Point-of-sale (POS) systems are a well-kept secret among some computer resellers. They have found a niche that allows them to combine ongoing hardware sales with expertise in software and user needs. Changes such as the expected GST and the tax office's crackdown on "money that falls under the counter" plus new technology like smart cards, means new opportunities for resellers with the right skills and products. Durelle Fry reports on some of these productsThe retail industry has always been the first to feel the effect of changes to consumers' lifestyles, earnings and spending patterns. How much money is available, and how it's spent, is today determined more and more by interest rates and employment levels.
Consumer buying patterns have changed. While luxury items still have appeal, we are seeing less of items which don't fit today's lifestyle. Consumers are rationalising their purchases to fit in with longer working hours and less leisure time. Retailers have had to accommodate the needs of consumers in order to stay competitive and profitable. Examples of changes which have had to be made are positioning smaller outlets close to consumers' places of work, staying open longer, and the necessity to stock convenience items such as prepared or complete meals.
The longer hours of opening have resulted in changes to the character of employees with many more part-time and casual employees and in many cases, younger staff.
POS technology, while becoming more advanced and able to accumulate a wider range of data, has had to become user friendly, accessible and suitable to a wide range of specialist retail outlets and operators with varying levels of experience. Systems are either PC or smart cash register-based, with important considerations being suitability for the retail environment (able to cope with dust, dirt and spillage), ease of use, versatility and "ruggedability".
NCR preaches point of service
Paul Mitchell, industry manager for NCR's Retail Systems Group, told ARN that retailers "use information technology (IT) as a key differentiator". He added that retailers need IT to retain competitiveness, and that "the only retailers that survive are the ones that understand IT at the retail level, the customer level and the item level".
Mitchell explained that NCR is trying to educate retailers to treat 'point-of-sale' as 'point of service'. It's becoming necessary for retailers to know the demography of their customers to precisely determine what stock to buy, what range and when the customer wants it.
NCR has technology to accumulate the customer database required to obtain this information. Maximum effectiveness of this information is achieved when customers are loyal to a particular retail outlet. Retailers can implement systems to encourage loyalty, such as frequent shopper or shopper loyalty cards, where consumers are offered discounts or other incentives to shop at a particular store.
NCR POS technology is therefore moving towards the collection of consumer data, customer service, employee motivation, training, controlling costs and more productive staff.
Products which NCR is targeting at the reseller market are the 7452 and 7453 point-of-sale terminals and DynaKey, an integrated point-of-sale keyboard and display currently used by Fosseys and The Body Shop. Other new technology targeted at the reseller is the 7890-Plus scanner and the new 7875 Scanner Scale.
Interested resellers should contact Ily Dean, NCR's national reseller sales manager, on (02) 9964 8111 for further details.
The NCR 7452 is NCR's flagship POS terminal with PC capability, 32-bit PC technology and OLE for POS. The Pentium-based integrated or modular POS terminal has full-motion video and sound.
The NCR 7452 can be used in a variety of configurations such as a multimedia workstation for online employee training or suggestive selling to customers during POS transactions; as a tool for assessing store statistics, employee productivity data, e-mail, up-to-the minute transaction information at every checkout; and finally as an entry point into the network to provide inventory look-up or act as a store information display and special promotional kiosk.
NCR thermal printers form part of the 7452 POS system and the company claims that they print "up to four times faster than traditional POS printers". The speed allows the printing of high resolution logos, barcodes and coupons on the customer receipt without slowing down the transaction. The integrated MICR reader is included to accelerate the cheque authorisation process.
The suggested price of the NCR 7452 varies according to the configuration and is approximately $6500 to $8500.
The 7453 is also a Pentium-based terminal. It's a compact version for smaller work areas. Known as a "small footprint" machine, it doesn't have as much expandability as some of the other terminals.
Retail peripherals supported by the product include cash drawers, displays, keyboards and printers. NCR markets the 7453 as "a scalable solution that allows retailers to purchase an entry level configuration to meet today's DOS-based needs. It provides a migration path for growth in order to upgrade memory, processing and peripheral options for graphical Windows 95 or Windows NT environments in the future."
