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As anyone running a small business knows, a transaction does not begin and end with handing the customer their change and saying "have a nice day". Stock control, ordering, invoicing, bookkeeping and accounting directly related to each purchase begin when the customer leaves the store. Modern point-of-sale (POS) applications and hardware can handle all of these functions and more. Durelle Fry looks at some of the different options available todayThe speed, versatility and functionality of point- of-sale (POS) systems in Australia today is largely dependent on the availability of sophisticated software. A range of POS software options equips both small and large scale retailers with the ability to turn either PCs or dedicated POS machines into efficient information access and recording devices which provide users with up to date information on inventory, pricing variations, stock control, and customer records. They are also able to provide detailed reports, and a variety of payment options, all at the push of a button or screen touch. Most opportunities for resellers are at the lower end of the market with individual store retailers or small chains. At the higher end, some POS system suppliers prefer to sell direct so that they can consult on project management and systems integration services.

Sybiz

Sybiz accounting software has a point-of-sale module designed for businesses that require a cash register or a cash drawer as part of their daily operations. Fully integrated to the Vision accounting system, the system features flexibility and control. The accounting system is totally updated whenever a transaction is made through the point-of-sale module, eliminating end of day reconciliation of receipts.

Sybiz recommends the module for three types of businesses. The first is companies which need to keep an accurate record of stock on a daily basis to fit in with high frequency reordering schedules. A good example is retailers of high-volume, usually low-cost or perishable goods. The second is wholesalers or manufacturers with retail outlets; and the third is companies that run an integrated accounting system yet need POS facilities on retail counters.

Stock control

One major feature of the module is stock control. An advantage of being fully integrated into the Vision accounting system is that the user can obtain precise information on inventory at any time during the day, so that stock sold can be replaced. Another feature is printing flexibility. The module can handle any type of receipt, invoice or docket which the user wants to print at the point of sale terminal. The user can have full control of the printed layout using the Forms Editor or the hard-coated receipt layout can be used on a strip or dot matrix printer.

Cash registers, cash drawers, keyboard wedge scanners and barcode readers and guns are all fully supported and APN barcodes may be recognised, in addition to the user's own product codes. The software also allows for touch screen operation. Each terminal can be configured separately to give total flexibility in the type of devices used.

Any terminal can also perform cash or account sales, or a mixture of both. As account payments are made, they may be entered through the point-of-sale module. The system handles payments by cash, cheque and credit card, or a mixture of these, and change is automatically calculated.

Lay-by sale requirements are also dealt with. Once the lay-by terms are set, the user opens a customer account using pre-determined defaults for minimal operator input, and processes the sale. Lay-bys can be paid by cash, cheque or credit card, or a mixture of these. The printed docket shows details of the total sale amount, deposits amount, balance due and due by date.

At the end of each day or operator shift, all transactions are processed to a cash clearing account which is then reconciled with the day's takings. The figures can then be posted to any of the company's bank accounts. Bank deposit slips can be automatically produced, and a full bank reconciliation is available if the General Ledger is used.

Each operator has a personal password and may only operate the functions designated by the Systems Manager.

Vision Point of Sale will directly access and update the Vision database over a network, and so does not need to be installed on the same workstation as the accounting system.

Other features of the system include: totals rounded to the nearest five cents for cash sales; handling of returns; ability to show own text on receipts for marketing purposes; a discount can be applied to each sale; receipt test facility, and reprint facility in case of printer problems; user defined sales analysis by operator or workstation; sales can be temporarily held and later resumed at a workstation; and tracking of serial numbered products.

Sybiz offers a number of benefits to its resellers, including full technical and sales training and support, e-mail bulletins and newsletters and free monthly training seminars. Sybiz resellers can also offer their customers a national telephone support hotline.

Sybiz provides marketing and promotional support for resellers through a Marketing Development Fund, with access to vertical market software from third-party developers through the Sybiz Business Solutions program and the opportunity to work with others on the Channel Partner Program.

