Gourmet Foods Sales

The current economic times may have hit gourmet food lovers in the pocketbook, but they haven't let it hit their taste buds. Although money may be tight, cravings are very hard to resist.

Gourmet food lovers continue to consume luxury and specialty items. Some things, such as high-end chocolate, seem to be recession-proof. According to a study by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade and Mintel International more than 50 percent of specialty foods are bought at supermarkets.

Consumers in the western United States are 13 percent more likely to purchase specialty foods than the rest of the country, according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade study. And sales of gourmet and specialty foods have been growing faster than the overall industry for the past five years; according to consumer research firm Packaged Facts. Also a recent Harris Poll found that 51 percent of respondents are eating dinner at home more, but 76 percent won't compromise on food quality no matter the price.

Maintenance for your POS

STCR offers a variety of software and hardware maintenance to help protect your investment. With a yearly maintenance agreement, the STCR help desk is available to assist you in resolving system problems 24 hours a day 365 days a year. You can also purchase maintenance for the software programs we sell. Software maintenance allows us to engage the vendors that develop the applications for extended support. This maintenance also entitles you to new versions of the software when they are released.

A yearly hardware maintenance agreement will keep your equipment such as registers, controllers, back-office computers and various peripherals such as printers, monitors, scanners and pin pads up and running. Some of the plans, such as IBM hardware maintenance, include on-site service whereas others are depot maintenance. Depot maintenance involves sending the failing device out for either repair or a replacement that will be shipped back to you.

Carrying these maintenance plans will minimize the downtime you experience when something malfunctions. Increased downtime can lead to lost income when failing elements cause your store to run inefficiently. Allowing these maintenance plans to lapse can also have a negative effect on your bottom line. Not only may there be a waiting period to reinstate your maintenance it can also be very expensive. For example lapsed IBM software maintenance will cost almost three times as much to reinstate as it would for one year of maintenance. With the holiday season upon us it makes good business sense to carry and keep current the maintenance on your POS system.


New revisions have been made to the WIC program as per the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service. The new revisions now include a program called WIC CVV. WIC CVV stands for WIC Cash Value Vouchers. This program allows participants to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen fruits and vegetables and some canned goods for their children as well as for themselves. These new items typically were not available before with the normal WIC program. All stores which currently accept WIC must be able to accept the new WIC CVV as well. Unlike a normal WIC transaction, if there is a balance remaining after the voucher(s) has been used, the customer may pay by another tender. If there is an excess balance left on the WIC CVV voucher it will not be given back to the customer.

If your location would like assistance in setting up the new WIC CVV for tendering and reporting purposes, please contact Linda Warke @ (607) 757-0181 for further information.

Price Optimization

Price Optimization seems to be the new buzz word in retail. Price Optimization software helps companies determine the optimal price for a product based on many factors such as gross margin %, competition, private label to national brand gap, demand (price elasticity) and brand linking. Additionally, the software utilizes historical data and predictive algorithms to produce price recommendations. What price should I sell this item for to create the highest gross profit for my company?
Price Optimization programs are driven by proprietary forecasting engines. These engines are based on sophisticated mathematical algorithms originally developed for scientific research and military planning. Airlines began using these solutions in the 1980s to instantly price fares based on variables like booking lead time, flight date and connections, time of day, service class and customer preference. The programs required enormous processing power only available in super computers and primarily used by large companies like airlines that could justify the investment.

With the advances of hardware and the arrival of faster and cheaper servers, companies have been developing software engines to run on these servers while creating an affordable solution for smaller businesses. The results can be churned out in a reasonable amount of time, allowing a merchant to make more informed decisions on their day to day price strategies.

As the programs make their way into the independent grocery industry, grocers are finding that they can increase their bottom line by 1-2% through the use of these tools. By looking at the detailed information the software provides, they’re able to see potential problems with price strategies that had once been hidden in rolled-up data.

Where is the future of this technology? Only time will tell, however with the competitive nature of the landscape, this could be the next tool that will help the independent level the playing field with the competition.

IBM Consumer Survey

The IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a survey of 30,000 U.S. retail consumers to understand what drives consumers’ behavior and spending patterns across several retail categories, grocery being one of many. This survey showed that consumers have changed shopping behavior but rely on retailers they trust.
• 59 percent of consumers have less discretionary budgets than in the previous year
• 91 percent of consumers are sacrificing in some spending areas
• 31 percent of consumers increased spending at primary retailer over the past two years
The current market conditions have forced consumers to make tradeoffs and change their spending habits. The IBM survey data indicates that shrinking wallets have compelled shoppers to make more cautious buying decisions, restricting their purchases to essential items. Retailers must expect and plan for these modifications in behavior.
Visit http://support.stcr.com/Newsletter/ShopperAdvocacy.pdf to read more about the IBM survey and their findings.

POS Maintenance

Holiday season shopping means a high volume of sales in a short period of time. With a high workload and little down time, registers may endure stress levels that can lead to malfunction or breaking. When one component of a lane breaks or stops working, the lane is rendered useless. Fewer lanes available can lead to longer wait times for customers. The last thing a customer wants after shopping all day is to be waiting in line.

