A Canadian fashion retailer wants to help young women shop even faster by installing an advanced point-of-sale system designed to reduce paper costs and ease the introduction of new features.

YM Inc., parent company of such stores as

Stitches, Urban Planet, and Sirens, said it is working with NCR Corp. to replace a legacy IBM retail platform running under DOS 3.3 with the latter’s RealPOS 80. The new system, running under a Windows 2000 interface, is connected to a broadband internet connection via Cisco routers, and includes a thermal printer and a bar code scanner. The retailer anticipates that the point-of-sale hardware will bear out tremendous cost savings in the long run — especially compared to other options on the market.

“We looked at a PC cash drawer option which, to look at it at first, seems to be the most economical, but it actually isn’t,” said Mignon Young, general manager of business systems and support for YM Inc.

“By the time you buy all the separate components and put them together you’ve exceeded the cost of (the NCR system).”

The speed of the chain’s POS terminals will see a dramatic increase under the NCR infrastructure, according to the vendor’s vice-president of retail solutions, Brian Sullivan.

“Typically the speed improvements on the processor are a factor of 20 to 1, just in the way to process transactions, but when you put a Windows environment on, a lot of the overhead is consumed by the new OS,”” he said. “”The single most important improvement is the ability to scan bar codes so they don’t need to be entered by the operator.””

Young added that the NCR product far outshined the competition in terms of durability.

“The NCR hardware is able to take the abuse of day to day retail living,”” she said. “”From the demos we saw it has been tested significantly with being dropped and hammered and slammed, all the stuff that happens in a store, and it’s been built to take that abuse.””

Young also pointed to the system’s open architecture as a selling point for her company.

“The architecture of the hardware allows us to add on should we need to do cheque readers or electronic signature capture,” said Young, adding that the Windows platform will allow their stores further flexibility in terms of using spreadsheets, e-mail, and other software.

YM Inc.’s RealPos 80 system is running under software from NCR partner company Datavantage, which is already used by Canadian retailers like Le Chateau and Holt Renfrew. Under the NCR/Datavantage solution, customer checkout time has been drastically reduced.

“A receipt in the past would take approximately 12 seconds to print, it now happens in 2 seconds or less. Consumer management, consumer handling is a key goal of what YM is trying to accomplish — ‘How do I deal with the consumer in a professional and expedient manner?’ The new system allows them to do that,” said Sullivan.

Thermal printing technology will not only save YM Inc. time but money, said Young, who said the retailer’s paper costs would be dramatically reduced now that double rolls and separate journal tapes will be a thing of the past.

Operating the registers over a virtual private network (VPN) will provide additional savings for the company, according to Sullivan.

“The VPN basically was an economical method of increasing the speed at which credit card and debit card transactions are processed. That’s the first piece,”” he said. “”It also provides the necessary backbone or framework that head office needs to communicate with the stores. And because they’re using the Internet they’re doing it at a reasonable cost.””

NCR will fully support the system, though Sullivan stressed that ease of maintenance is among its key features.

“The serviceability on this terminal is exceptional in that it doesn’t require tools. The cover of the equipment can be opened to allow the drive to be replaced or memory to be added in a toolless design,” said Sullivan.

Training time and costs on the new system will also be dramatically reduced.

“The application is very user friendly and very easy. Training is probably one fourth the time of the old register,” said Young. “We’re using about four hours to train as opposed to four days on the old system.”

The system is at 30 per cent rollout now, and the retailer anticipates its entire chain will be running on the NCR infrastructure by 2005.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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