The 7453 is designed on an open architecture and combines an LPX form factor processor board with RS-232 connectivity. It includes 32-bit power with a 586DX or Pentium processor, three different processing level options, and operates on Microsoft DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT.
The NCR 7453 is available now at an approximate RRP of $6500 to $8500, depending on the configuration.
The DynaKey Operator Display is a peripheral developed by NCR for its PC-based POS terminals. The product uses the intuitive design of an ATM to deliver an easy-to-use operator interface at the point-of-sale. DynaKey integrates the functions of a keyboard and an operator display. The eight dynamic keys control all functions, and can change with each stage of the transaction. In addition, there are 14 function keys, a numeric keypad and receipt scrolling keys.
There is direct visual association between dynamic keys and other menu selections; consistent screen layouts and information queues carry over from screen to screen, improving operator familiarity and performance.
DynaKey is a "small footprint" machine with a 10in VGA LCD monochrome or colour screen. It has audio capability for operator prompts and is available in either remote or checkstand mounting that can be raised, tilted or swivelled to accommodate a variety of POS setups and operator preferences.
Additional features of DynaKey include an all-in-one three-track MSR reader, keylock and power switch system safeguards, and a wedge peripheral interface to allow migration to future PC-based workstations. The interface also supports hand-held scanners and other peripherals.
NCR claims that tests using DynaKey in retail stores have shown a 50 per cent reduction in training time, and a 10Ð20 per cent productivity improvement over operations on conventional checkout terminals.
DynaKey has an optional Touchscreen Operator Display for environments such as cafes, restaurants, bakeries and in-store delicatessens.
The Dynakey is not available for sale individually. For further details on any of the NCR product range, contact Elise Brown on (02) 9964 8131.
NCR 7890 Presentation Scanner
The 7890 is a laser scanner designed for use in a variety of retail environments. The dense, omni-directional scan pattern offers either presentation or pickup scanning, and recognises both left- and right-handed scanning positioning. The NCR 7890 doesn't require any orientation or precise locating of the barcode label, and can easily be lifted to allow larger merchandise to be scanned.
The depth of field is controlled to 152mm, to prevent misreads and background reads, yet barcodes can be read that touch the window.
The NCR 7890 is small and can be positioned in many ways to accommodate a variety of workplace configurations and merchandise. The scanner has no glass parts and can withstand drops to concrete from 1.5 metres.
There are multiple interface options which include OCIA, RS-232-C and IBM (RS-485). The scanner reads and discriminates among all major retail symbologies. Accessories include electronic article surveillance capabilities and mounting options.
The approximate RRP of the NCR 7890 Presentation Scanner is $1350 and it's available now.
Australian Retail Technology (ARTech)
ARTech has been a major supplier of POS products for 10 years, mainly supplying IPC brand POS hardware to dealers and VARs. More than 1500 IPC POS terminals have been installed in Australia.
The supplier has recently released a new range of POS products - the nexPOS range which includes Pro, Elite and Gold models. The nexPOS Pro, with a two line x 20-character operator display, is priced around $4000. The nexPOS Elite, with 80 x 25 mono LCD operator display and an optional colour LCD display, is priced around $5000. Both products come with a docket printer and cash drawer.
The nexPOS Gold has the whole unit built into a POS keyboard which is smaller than a standard PC keyboard and has a colour LCD monitor attached. It is priced at around $5500, plus printer and cash drawer.
This machine is built to look, feel and function like an electronic cash register. It offers open architecture PC standards and connectivity together with ECR/POS functions.
It is marketed for small convenience stores, fashion outlets, restaurants and small specialty stores. The machine can either stand alone, or can complement large POS installations such as hypermarkets, where a small register in a kiosk or cafeteria can reside on the same network as a large checkout POS system.
Features of the nexPOS Pro include:
Fully integrated housing with flexibility of hardware combinationsCombination of displays from numeric only to 5mm alpha numeric to 10.5mm alpha numericSmart card reader optionDouble track magnetic card readerPop-up or flat membrane keyboardDifferent printer combinationsConnectivity for two cash drawersFull memory retention during power failure - returning the terminal exactly where it left off when the power went down.
This machine offers freedom of choice in the configuration of printer, keyboard, operator and customer display and as such is marketed for the varying retail environments of specialty stores and boutiques, convenience stores, restaurants and gen-eral merchandising.