With the proper care your registers can endure the stress of the holiday shopping season. Here are some tips to keep your current hardware in top working condition. Check your connections on pin pads, keyboards, scanner scales, monitors and all other components on a weekly basis. Be sure to clean and wipe down cashier stations regularly. Clean up any spills in proximity to any hardware immediately. Have your cashiers and managers report any small incidences or minor malfunctions right away, to prevent them from becoming a much larger issue.

By carrying hardware maintenance on equipment your store will be ready. Without maintenance you may still receive service but at the cost of parts and labor Hardware maintenance agreements can be viewed as an insurance policy for your POS system. You insure your home, car and personal health so why not your business. Call your STCR representative at (607) 757-0181 for more information.

IBM SurePOS 500

IBM recently announced a sleek, powerful new line of point-of-sale systems (POS) with advanced features and functions designed to help retailers create smarter, more dynamic and efficient business operations capable of helping reduce costs, manage risk and energize the consumer buying experience through improved customer service and shopper checkout time.

This latest edition of the IBM SurePOS 500 is among the first retail systems to deploy next generation infrared (IR) touch screen with inadvertent touch screen technology that reduces the risk of unintentionally registering a touch. The innovative touch screen never needs recalibrating, therefore improving accuracy and speeding up transaction times. The highly accurate display permits maximum light transmittal and significant glare reduction to create the highest possible image quality, even in sunlight. In addition, due to retail hardening on the touch screen, it is totally sealed to resist damage from accidental spills.

The IBM SurePOS 500 Express is the industry's leading compact point-of-sale system designed with small to midsized customers in mind. The new Express model provides clients the ability to capture real-time information and new insights at the POS that drive effective customer service initiatives and help ensure the right merchandise is in stock at the right time. By providing employees greater access to product and customer information at point-of-sale, retailers can deliver better customer service, improve employee productivity and, ultimately, deliver smarter business outcomes.

IBM is the only retail vendor to offer retail hardening, deep sleep automation, tool free serviceability and Light-Path and Remote Management capability on a single platform. The unique combination of innovative IR touch screen technology, tool free retail-hardened system design, a biometric fingerprint reader, along with Remote Management Agent and Light-Path diagnostics, is designed to keep point-of-sale systems up and running. IBM clients get a level of reliability, performance and security that is unmatched in the industry.

STCR Business Systems has been selling, installing and supporting cash register systems for 42 years. We are an IBM Premier Business Partner with the in-house expertise to install IBM systems and train your personnel in the most professional manner. For more information about the SurePOS 500 Series, contact STCR Business Systems at (607) 757-0181.

Honest Weight Food Co-op

Honest Weight Food Co-op recently installed STCR’s IBM SurePOS registers running the SMS POS application. The SMS system was selected for its flexibility to meet the unique needs of the Food Co-op. Some of the unique features being utilized are integration for memberships, Scan Genius, UNFI pricing, Cooperative Advantage promotions, inventory control and multiple years of sales history. Alexandra Juhre, IT Coordinator at HWFC, says "We seriously considered four POS systems and we chose SMS for its robust architecture, extensive data storage and retrieval, customizable integration and reporting and its comprehensive support for promotions and coupons. Together with on-site hardware support through IBM and 24/7 Help Desk support from STCR, this package clearly delivered more value than the competition."

The Honest Weight Food Co-operative (HWFC) is a for-profit; member owned and operated health food retail business located in Albany, New York. The organization began as a buying club in the fall of 1976 and was located in the basement of a home in Albany. The full title of the organization was the Honest Weight (No Springs) Food Co-op, named after the motto on a scale made by the Toledo Scale Company. In subsequent years, “(No Springs)” was removed from the name.

The Co-op has plans for a new store in 2011 featuring approximately 17,000 square feet of flexible retail space. Highlights of the plan include a full-service deli & bakery, juice/coffee bar, expanded departments, a large community room, teaching kitchen and meeting space.

Datalogic's Magellan 8500

Are your scanner scales ready to handle the new GS1 Databar coupons coming in January 2011? The Datalogic Magellan 8500 is the right hardware to keep your business running smooth and your customers happy. The MG8500Xt adds many improvements that will enable the Magellan to maintain the number 1 world ranking for stationary scanners that Datalogic has held for 3 years. Below is an over view of the Magellan 8500Xt - scanner scale.

New PreScan™ Queue-Busting Software Option
Low Energy Consumption

Highest performing POS bar code scanner available
New for Magellan 8500Xt
New Upgraded Processor and New Software
Improved performance on hard-to-read labels
Excellent performance on GS1 DataBar™ codes
New Magellan Scale Technology
The fastest scale settling time in the industry @ 495ms
Patented All-Weighs® Scale Platter
Smaller under-counter footprint
Fits in competitive scanner check stand cutouts
Improved Serviceability
Reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
New sub-platter design
New finger-friendly lift handles
Improved calibration sealing
Easy-to-clean contoured optics enclosure
Reduces service times
Easier to calibrate
Easier to keep clean
Reads All 6 Sides for Very High Performance
SurroundScan® 3D Scanning™ vertical and horizontal scanning (360° x 2)
Reads bottom, top and all 4 sides
Optimized for both sweep and presentation scanning
Reduced orientation requirements improve productivity and ergonomics
Performance & Flexibility
New Upgraded Processor
Improved performance on hard-to-read labels
Excellent performance on GS1 DataBar™ codes

STCR Business Systems has been selling, installing and supporting Magellan Scanner/Scales for many years. STCR is an IBM Premier Business Partner with the ability to install POS systems and train your personnel in the most professional manner. For more information about Magellan scanner scales, contact STCR Business Systems at (607) 757-0181.

