Yoga retailer stretches to combine debit/credit payments

A Vancouver-based retailer that specializes in yoga athletic wear is extending its reach in transaction processing by integrating debit and credit card purchases into a single system.

Lululemon Althetica operates 19 stores across

Canada and recently revised its point-of-sale terminals using a combination solution from Microsoft Canada and TD Bank Financial Group.

The retailer began with Microsoft’s Retail Management System (RMS) software running on Windows-based PCs last fall and added TD’s integrated processing technology – which is designed specifically for RMS – as soon as it became available.

Lululemon was using Moneris – a joint venture of Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal – to handle card-based transactions, but that required separate processing for debit and credit. The RMS/TD solution is a piece of technology that can handle both.

“The biggest advantage for us is speed. Instead of having to go to another terminal to run the transaction, you’re already in the process of tendering (it) out,” said Kim DuBois, technology manager for Lululemon.

The Moneris transactions were conducted via dial-up and “that’s quite painfully slow,” she said. “At Christmas time, when it’s very busy in the retail world, it becomes quite noticeable.”

The TD software uses an IP gateway. “The reaction time of the TCP/IP connection is like two to four seconds. By the time you’ve swiped the card, the slips are printing. It’s a big advantage for us to have that speed.”

The TD software rollout was handled quickly since the software is available from the bank through an FTP site. The application goes through once the bank supplies a product key. Then TD has to go on site to supply the PIN pads which are used to swipe the credit and debit cards. Each Lululemon store operates three and aisles and the retailer was able to roll out the solution to 17 locations in 10 days, said DuBois.

“This is not revolutionary,” said Carrie Russell, vice-president of TD Merchant Services. “I think it’s a very logical solution for merchants. It’s small steps so they can save time and safe money so they can focus on the business at hand.

“It is absolutely a faster service when the merchant is in front of the client. It’s integrated, meaning they don’t have to key something into a cash register.”

Lululemon employees will still swipe credit cards using the keyboard on their terminals rather than have the customer use the PIN pad, said Russell, but the information is still processed by the same software that handles debit. The software also generates XML-based reports so stores can get a real-time view of card-based transactions for any given period.

Lululemon originally thought the Microsoft/TD product would be an interim solution “because our growth is so large we didn’t know how long we would be able to use the system,” said DuBois. But the company was impressed by the product and the reseller that arranged the sale – Kitchener, Ont.-based Tri-City Retail Systems Inc. – that it has opted to keep the software.

According to Microsoft, RMS supports Windows 98 or later on a minimum of Pentium III at 500 MHz. Krista Kuehnbaum, CRM and RMS product manager for Microsoft Canada, said that the company is also in talks to introduce a similar dual-card solution for Moneris.

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