The nexPOS Elite is an open system platform, allowing vertical system enhancement with changing technology, and it supports most standard Windows-based applications.
Features of nexPOS Elite include:
A fully integrated design
VGA mono or colour LCD or touch screen LCD or 2 x 20 alpha numeric VFD operator display1 x 11 numeric or 2 x 20 alpha numeric VFD customer displaySmart Card reader optionSingle, double or three track magnetic card readerPop-up or flat membrane keyboardOne or two station matrix or thermal printerConnectivity for two cash drawersBuilt-in Ethernet LAN on boardThe nexPOS Elite is a "small footprint" machine. It has electronic cash register style operation and provides easy connection for peripherals such as barcode reader, modem, external keyboard and pin-pad.
This modular system with integral CPU and open connectivity is designed for multi-lane checkout counters such as hypermarkets and high-end specialty stores, or for fine dining and hospitality businesses. It is described by the manufacturer as having "one of the smallest footprints available".
The features of nexPOS Gold include:
Compact ergonomic design with integral CPUFull VGA interface, allowing connection to an external VGA monitor and/or integral LCD VGA panelTrack 1, 2 or 3 plus ISO magnetic card reader84 programmable keysConnectivity for any standard retail printerConnectivity for two cash drawersBuilt-in Ethernet LAN on boardNorwood Cash DrawersNorwood manufactures software activated, serial/parallel and personalised intelligent interfaces that make PC and cash drawer interaction possible.
There are two PC/Cash Drawer combinations available, the 125K2L and the slightly shorter 125K2. The features are common to both products. The steel construction drawers have a side-lock which may be overrun by computer command or used manually as a release mechanism. There is a centre lock, a stainless steel front, a removable ABS money tray, and an optional metal lockable lid for the insert. There is a drawer release solenoid and microswitch and the interface wire is unterminated for connection to a PC or printer. The 125K2 has pre-drilled holes in the top for under counter mounting.
The trade price for the 125K2 is $265 for up to 10 units and $255 for more than 10 units. The 125K2L has a trade price of $298.
Norwood also manufactures POS peripherals, all of which have a 12-month full parts and labour back-to-base warranty. Standby peripherals are available for temporary replacement.
The Star SP212 42-column dot matrix receipt printer has a peripheral port to drive a cash drawer. The RRP is $495.
The CCD scanner 60/80 series with built-in decoder is simply installed via the shared keyboard port. It is available for 60mm and 80mm scan width and has a reading distance of 10mm. There are two models available: keyboard wedge type with built-in decoder and RS232 type with built-in decoder. The keyboard wedge scanner comes complete with a specified cable which allows you to connect the barcode reader and keyboard to the keyboard-port of the PC. The operator can then use the barcode reader and the keyboard simultaneously. The RS232 scanner has an RS232 interface and can be connected to any device which supports RS232 input. The RRP of the 60mm scanner is $423 and the 80mm scanner is $570.
The POS 003 cash drawer is a lightweight unit designed for low traffic areas. Installation is via the receipt printer. The RRP is $252. Interested resellers can contact the Norwood Trading Co on (02) 9905 3478 or fax (02) 9905 7193 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgUnique Micro DesignUMD describes itself as the "largest independent POS distributor in Australia". In addition to distributing wholesale products, the company designs and manufactures its own products. According to Julian Day, sales and marketing manager of UMD, the company also specialises in resolving connectivity problems that arise.
UMD is the master distributor of Siemens Nixdorf's BEETLE range of computerised POS products.
The BEETLE/20 is a new addition to the range and operates on the PCR (PC-based Cash Register) System.
It is a "small footprint" machine and provides freedom of choice to configure printers, displays and peripherals as required.
According to Day, the BEETLE/20 is a "stable and reliable platform which the reseller can add value to. The reseller can develop a solution with their customers to give them what they want, not what they get stuck with!"
Day adds that the BEETLE/20 is not reliant on Siemens products. For example, users can purchase a 60-key keyboard or a lay-by keyboard which is like a conventional 101 but has many extra programmable keys. This enables customer details as well as lay-by data to be entered.