GS1 Databar

How many times have complicated, expired or poorly functioning coupons aggravated your customers or slowed down your front end? With the release of the new GS1 Databar coupons in January 2011 many of these costly issues will be resolved.

The GS1 Databar is a new form of UPC that contains almost seven times the information of past UPC formats containing 72 digits of information. In this repository of information you will be able to enforce with a single scan a start date, expiration date, up to three purchase requirements along with the save value. No longer searching for expiration dates while your customers wait will speed up your front end and save you money.

Additional features, such as Coupon Shuffling, which ensures coupons, will apply to matching items. Also, new prompts to indicate a cashier to return a coupon when a discounted item is voided will increase your stores efficiency and lead to happier customers. GS1 support is one of the many new features available in the upcoming IBM POS system. Call your STCR representative at (607) 757-0181, to see if your system is ready to take advantage of the new GS1 Databar.

Monmouth County Vocational School

Monmouth County Vocational School Career Center prepares students for an evolving workplace and further education through achievement of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards at all grade levels in specialized academic, career and technical programs and lifelong learning opportunities.

Tom Dunphy, Director of the Supermarket Training Careers, assisted by Bill Collett, at the Monmouth County Vocational School Career Center, run a full supermarket operation with market baskets and several aisles of groceries. They have set up a small convenience type grocery store in a classroom atmosphere. Students that attend the Career Center shop in the store while the students in training operate the store. The store also handles debit and credit transactions.

Monmouth County Vocational School Career Center worked with STCR Business Systems to install a 2 lane IBM scanning system to run in the store. These systems were such a success that Monmouth recently installed 6 more lanes of IBM registers, Datalogic Scanner/scales, Pentium server and IBM POS software. They are now running 8 full lanes of the IBM POS system.

“Our association with STCR Business Systems and IBM has enabled our students in the Supermarket Careers Vocational-Technical Program to stay current with today's ever-changing retail environment. This partnership provides our students with lifelong employment opportunities.” - Tom Dunphy

Electronic Check Processing

A federal law that was enacted in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, known as Check 21, makes it easier for banks to electronically transfer check images instead of physically transferring paper checks. The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21) is designed to foster innovation in the payments system and to enhance its efficiency by reducing some of the legal impediments to check truncation.

The law facilitates check truncation by creating a new negotiable instrument called a substitute check. Substitute checks permit banks to truncate original checks to process check information electronically and to deliver substitute checks to banks that want to continue receiving paper checks. A substitute check is the legal equivalent of the original check and includes all the information contained on the original check. The law does not require banks to accept checks in electronic form nor does it require banks to use the new authority granted by the Act to create substitute checks.

Since the Check 21 law was enacted the popularity of ECC (electronic check conversion) has increased at the point of sale. Electronic check conversion is a process in which your check is used as a source of information for the check number, your account number and the number that identifies your financial institution. The information is then used to make a one-time electronic payment from your account, an electronic fund transfer. The check itself is not the method of payment.

Perhaps now is the time to think about converting the checks you receive to ACH payments. This will provide greater safety, faster turn around and less handling. For more information on ACH and your POS please contact STCR at (607) 757-0181.

Tax Benefits in 2009

On February 17, 2009, the government signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA 2009). This economic stimulus package contains over $300 billion in tax relief. Many provisions of the new law enhance or extend existing laws that impact businesses. Popular business provisions are overviewed below.

Perhaps the most significant business extensions are the one-year extension of the 2008 Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 expensing limits. The extension of these two provisions allows businesses to invest in machinery and equipment more freely and to quickly recuperate the cost.
Generally, businesses can elect to expense, rather than depreciate, the cost of used or new tangible personal property put into service during the tax year, up to a specified limit. Prior to 2008, the limit was $125,000 and adjusted annually for inflation. The 2009 inflation adjusted limit was $133,000.

Extended Section 179 places limits on the amount of tangible personal property a business can acquire before the expensing limit begins to phase out. The pre-2008 amount was $500,000 and the 2009 inflation adjusted amount is $530,000. The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 permitted a one-year enhancement of the Section 179 limits, therefore increasing the expensing limit to $250,000 and the investment ceiling to $800,000. The ARRA 2009 extends this enhancement another year; until December 31, 2009. Without further legislation the Section 179 limits for expensing and investment ceiling will drop back to $125,000 and $500,000 respectively for 2010.

The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 allowed bonus depreciation for assets placed in service during 2008. Under bonus depreciation, businesses may immediately deduct half of the cost of “qualified property” as a depreciation deduction in the year of the purchase. The balance of the cost is normal depreciable life. “Qualified property” is defined as the purchase of new property (not used) with a recovery period of twenty years or less including most new property other than buildings and their structural components. The ARRA 2009 extends bonus depreciation for another year, ending December 31, 2009.

Another significant change provided by the ARRA 2009 is the special rule for small businesses utilizing net operation loss (NOL) carrybacks. Businesses that gross average receipts of $15 million or less are considered “small businesses” and can elect a longer NOL carryback period for a tax year beginning or ending in 2008. For NOL’s occurring in tax years that begin and end in 2008, ARRA 2009 allows a “small business” taxpayer to increase the carryback period to either three, four or five years. A longer NOL carryback period gives small businesses a greater opportunity to recover taxes paid in earlier years.