The standard four Vision modules (General Ledgers, Debtors, Creditors, Inventory) and the point-of-sale module for a single-user licence is priced from $8720, with an additional $2420 for a five-user licence.

New software licences include all upgrades to the software released within the first 12 months of purchase, with an option to extend for an annual fee after that period.

Alternatively, Sybiz offers smaller businesses the Vision Lite Retail Accounting Pack which includes the standard four modules and point-of- sale - single user - for $2500, with a three- user licence costing an additional $2000.

Reckon Intuit

Reckon Intuit claims that QuickPos software can transform a PC into a "fast, versatile and productive" cash register to offer both a specialist retail POS system and complete account management process. It has been developed to provide retailers with full management reporting capability.

Developed to run on a dedicated POS terminal and fully integrated with QuickBooks Pro accounting software, QuickPos operates via barcode scanners, pole displays, cash drawers, POS keyboards and receipt printers.

The design principle behind QuickPos was to build a good POS package over a proven accounting package. There is no duplication of tasks or information between the packages. The product has been designed to be as easy to install and set up as QuickBooks, and the user doesn't need to be trained in the use of a computer - only the ability to use a cash register is necessary.

QuickPos can be used simultaneously on multiple in-store PCs to eliminate re-entry and automatically transfer all day-to-day transactions, stock movement and relevant information from QuickPos directly into the correct section of the retailer's QuickBooks Pro accounting files.

Features of QuickPos include: a fully programmable keyboard including PLU number assignment and Open Department assignment; preinstalled drivers for Star, Epson and Citizen printers; several Cash drawers pre-configured for Samsung, Citizen, and DH Technology; ability to print reports on the receipt/docket printer; ability to round up to and down to, and to any user specified amount; a complete Setup Wizard that allows the user to set up a file, machine, and QuickBooks data file, as well as retrieve items, customers and suppliers; on screen assistance as well as a windows help file; a single window for all transactions; mouse-free operation; and the ability to send messages between terminals.

QuickPos can transfer programmable keyboard templates between machines and locations. Once a standard keyboard or programmable keyboard has been set up, it can be used many times.

Fully integrated with the accounting package, all transfers are automated between QuickPos and QuickBooks Pro. The user only has to click "send" for the process to be completed. QuickPos utilises QuickBooks Pro for its purchases and inventory, and to reconcile its bank accounts.

The RRP of QuickPos is $995.

Data-Tech Software

Released last month, Digi~Till is designed as an alternative to conventional cash registers and other point-of-sale systems. All retail transactions are "captured" by Digi~Till and the information is accumulated, summarised and made available through reports.

At this stage the product is only suitable for LANs, but the product has been successfully used on businesses with up to 500 transactions per day, and nine terminals on a network.

In addition to covering all aspects of sales, Digi~Till takes care of all relevant information regarding a business's stock, customers, employees and suppliers. A button click can produce sales, stock, staff, supplier, and customer reports. No accounting knowledge is required to use Digi~Till. The software has been designed so that the printing of a report on one terminal doesn't interfere with the performance of other terminals.

The reports are generated from local copies of the software.

In order to handle wages, purchases and other expenses and to produce complete management and financial reports, an accounting system is required. Digi~Till exports key information to M.Y.O.B. accounting software, QuickBooks and other systems. The product works with any version of M.Y.O.B., including First Accounts, but it is not necessary to have an accounting software package to run Digi~Till.

For cashing up at the end of the day, Digi~Till provides all the necessary reconciliation and banking reports, and guides the user through the cashup process before committing the day's sales. The system lists all the invoices for an item plus the price paid.

By entering the product codes directly into Digi~Till, the system will work out shortages, eliminating stock lists.

Digi~Till is available now at an RRP of $999. Optional is an electronic cash drawer, a pole display, a barcode reader, and a docket printer.

