For years, Fisher’s Gardens manager Brian Kocher understood the value of a point-of-sale (POS) system, but like many of his peers, he couldn’t justify the cost. Are you in the same boat?
What follows are three garden center retailers and their reasons why – even during uncertain economic times – they felt a POS system was a necessary purchase for their businesses to move forward.
The Support System
Kocher’s journey of adding a POS system to his garden center was a little thriftier than most, but still a significant ($8,000 to $10,000) investment.
“An opportunity presented itself,” Kocher says. “I was able to buy all of the hardware for a CounterPoint POS system at a garden center foreclosure sale.”
Many garden centers set up a system like this for its inventory control features, and Fisher’s Gardens in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, is no exception. “Inventory management was a big issue with us,” Kocher says. “When it’s all on paper or it’s in your head, you think you know what you have. Maybe you’re right, but most of the time you’re wrong.”
Fisher’s has been able to use the new system to provide accurate reports of what has sold and to whom it was sold. “That kind of stuff is very valuable and it also makes our management lives a little easier,” he says. “The old way was very laborious and time-intensive. Now with a couple of clicks, we know how many of items X, Y and Z we have or don’t have. It’s helped us a lot in reordering and preparing for next spring.”
The technologically savvy Kocher installed Fisher’s POS system on his own, but he is a big advocate of paying for additional technical support. “I can’t be there 24 hours just in case something goes wrong. If a glitch happens, my staff can call tech support and get things ironed out quickly,” he says.
Kocher says he is currently underutilizing the recently installed POS system, but Fisher’s Gardens is now set up to run gift cards and an updated (paperless) loyalty program.
Getting To Know Your Customer
Along with inventory control, customer management was a huge selling point for brothers Michael and Tony Valk at Evergreen of Johnson City in Tennessee. TheValk’s installed a SimPOS POS system in late December 2009.
“Our decision to purchase a system had much to do with our ability to better understand who our customer base is,” Michael says. “We’re familiar with them, but we pull from a five-city area and there are still unknown factors. We thought that the economy is tough and could get even more challenging in the future, so knowing who our customer is has never been more important.”
The Valks and the rest of the Evergreen staff also use their new system to collect e-mail addresses for all of their digital marketing.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to collect 4,700 e-mail addresses and we can e-mail out a newsletter to our customers whenever it’s necessary,” Michael says.
Prior to the POS system, Evergreen of Johnson City sent out a print newsletter to its customers, but increasing print-media rates dwindled its newsletter frequency down to three a year.
Michael adds the new POS system also has made things a little easier when it comes to monitoring house accounts, tax exempts and discounts.
“If we have a customer set up in the system as a senior or as a landscaper, they’re preset to receive a discount and our cashier doesn’t have to worry about making any errors,” he says.
“They don’t have to remember if the discount is 20 percent off of the sale price or the retail price. We’re putting our cashiers in a position where they can’t make a mistake on something like that.”
A Second Opinion
Before retailers like Fisher’s Gardens and Evergreen of Johnson City can improve inventory management or collect e-mail addresses, it’s best to do a good deal of homework before investing in a POS system. Just ask Paul Mostardi of Mostardi Nursery in Newton Square, Pa.
“Going from absolutely no POS system, it’s kind of like going from zero to 100 percent in terms of my knowledge with this new technology,” Mostardi says. “Not being in the game, it’s important to get as much information as you can from as many places as you can.”
Mostardi contacted a handful of local garden centers and other businesses to quiz them about their POS systems.
“The personal testimonials we got from the local businesses was basically the deciding factor for us,” he says. “We got an unbiased view and learned how it affected those businesses. We learned a lot from their experiences and how the support is from the POS companies they work with.”
Mostardi Nursery uses a POS Solutions system, currently with three up-and-running terminals, which complements a revamped checkout area.
“We’re strapped for space here, especially parking space, so it’s crucial for us to crank out customers through the checkout lines,” Mostardi says.
Additionally, Mostardi likes the flexibility the POS system offered his family’s business. “We started with just one register last year, which allowed us to not have to jump in head first, but have a piecemeal approach.”