Contact your accountant for more information on tax benefits for your store.

POS Tax Changes

Building and maintaining a tax rate within your POS system is an integral part of every store’s sales operations. The POS systems that we sell and support can fulfill a variety of operations to meet our customer’ needs. STCR’s Support Center can provide support for this aspect of your POS system. But there also needs to be some responsibility taken by the retailer for maintaining this rate.

All of our POS systems have the ability to have multiple tax tables to assist with reporting and differing tax needs. They also can, depending on the system settings, be easily changed and manipulated to meet your needs. These systems also have the ability to base the tax on tables that can be created with the POS system itself, depending on your area requirements.

STCR’s Support Center offers services to train customers on utilizing their system to make the setting changes needed or build a tax table using the POS system. STCR also offers training to develop, test and implement tax tables based on the table provided by the state.

It is important for the retailer to know their various tax rates and any changes that are made to them. These can be different depending on state, county, town and other taxes that may apply. As the POS vendor, we can assist you, whether it is providing services or providing training on how to make these changes. Advance notification of these changes will allow more time to ensure that the changes are in place in a timely manner.

Tax rates are an important part of any type of business. STCR’s Support Center is here to ensure that the POS settings are being used and working properly. For more information on your tax tables please contact our Support Center at (607) 757-0181.

A New Look at Organics

Organic farmers and grocery retailers are embracing the idea of lower-cost, private-label products to retain new budget-conscious consumers. Last spring the fourth-largest U.S. food retailer, by sales, expanded its organic brand to 312 items from 150. Last fall the third-largest U.S. food retailer began selling its organic food brands to other retailers.

Store-brand goods accounted for 22.7% of organic food sales for the 52-weeks ending June 13, up from 13.6% for the same period in 2007. In all, private-label organic food sales rose 34% to $1.1 billion. In 2005, organic private-label sales totaled just $166 million.

For years the organic-foods segment logged annual sales gains of 20%-plus, but that growth has slowed. Sales of natural and organic grocery products rose 4.6%, to $18.3 billion, for the 52 weeks ending June 13 from a year earlier.

Slowing demand has pushed even reluctant name-branded organic food companies to offer private-label products. As retailer requests pile up, producers of organic spices, teas and oils have begun selling private-label products.

The lower prices afforded by private-label organics are helping grocers cater to more price-conscious shoppers. While some people have cut back on organics, stores that have significantly expanded store-brand offerings have experienced high single-digit to low double-digit same-store-sales gains.

Pre Scan from DataLogic

STCR has a new hardware system from Datalogic that allows you to pre-scan items for your customers in the check-out line and then recall them when they reach the register. The system works easily and seamlessly with any of our POS systems. It has the added benefit that during slower periods the wireless scanner can be used to ring up large items, like dog food and cases of products, from under the cart without lifting them.

The pre-scan can be done using a customer’s frequent shopper card or by using a set of ID cards that can be provided with the system. When the customer reaches the register, scan the same card at the scanner/scale to recall and ring up the items. The unique aspect of this solution is that the customer can change check-out lines between the pre-scan and reaching the register and the system can still locate and ring up their order.

The pre-scan system has other potential uses such as shopping for phone orders. The list of items is recalled at the register for tendering or even delivery using STCR’s home delivery software option.

The pre-scan application can be implemented without spending time and money on modifying existing software applications. For additional information please contact your STCR representative at (607) 757-0181.

PCI DSS in Small Business

According to a survey of 220 small merchants by ControlScan, the National Retail Federation and the PCI Knowledge Base, 86 percent of the small merchants are aware of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) but they feel frustrated and bewildered with the complex requirements.

From this survey 72 percent of small retailers believe the risk of a data breach in their company is “low” or “not possible.” Since 2005, more than 80% of the instances of unauthorized access to card data have involved small merchants according to Visa USA Inc. These small merchants account for 85% of the seven million locations nationwide that accept credit cards.

Merchants, regardless of their size, found in violation of the PCI DSS guidelines can have fines that range from $10K - 100K a month. In addition, merchants who have a security breach and are found to be in non-compliance could possibly have their credit card processing rights suspended and even permanently disabled. This all leads to a lack of consumer trust due to confidential data disclosures, harming the reputation and brand of the merchant that may become irreparable.

For more information you may contact your STCR representative at (607) 757-0181. For more information on the PCI guidelines you can visit: https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/

Going Green

During good economic times people tend to be more altruistic. Businesses and people alike do more to make an impact on the things which surround them. One of these differences is making a conscience effort to do more environmentally friendly activities. Although it is more difficult to partake in these sometimes more expensive activities during tough economic times, there are still green activities which can help your business to save money.

One way is to move from paper mail to email. These days you can pay most of your bills online without the hassle of having to dig up stamps and envelopes. This cuts down on waste while saving money. You can also send weekly specials to your customers through emails. With more people moving to an online environment you have the potential to broaden your client base.

Another way your business can go green is to start using an internet based fax service. Fax machines not only use paper when faxes are sent but will also print off a confirmation page when faxes are received. This can be a very costly piece of equipment between the paper usage and toner waste. It’s been estimated that if just one percent of all paper faxes sent in America each year were transmitted electronically, 73.5 million trees would be saved.