The BEETLE/20 supports the new industry standard for hardware/software communication, OPOS (OLE for POS). The system is a freely programmable POS terminal which can be run from DOS or Windows.
Connectivity is "virtually unlimited", regardless of whether it is linked to standard LANs or WANs.
The terminal is suggested for all areas of trade including hospitality, specialty, pharmacy, kiosk, or the specialist textile trade.
The BEETLE/20 has an RRP of $3403 for the minimum configuration of 4Mb RAM plus 84-key keyboard, VGA Con-troller and a 9in mono monitor, through to $4384 for a system which includes an M127 cash drawer and printer.
Interested resellers can contact Julian Day at UMB on (03) 9764 8166; or fax (03) 9764 8177; or e-mail: email@example.com. Further information is available on UMD's Web site at www.umd.com.au/~umd/.
NCR 7875 Bi-Optic Aggressive Read Scanner/ScaleFeatures of the scanner/scale include:
Top-down read from the 152mm high vertical window - minimal orientation of products is neededA 178mm bottom window providing an increased scanning zone, to allow barcodes to be read on the first passA second video channel which creates a dense scan zone, increasing the depth of field and improving label-read performanceQuick-read capability when barcodes are presented to the vertical window because of the denser scan zonePacesetter 3 software, which allows the scanner to make decisions about poor quality labels in its environmentPacesetter Plus software, which automatically reports label misprints and printer failuresA clean glass indicator to let the cashier know when the scanner window has become too dirty to perform"Scan Doctor", a self-diagnostics system which runs every time the scanner goes through a power cycle, alerting the cashier through speech synthesis if a failure has occurred.
Operational voice activation alerts the operator to clean debris from the scale so that it operates accuratelyDual RS-232 ports which permit the addition of peripheralsCashier-side volume controls or cashiers can adjust the "good read" tone to accommodate varying in-store noise levels The approximate RRP of the NCR 7875 is $4200 and it's available now.
New name in POS printer market
IPL Datron Group has just reached an exclusive five-year distribution agreement with American POS specialist printer manufacturer Transact Technologies.
Covering Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the South Pacific region, the agreement will open up many new channels for the group, currently the suppliers of Oki and Voca products in this area.
Available here from August, Transact printers are developed to provide transaction records such as receipts, tickets, coupons, register journals, and other relevant documents. The company manufactures and sells customisable and custom-built dot matrix and thermal printers for POS applications, requiring up to 40Ð60 character columns, in addition to an 80- column laser printer.
Contact: Jeremy de Silva at IPL Datron on (02) 9698 8211.
Visit Transact's Web site at: transact-tech.comPOSsibilities . . .
The following products are also distributed by ARTech. The first, the IPC GRS, is a modular POS terminal which incorporates a separate monitor, POS controller and keyboard. It has an RRP of $3165.
The second product, the FlexiPOS, is a POS keyboard that can be attached to a standard PC. The RRP of the FlexiPOS is $750.
This product consists of a retail box unit that acts as a printer base, and an integrated keyboard unit incorporating security keylock, built-in magnetic card reader, barcode scanner interface and optional LCD operator display.
The keyboard takes up little counter space, and can also be mounted on a pole above counters or bench-mounted barcode readers. The base unit controls two cash drawers, printer and customer displays.
The unit can be mounted horizontally or vertically either under the printer or under the counter.
Two versions are available in the range. The first is a PC-based intelligent system which allows the use of hard disk drives, network cards or built-in modems, equipping it for use as a stand- alone system in remote locations and stores. The second version is a network server or intelligent workstation. The terminal system is based on the DEC VT220 emulation and suits large stores with multiple register requirements.
The IPC FlexiPOS keyboard is a cash register-style keyboard offering 88 programmable keys with removable keytops for labelling.
Also offered in the unit is a security keylock, magnetic card, barcode reader and operator display interfaces. The unit attaches to a standard IBM-compatible PC, and allows the use of existing computer equipment.
Options include operator displays (either 9in mono monitor or LCD), pole mounted customer display, slip and receipt printers, and cash drawers.
Interested resellers can contact Graeme Neuhaus on:
Tel (02) 9809 6095 orÊFax (02) 9808 3052.