Siemens Nixdorf

Seeking to involve resellers in its aim to increase its presence in the Australian retail market, Siemens is looking at focusing on a partnership relationship. As reported recently in ARN, resellers can be involved on two levels. In the case of a smaller retailer, the reseller, or channel partner handles the complete sale. That involves Siemens POS hardware as well as Siemens partner software. In the case of a large retailer, Siemens will sell the hardware direct and supply project management and systems integration services, while the reseller sells software through the software partner.

Veronica Allen, retail industry manager of Siemens Nixdorf, told ARN the company is very interested in hearing from resellers who are dedicated POS specialists and who turn over or wish to turn over high levels of POS business at any level of the market. Resellers who wish to become agents selling on to smaller retailers are invited to speak to Geoffrey Ramadan at Unique Micro Design (UMD) on (03) 9764 8166.

Siemens POS hardware, The Beetle, is an open POS system based on PC industry standards, offering both compact and modular models. In addition to the use of non-proprietary PC industry standard technology, Siemens offers specific POS features such as integrated power failure protection and powered peripheral interfaces for a higher level of security and system availability. Siemens also offers a controlled product lifecycle - the company ensures long-term continuity of design and functionality, as well as application software compatibility.

All Beetle POS systems feature Pentium 233MMX processors, up to 128MB RAM and 3GB hard drives. Options are on-board LAN and SVGA. There can be up to eight serial ports to provide power to peripheral devices such as scanners and customer displays. A separate 24V power supply and option of UPS provides a high level of integration and fail safe pro-tection. All Beetle systems support Windows 95/98, Windows NT4.0, and DOS operating systems.

The Beetle/20 is the entry-level system for small business retailing, available in both modular and compact models. The compact model has an integrated printer, operator and customer displays and POS keyboard. The modular provides integrated keyboard and customer display and allows a choice of a thermal or impact printer, and a colour monitor.

The Beetle/l and Beetle/XL are both modular systems for more demanding retail environments. The /L provides two expansion slots and the /XL provides four expansion slots for PCI or ISA expansion cards. The Beetle/M is similar to /L but offers the option of a CD-ROM for multimedia applications. The /M also has an extremely small footprint.

Peripheral devices offered by Siemens include an impact printer ND77, thermal printers A756 and A793 receipt printer. Both customer and operator displays are available, as are SNIkey touch screens, cash drawers and keyboards.

The RRP of the Siemens POS systems start at $2689 for the modular and $2869 for the compact.

Siemens software partners provide Xpress Lane and Enabler. Xpress Lane has been developed by TradeMart Technologies, based in Canada. It has two main components: The Point of Service System and the Store Operations integrator. The software delivers standard retail functions and provides electronic journal, stocktake, manual discounting, stock transfer, balancing, security and stock receipt/order.

The database technology supporting Xpress Lane is pro-vided by Sybase. The application can run on either fat or thin clients. ISL Australia has developed Enabler.

The product is an in-store system with links to Head Office systems if required. While Enabler manages store functions such as selling, in-store inventory management, and the control and balancing of cash, it leaves other third-party systems to handle merchandising, distribution and warehousing and financial matters.

Enabler runs on Windows 95/98 and Windows NT. It features a GUI, is modular, and can be customised to meet individual business needs.

Australian Retail Technology

enCounter has been purpose designed and written in Australia around Australian Retail Technology's main hardware product, the IPC POS terminal. The product utilises features and functions of the terminal such as five position keylock, customer display and magnetic card reader, to create an alternative to the electronic cash register and at the same time offering the connectivity features and data processing capability of a personal computer. Australian Retail Technology (ART) claims that retraining of staff is often not required when switching from a standard cash register to the IPC-POS.

enCounter Retail Management software is both year 2000 com- pliant and GST ready. ART believes it is particularly suited to franchises and multi-store environments where varying levels of security allow for Owner/Manager/Supervisor/Operator hierarchies. EFTpos has also been integrated into the package with support for both the Commonwealth Bank and the Colonial/State Bank (of NSW).

enCounter includes direct weighing scale interfaces and reads scale produced PLU/price barcode labels, obtaining both the quantity sold and actual selling price for stock control purposes. Other interfaces include cheque readers and Portable Data Entry (PDE) units. A barcode label printer can be attached to automatically produce barcode and/or shelf labels when stock is received for items that do not have manufacturer labels affixed.

enCounter has a number of built-in reports and also a report writer to develop customised reports. The sales data can also be exported to a number of third-party accounting packages. Similarly, product and account customer information can be imported.