Finally, try to host meetings online when it is not necessary for all of the participants to be there in person. For a small price you can invest in camera equipment so you can still view body language and facial expressions. By meeting online you will help to reduce carbon emissions.

Becoming an environmentally friendly business does not have to cost a lot. With the right planning you can save money while doing something good for the environment.

Creating the Right Shopping Experience

Retailers are constantly competing for customers and customer loyalty. There are many different ways to attract and retain customers. One way is price. Price matters, but so do availability, signage and advertising. The element that contributes most to a successful sale is the customer’s shopping experience. When the shopper has a great experience, the retailer has created loyalty. Studies have shown that customers will accept less selection, travel a longer distance and even pay more to have a better shopping experience. It is important for every retailer to understand and exceed their customer’s expectation and provide a better shopping experience. Here are five steps that could help create a successful shopping experience.

1. The first step is to understand the shopper’s expectations and plan to exceed their expectations. This may sound obvious but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Retailers must meet and exceed individual shopper expectation without creating distraction. For example, a clerk at a fast food restaurant dressed in a tuxedo may exceed customer expectation but it would not contribute positively to the experience and may even make customers feel uncomfortable.
2. Before a retailer can offer better shopping experiences to their customers, they have to draw customers to the store. Advertising, brand messages, store locations and exterior signage are among the important pre-sale experience that shapes consumer expectations prior to in-store sale. Inside the store, features like merchandising strategies, interior signage, tags, employee dress code and checkout process further contribute to a successful shopping experience.
3. The human touch is often overlooked. The most powerful factor that could shape the consumer’s experience is the store’s staff. Of all the elements, what the employees do, how they dress, what they say, how they say it and when they say it have the greatest impact on the shopping experience. It is the human touch that makes the greatest difference. Consequently, retails must not only evaluate employees’ current contributions but discover how to increase their motivation, reinforce positive behavior that contributes to the shopping experience and discourage behavior that doesn’t.
4. The essence of defining the shopping experience lies in taking steps that will increase the trust that consumers feel for the store and the relationship the store establishes with their shoppers. The theme must have substance and be credible and demonstrable. Some of the tangible services include deli service, personal shopper, house account and home delivery.

After defining and identifying the above elements, the retailer must ensure that each element is in alignment with the desired shopping experience. You must ask “How does this element contribute to the customer’s expectation and experience?” Any inconsistency can be serious enough to undermine the consumer trust and credibility.

To design and deliver a successful consumer experience requires a thoughtful assessment of customers needs. A thorough evaluation of the current environment and a clear vision make a significant difference in the subsequent performance of the retailer and in the clarity of the message that each sign, advertisement and employee communicates to the customer.

Independent Grocer Survey

The 2009 Independent Grocers Survey prepared by The National Grocers Association (NGA) and FMS Solutions shows a financial and operational review of the independent retail grocery industry. The 2009 Independent Grocers Survey provides independent grocers with a look at their own community and how their fellow business owners are fairing in the current competitive and economic conditions.
The study provides departmental margin breakdowns and economic data relevant to the industry. This year's survey showed retailers have improved their gross margins and their bottom lines by 4.31% over last year sales. Some highlights from the survey are:
  • Breaking a three-year negative streak, respondents turned higher net profit before taxes.
  • Overall store margins had a solid increase, reporting 26.94% in 2008 versus 25.55% in 2007.
  • The average square footage decreased from last year's respondents from 28,617 to 25,469 the total inventory in the store increased to $658,454 bringing the total inventory per square foot to an even $13.00. This is a $3.35 increase per square foot with this year's respondents. Of the total square footage in respondent's stores 84.4% of the space is actually selling square footage, up dramatically from last year's 76.5%.

This survey also looks at a number of different topics including the "Top 7" issues rated by NGA members: health care reform, energy costs, economic stimulus plan, supercenter legislation, (permanent repeal) death tax, immigration reform and international policies.

The NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that make up the independent portion of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. Most independent operators are serviced by wholesale distributors, while others may be partially or fully self-distributing.

STCR in the Community

On June 19th STCR Business Systems participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The walk was held at McArthur School, in Binghamton, NY. With the support of family, friends and our customers we were able to raise over $3000 in donation. STCR also matched all donations collected making the grand total of donations well over $6000. STCR also came in 3rd place for the most laps walked around the track.

STCR would like to thank everyone who helped make this year's Relay for Life a great success. The picture above is some of the members of STCR's team "Register Hope."

IBM SurePOS 700 Series

The IBM SurePOS 700 Series, the premier point-of-sale (POS) solution in the IBM portfolio, now offers several new features designed to enable fast, easy service. All models of the IBM SurePOS 700 Series now feature a simple, two-screw media door for convenient access to internal drives. This feature comes standard and allows service technicians easier access to the internal hard drive, as well as the CD-ROM or DVD drive.

All models also offer optional covers that enable front-side access to the system unit without the need to remove rear cables. When used in combination with the media door, these optional covers make it very fast and simple to remove or replace internal drives. Additionally, retailers can add an optional cable arm, which provides front-side access to rear cabling without moving the system unit from its normal position at the POS. Ultimately, these features help reduce your service costs, which helps minimize total cost of ownership. Plus, these features enable faster, easier service without compromising system security.

