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Eye for retail: BHF’s charity shop upgrade

Eye for retail: BHF’s charity shop upgrade
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Eye for retail: BHF’s charity shop upgrade

IT | Gareth Jones | 17 Feb 2011

The British Heart Foundation’s new EPoS system has dramatically improved the management of its charity shops. Gareth Jones reports.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has implemented a new EPoS retail system across its 600-plus stores in order to improve the management of its sales transactions. Rolled out over 12 weeks early in 2010, The Retail Suite from Itim provides touch screen technology in stores and will give head office greater control as sales data is now in real time.

According to Steve Biddle, head of finance for the charity’s retail division, this helps ensure any issues are flagged up immediately: “If there are a large number of refunds put through close together, it may mean there are training issues.”

He adds: “As the solution interfaces with our management information system, we are now able to make more informed business decisions. We are very happy with the quality of information we now have, and the level of control, and will shortly have the ability to measure the success of promotional campaigns.”

The next phase of the project will involve the automation of paperwork and administration, says Biddle. “We have a lot of paper-based processes around the company. For example, we send at least three bulletins out to our stores each month, which is a big manual operation, as a team needs to print out a huge amount of paper, collate and post it. The Retail Suite will enable us to fully automate the process, which we could never have done before, and I estimate that we’ll cut out 90 per cent of the paperwork.”

Biddle says the charity’s previous EPoS tills were basic and had limited software functionality. “We could only see the sale amount by PLU code and transaction, and whether it was a cash or card payment. This meant we could only get hold of quite basic data in terms of merchandising, stock control and finance. This was fed into our head office system overnight and was the source of our transactional data used to analyse trading performance, and we needed much more information to support our growing business.”

The old system that BHF was running wasn’t linked to its accounting system, and individual stores had to spend at least two hours compiling manual returns from the till reports (receipts etc). “Not only was this process time-consuming and labour-intensive, but also prone to error due to its manual nature. Our accounts department then had to take time to scrutinise the returns and look for any discrepancies. Now the data comes through, as the transactions happen, which allows our team to manage the process much more effectively and efficiently.”

Before implementing The Retail Suite, transactional data was transmitted to head office overnight. Often this data didn’t come through due to technical issues, and in weekly trading update meetings, information from 30 stores or more would be missing. “We now have a vastly improved and resilient communication channel and as there hasn’t been any manual intervention, we can rely on the information being correct.”

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