do a physical inventory, Stylz Clothing is implementing a new product announced by Intuit earlier this month. The Physical Inventory Scanner is a wireless hand-held scanner designed to eliminate the need for manual entry. The wireless device scans items on display racks to back rooms and that information is downloaded in a batch into the QuickBooks Point of Sale system. "My inventory is automatically updated in all my business records," Loftin said. "The inventory count will be more accurate, and I'll know when to re-order more of my most popular items before ever running out of them."
Version 4.0 is also designed to let store owners provide targeted customer service by offering one-screen viewing of customers' purchase history and notes directly from the receipt screen. Retailers can target customers for special events and promotions by creating mailing labels and e-mail lists based on customer address, recent purchases, or how much they've spent at your store.
A big part of Stylz Clothing marketing efforts involves promotions to existing customers, so getting customers to give up their name and address at the point of sales is a critical step for Stylz Clothing. "We do lots of flyers and postcards and now we are starting a loyalty card program." To get personal info needed to support those programs, the store offers a 15-percent discount while the customer is checking out.
The point of sales software helps the employees to track discounts based on those flyers and postcards and it lets the owners track why a discount was given and to what promotion it relates. "It's easier for employees to manage discounts and promotions and we don't have to wonder why they gave one customer a discount and not another."
QuickBooks Point of Sale Pricing
|Basic 4.0: $799 ($1,499.95 with hardware)|
Pro 4.0: $1,049.95 ($1,749.95 with hardware)
Pro Multi-Store 4.0: $1,399.95 ($2,099.95 with hardware)
Hardware off the Menu
QuickBooks to QuickBooks
According to Loftin, the integration between QuickBooks Point of Sale and QuickBooks Pro is simple. "At the end of the day, we push a button to send the info QuickBooks Pro in the back office." The business uses a peer-to-peer network and currently has no plans to add a server.
Loftin added that sometimes, if he is only one in the store, he'll enter bills into the accounting system from the Point of Sales of software at the counter. If a customer is ready to check out, he said he just has to hit a button to toggle back to the New Receipt screen. Then he goes back to entering bills.
While point of sales software can't guarantee success in the rough world of retail sales, products like QuickBooks Point of Sales do promise a way to gauge how your business and react to trends and manage accordingly.
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