  • Speed checkout and improve productivity with powerful standards-based platforms including Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor

  • Streamline operations with the powerful combination of IBM Light-Path Management and IBM Director, including IBM Remote Management Agent (RMA), that helps staff monitor and manage systems locally and from a central site

  • Maximize uptime and help reduce maintenance costs with virtually tool-free design, secure and easy front access and exceptional serviceability

  • Optimize investments with this highly scalable point-of-sale (POS) system that integrates with legacy systems and carries a service life cycle of up to 7 years to help lower total cost of ownership

The IBM SurePOS™ 700 is the industry’s premier point of sale solution and delivers maximum performance and adaptability for large and midsized retailers. A powerful combination of IBM Light-Path Management and IBM Director, including IBM Remote Management Agent (RMA), help staff monitor and manage systems. Plus, front access and a virtually tool-free design mean servicing the IBM SurePOS 700 Series has never been easier.STCR Business Systems has been selling, installing and supporting cash register systems for 42 years. We are an IBM Premier Business Partner with the in-house expertise to install IBM systems and train your personnel in the most professional manner. For more information about the SurePOS 700 Series, contact STCR Business Systems at (607) 757-0181.

The Greening of McQuades

Hometown market employs cutting edge technology.

The national enthusiasm for “going green” has spurred Michael McQuade, General Manager of McQuades marketplace, to update its presence in its community with a multi-million dollar renovation program at their Main Street store. The renovation includes the installation of state-of-the-art equipment that is environmentally friendly and utilizes energy saving technology.

With the project nearing completion, McQuade who owns sister stores in Jamestown, RI and Mystic, CT said the new heating and refrigeration systems are not only more effective and efficient, but contribute to an eye pleasing atmosphere. They have a trim modern look while providing fresher, longer lasting refrigerated food, reducing the stores impact on the environment by reducing its carbon footprint.

“We believe McQuade’s Westerly store will see an estimated reduction of nearly 13 million pounds in its total carbon footprint. That’s equivalent to removing 1069 passenger cars from the road per year” said Scott Martin, director of sustainable technologies for Hill Phoenix of Conyers, GA., a leading designer and manufacturer of supermarket refrigeration systems.

McQuade said innovative strategies include reclaiming heat from a refrigeration loop, and using a propylene glycol that uses so much less electricity it runs on low to medium control settings and has realized a 95 percent reduction in the use of Freon coolant. The computer complex on the store rooftop monitor the compressors to determine the horsepower needed to insure uniform temperature and switches horsepower needs back and forth using 15HP, 10HP or 7HP motors.

To increase product variety, many more refrigeration cases have been added, but with energy savings in mind. Dairy products, such as yogurt, butter and cheese, once in open cases are now behind doors. “We were wasting energy”, McQuade said. “We tested the change in the Mystic store first.” All domestic hot water is pre-heated by the heat byproduct from the refrigeration system. Store heating and dehumidification are also pre-heated by the refrigeration system.

Another energy-saving measure soon to be tested at the Mystic store involves the installation of solar panels. These panels will provide 153 kilowatts of energy for store use. If the move is positive, the panels will be installed on the Westerly and Jamestown stores.

The lighting system has also been updated from the inefficient T12 fluorescent lighting to T5’s and T8’s, which are more energy efficient.

Gloria Russel
Sun Staff Writer

Secure POS Vendor Alliance (SPVA)

Hypercom, Ingenico, and VeriFone have announced the formation of the Secure POS Vendor Alliance - SPVA .
This is a non-profit business organization chartered with implementing common payment security standards among vendors of secure point-of-sale (POS) devices used by retailers, acquirers and cardholders alike.

The SPVA plans include increasing awareness of security issues, encouraging adoption of best practices and promoting consistency among standards. They plan to create a standardized implementation of the existing security standards, a recommended implementation guideline for end-to-end encryption of cardholder data and end-to-end lifecycle management protocols.

Once these guidelines and standards are fully developed, the SPVA will establish an “SPVA approval” program. Two levels of membership are available, general membership for vendors that develop secure POS payment systems and associate membership for organizations that sell or utilize products or solutions that interact with secure POS payment devices.
SPVA intends to combine the needs of those that must implement current and future PCI and other electronic payment industry requirements. These are security, convenience, cost control and the ability to be easily deployed and maintained.
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The Traditional Grocer

Grocery stores are located throughout the world, although their size and range of goods and services vary. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the grocery store industry is made up of supermarkets and convenience stores that do not sell gas. In 2006, there were approximately 34,000 traditional supermarkets. Of these 34,000 traditional supermarkets, 75 percent were operated by a chain of supermarkets that owned 11 or more grocery stores. The rest were operated by independent owners that operate fewer than 11 grocery stores. In 2008, there were 35,394 traditional supermarkets with annual sales of $2 million or more.

Traditional supermarkets sold mostly fresh meats and produce, canned or packaged goods and dry goods such as flour and sugar to people who lived in the neighborhood. They also usually stocked a few nonfood items used in preparing home-cooked meals, such as aluminum foil and paper napkins. These days supermarkets sell a wide range of traditional grocery items, general merchandise, and health and beauty products, plus a wide assortment of prepared foods, such as hot entrees, salads, and deli sandwiches for takeout. Most supermarkets have several specialty departments that may include seafood, meat, bakery, deli, produce, and floral.