Able to be exported internationally, a user set Currency character is a feature of enCounter. This allows customisation of the currency denominations, rounding and decimal point position to suit the country in which it is installed.

On screen assistance includes a help key; pop-up windows with operator prompts and error messages; and a built-in, fully functional calculator that appears at the press of a key.

Also built in is a training mode, which allows a new operator to have full access to the system data and to carry out most POS functions, without affecting the stored information. One key immediately allows the operator to return to sales mode.

Other features of the software include: the ability to reprint processed dockets; value adding prompt messages; the ability to hold and resume sales; percentage and dollar discount functions; special member or VIP prices; integrated stock control; quantity purchase discounts; non-discountable product lines; product sales history; full lay-by functionality; frequent shopper data base; multiple shifts per day; branch to head office updating; magnetic card interface; and an optical cheque reader interface.

The RRP of enCounter Retail Management Software packaged with IPC POS III and cash drawer is approximately $4600.

IBM

IBM's retail software, imaginatively titled Retail Application, is a PC-DOS based program designed to run an entire store on an intelligent terminal. Server platforms include those running DOS, OS/2 or Windows NT with a DOS or OS/2 at the terminal.

All options work compatibly with other systems, such as ISP or host systems. The software is menu driven and can be customised to suit individual needs.

Features include: touch support; the ability to operate a checkout in a portable mobile environment; cheque reading as well as Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR); post-line-item modify capability for clean receipt printing; electronic journal capability; a negative cheque file with a history of bad cheques written to a store; and data entry including merchandise transfers between stores, warehouse receipts, vendor shipments, markdowns, physical inventory and supply orders; online help displayed as a screen message; training mode; and offline mode - the terminal can be used offline with either diskettes or hard file.

Optional features include: inventory management; security control through either a manager key or authorisation code; sales input can be from touch screens, scanners, and/or hand held bar code readers; price management including original price, current price and date-and-time sensitive sale price; POS markdowns; promotional events; employee time and attendance; electronic mail; up to 16 different tender types including multiple credit cards, personal and traveler's cheques, gift certificates, coupons and store credits; GST support; credit support; sales reporting; preferred customer; and credit authorisation.

Retail Application is supported by IBM 4612 Mobile Computer and 4684, 4693,4694 and Distributed 4695 Point-of-Sale Terminals and Controller/ Terminals; IBM SureOne Point-of-Sale Terminals; and IBM PC Cashdrawer solutions.

In addition to Retail Application, IBM's other POS software is IBM Foodservice Application (FA), a completely integrated POS application with a powerful back office module. The solution is DOS-based and can be run on a choice of intelligent controller/terminals. It can be operated independently or connected to larger systems. FA back office may be run in a DOS window with other OS/2 applications.

IBM's 4610 SureMark POS printer features thermal receipt printing; impact slip printing for multipart forms and cheques; increased flexibility of flash memory; dual interfaces for attachment to IBM or other POS terminals or PCs; drop-and-load paper handling; and according to IBM, "the smallest footprint currently available in thermal/impact POS printers".

Since IBM's POS solutions are sold as packages custom configured for the needs of each customer, IBM is unable to quote RRPs for its products. Pricing is available by contacting IBM directly.

Contacts:

Australian Retail Technology

Tel (02) 9809 6095

Data-Tech Software

Tel 1800 555 007

IBM Australia

Tel 13 2426

Intuit Australia

Tel 1800 674 888

Siemens Nixdorf

Tel (03) 9522 6111

Sybiz Vision

Tel 1800 683 783


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