The Hidden Treasure In Your Till by @eposco for #IndieRetail

The humble till has been recording sales and accounting for cash for over a century but the advent of Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) solutions over the last twenty years has unearthed a mine of information available to the retailer who knows where to look.
“What need you, being come to sense, But fumble in a greasy till And add the halfpence to the pence”

September 1913 WB Yeats… Function of the Till

WB Yeats might have aptly described the function of the till just after the turn of the last century but the modern day retailer must utilise the resources available to him for far more than counting cash and when he does so he might well find a wealth of information that will help him manage stock, drive his sales and ultimately increase his margin.

Basic sales reports such as top sellers, slow sellers and margins will always be vital and some systems offer the capability of scheduling these reports to be e mailed to relevant parties as appropriate. The accountant can get monthly figures together with his VAT analysis straight to his desk, the manager, a report by category while the owner can get a get a turnover report by branch to his mobile phone in real time.

Other reports can also give useful information. Sales of a particular category when compared with the space allocated to that department in a shop,  number of transactions by staff member, discount offered by employee or the level of accessories sold by assistant can give a good indication of the efficiency of shop design, performance of staff and potentially provide a basis for change, reward or commission.

Footfall Counters Becoming More Widely used

Footfall counters are becoming more widely used in multi branch environments and integrated with information from a good EPoS system can highlight situations where potential customers are not being attended to and sales not being maximised. A comparative conversion rate of customers to sales is a strong indicator as to the performance of branch managers.

Suggested upselling has long been a feature of the EPoS system but some systems have brought his feature a step further where technical or background information about a particular product can be produced by the system and comparisons between products can also be provided. The ill-informed sales assistant could well be a thing of the past if features such as this are utilised and maintained.

The subject of loyalty cards is too broad for this piece but it must be noted that the information that can be gleamed from a well-run integrated loyalty scheme can be invaluable.  An  analysis of goods purchased together, (when a customer buys x they also buy y), can also be of benefit in store planning and design

The EPoS System might also help sales and continue to work when the customer has left the store. The option of e- mailing a receipt to a customer can offer more than just saving the cost of a till roll. The e-mailed receipt is always easier to access for the customer should it be required for return purposes. The receipt can also be used as an opportunity to advertise complementary goods that the customer may be interested in and a valid e mail address together with purchasing history will give the retailer the chance to address the potential requirements of their customer directly.

Having a well maintained stock file will also let staff and hence customers know exactly where stock is if not available in a particular branch. Stock can be held or transferred as the customer requires.

You Make Your Profit When You Buy Not When You Sell

It is often said that you make your profit when you buy not when you sell and using the Purchase Ordering utility on an EPoS System can prove most beneficial to the retailer who is willing to invest a bit of time establishing and maintaining supplier details including lead time. The purchase order system keeps the accountant happy as they can be satisfied that they will only be invoiced for goods that have been ordered and delivered at the agreed price. The retailer can also take comfort from knowing what items are on order and keep an eye to ensure that trends can be optimised by increasing or decreasing orders that have yet to be fulfilled.

While the cost of stock on hand should be easily ascertainable what might not be so apparent is the level of profit tied up in stock. For FMCG this may not be a problem but for slower moving items  problems may arise. If a stock item can no longer be sold for at least its cost price the sooner that the retailer can identify these items the better. EPoS Systems have the capability of recording price changes over time and comparison of items that have dropped in price to stock levels of those items will help the retailer plan future discounts or promotions in a managed fashion. The planning of stock with regard to intake margins, discounts or reductions and the realisation that final margin may not meet expectation are powerful tools to be used.

Coupling sales information with lead times, together with the ability to increase or decrease an order by a percentage depending on requirement (promotions, weather, occasions) can give a huge amount of control to the retailer over what stock they purchase. A good EPoS system will incorporate these elements to offer suggested purchasing to ensure that core stock is always on the shelves.

Suggested purchasing does come with a health warning though. The “Open to buy” status as calculated by a system needs to take into account seasonality, e.g.  high BBQ sales may not imply that you want to but thousands more; conversely a low level of sales could mean that the item was not available on the shelf as opposed not in demand by the customer.

While Yeats would recognise the physical transaction over the counter and cash must still be counted the wealth of information available to retailer today would not be something that even a poet’s imagination would have countenanced.

This blog was provided by Patrick Heslin of Retail Integration




About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
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