For over 20 years grocery stores have been facing growing competition from the warehouse club stores and supercenters. The Food Marketing Institute shows that in 2007 the average size of a grocery store dipped slightly to a median of 47,500 square feet. To compete with club and supercenter stores, grocery stores have been selling more general merchandise items and providing a greater variety of services to cater to the one-stop shopper.

Ethnic grocery stores are some of the fastest-growing stores in the country. Providing specialized services and products unique to a particular neighborhood and its shoppers helps these grocers build loyalty and contribute to a sense of community among local residents. Of course, small grocery stores have been around forever and some old-time neighborhood markets still exist. There is also an increase in the number of grocery stores that cater to upscale clientele and those that sell mostly natural and organic foods. Specialty retailers have proved that shoppers will flock to smaller stores if they are offered a novel experience.

What Your Customers Think of Your POS System

Feature Article by Steve Methvin, Bozzuto’s, Inc.
Today’s grocery customer cares about your POS systems. While customers may be spending less on electronics and technology due to recent economic trends, it does not mean the desire for intuitive systems is gone. Customers appreciate outstanding customer service and expect systems that “smile”. A large rollout of self- scanning systems taught some valuable lessons about customer feedback when planning a new system or upgrade. After spending a considerable amount of time talking with our customers about systems; we learned some new approaches that greatly increased our ROI.

Let me share some lessons learned…
1. “Ask me!” – Remember to ask customers about your systems. A quick survey of about 10% of your customer base can reveal some important elements. Do you need to add a new lane? Is the display clear and easy to read? Is the font legible? Customers appreciate a “vote” and will look forward to seeing the new changes put into effect.
2. “Respect my privacy” – Guard your customer’s privacy. Too much information may not seem like a problem to your cashier; the customer may feel differently. Do you allow customers to buy sensitive items in a discreet way? Respect is a fantastic way to build loyalty (card or no card).
3. “Keep me safe” – Systems have a way of “forcing” customers to stand or move in certain ways. Can they put their purse or baby in a safe place while they do business with you? Do they have to push the baby out into “traffic” to reach the credit card machine? Have you done everything you can to protect her banking information?
4. “Have a backup plan” – When systems fail for whatever reason, do not blame the system in front of the customer. Apologize and execute the back up plan. Most system-related complaints are not that the system fails but that the customer is given no other option!
5. “Tell me about changes” – Retailers work hard to make customers “feel at home” at the store and love to hear customers say “my store”. These same loyal customers may not enjoy the surprise of some new procedure. If we change their system, communicate the change in a positive way.
“Take care of my equipment” – Any system the customer sees or touches should be clean and repaired. Credit card devices and customer displays can reflect the store’s cleaning standards. If your Pinpads look dated or unsecured, customers may question the security of the transaction. Some warehouses, such as Bozzuto’s, have a special program to make sure their retailers have the latest credit card equipment to deliver an outstanding and safe customer experience.

Ask your customers about your systems and be prepared with a pen and note card. It may surprise you to hear what customers think. If they share something not on our list – please share with me at smethvin@bozzutos.com.

The Supermarket

These days it’s easy to hear negative news about the economy and it is in the mind of most people. Very few people know that it was in an era, some what similar to this, that the supermarket was born and transformed our way of living.

In the 1930’s, during the time of the Great Depression, the supermarket was born. Prior to 1930, people usually made separate, daily trips to the butcher, baker, produce stand and milk man. Mom-and-pop grocery stores generally carried only one brand of any specific item and products were selected by a clerk behind a counter. In rural areas grocers dispatched so-called huckster wagons to the country to sell canned goods and prepared foods. Customers were dependent on these wagons to deliver the items they needed to survive. The process was erratic, labor intensive and costly.

In 1930, Americans spent 21% of their disposable income on groceries. By 1940, that percentage dropped to 16%. Today, that figure is less than 6%, thanks to innovations in food distribution, mass merchandising and price competition that began in the 1930s. This economy of scale allows consumers to spend more of their disposable income on other things such as automobile, clothing, education, entertainment, etc.

During today’s economic climate, consumers continue to shop with a different trend. People are more educated about the products and are paying more attention to quality as well as price. According to an expert, “Shopping is still a strong source of entertainment, and the thrill of the hunt is more important than ever. It seems to be an antidote to the anxiety people are feeling.” When consumers find bargains, this expert says, “it feels like a win.” The key is for the retailers to engage and entertain their customers without more clutter.

With the technology available today from leading POS system providers such as IBM, retailers are able to meet and exceed consumer demands by utilizing innovative technologies that cut costs and provide valuable information for retailers to better service their customers. Examples are system reliability, customer loyalty program, self-service technology and the ever enhancing consumer-protection security. It is our goal at STCR to continuously deliver cutting edge technologies and support to help our customers do better for their consumers.

GS1 DataBar™

GS1 is a leading global organization dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors. The GS1 system of standards is the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world.

GS1 DataBar™ symbols can carry more information and identify smaller items than the current EAN/UPC bar code. GS1 DataBar enables GTIN identification for fresh variable measure and hard-to-mark products like loose produce, jewelry and cosmetics. Additionally, GS1 DataBar can carry GS1 Application Identifiers such as serial numbers, lot numbers, and expiration dates, creating solutions to support product authentication and traceability for fresh food products and couponing.

In North America, a new standard for coupons (using GS1 DataBar Expanded) is driving the need to upgrade POS systems by January 2010.
• New symbology allows for additional information to be contained within one bar code
• Supports encoding of the full (6-12 digit) GS1 Company Prefix
• Improves verification of the coupon to the order
• Facilitates cross-selling through validation of up to three coupon requirements
• Decreases cashier intervention requests and mis-validations
• Consumer “saved value” can be in cents, percentage or weight

For more information on GS1 DataBar™ please visit: http://www.gs1.org/productssolutions/barcodes/databar/. If you have questions on whether your POS systems are GS1 DataBar™ code capable, please contact the STCR
Marketing team at (607) 757-0181.

Advice from Reynolds Sparkle Market

Reynolds Sparkle Markets is located in rural western Pennsylvania and operates 4 traditional independentgrocery stores. In 1997, a Wal-Mart Super Center opened seven miles north of one of our stores. At first, it didn’t seem to affect us too badly, our sales volume dropped about 10% but we were able to maintain profitability. As years two and three came, the sales continued to drop and by the end of the third year we were down 25% from the pre-Wal-Mart days.

In an effort to try to compete we began to lower prices, trying to be competitive and save market share. It wasn’t working. Sales flattened and all at the sacrifice of gross profit. The store broke even for the next five years. We ran hot specials in our ads and tried other pricing strategies with the same results.

2006 brought even more bad news. A second Wal-Mart was opening six miles south of us. This new Wal-Mart would actually be located on the same highway as our store. Within the first year of being sandwiched by the Wal-Mart’s, our sales were down 50% from where they had been less than a decade earlier. We couldn’t seem to stop the bleeding, to the point where we were considering closing this location. It was putting a drain on our other three stores. We had become an 18,000 square foot convenience store with low prices and a total store gross profit hovering around 20%. In our daily thoughts, the end was near.

One day as we were looking at the P&L we noticed, despite overall gross profit loss, our meat department was still doing fine. It was at that point we decided to make some changes and give the store six more months to try and turn around. We implemented a 3 step process.

The first step was to talk with our wholesaler to see if they were willing to work with us on a strategy centered on our perishable departments. We felt that if they could come through with some special pricing we could focus more on these areas and grow our gross profits here. Once they stepped up and agreed, we were able to move on to step two.
We began to raise prices in the grocery, dairy and frozen food departments to reflect more of a traditional grocery store. There was a concern that the increased prices would drive customers away. The result was we had very few comments regarding prices and our grocery, dairy and frozen sales stayed the same. With the increase prices, came improved margins in all departments.

The third step was to contact our local newspaper and work out a special rate for the next six months. By doing this we were able to increase our ads to two per week and one of them in color. Our strategy was to push quality in the perishable departments and highlight that we sold only USDA choice beef, government inspected pork and Grade A poultry. We stressed that our meat was cut fresh daily in the store, not hundreds of miles away and gassed to preserve it while trucked to the stores. Produce was highlighted as the freshest and finest available.

Within a few months we noticed a 5 % increase in total store sales, with meat up 10%. We started noticing new faces in the store. These were most likely people who had never gotten our flyer in the mail and hadn’t been able to see our ads. We began to realize that if people were willing to drive seven miles to Wal-Mart, then they would be willing to come here for quality meat at good prices. Our customer base was beginning to grow.

After six months, we started doing a three-day sale once a month which would take place in every department. The first attempt at this brought our store profit up 20% from what it was that week in the previous year. By the eighth month our sales were up 8% over the prior year, with the store’s gross profit up 10%.

Fourteen months later we still take out two ads, the first being the front page of our flyer. The second ad is usually a repeat ad of the best meat and produce items from the first ad, plus other meat items. We still run the three-day sale which brings people in from all over the area. And our wholesaler can’t believe how much meat our store is selling.

In a little over a year, our total store sales have gone up almost 11% while store gross has gone from 21% to 26.5%. The meat department has grown from a 13.6% distribution to over 20%. This store has gone from the verge of closing to a very profitable business; all while being surrounded by two Wal-Mart Super Centers. This proves that people are still looking for quality and service; all you have to do is give it to them!

Tony Modarelli
Reynolds Sparkle Market

Customer Loyalty

With the current state of the economy, consumers are re-evaluating how to spend their hard earned dollars. A study done by Scarborough Research shows that internet coupon use is up 83% from 2005. However, the Sunday newspaper remains the number one place for acquiring household coupons. Fifty-three percent of households get their coupons from the Sunday newspaper.

Many retailers issue customer loyalty or frequent shopper cards to their customers. These cards offer the customer lower prices on certain advertised items and/or point accumulation programs to allow shoppers to redeem points toward discounted or free items. These programs work well to attract new customers as well as retain current ones. Many grocers are utilizing the data collected from their customer loyalty/frequent shopper programs to make personalized coupon offers to their customers. The nation's largest traditional grocers say as many as half the coupons they send to their loyal customers do get used. One way they achieved this is to give customers coupons mainly for products they buy on a regular basis.

With the IBM POS systems that STCR offers, the consumers information is kept in your system when they sign up to receive their loyalty or frequent shopper cards. By utilizing reporting or data-mining tools, grocers can track their shopper’s buying habits. By offering targeted coupons to shoppers for items they purchase regularly, grocers increases the chance that the shoppers will use these coupons and thus create loyalty to the store.

Another way customer loyalty program helps is to connect retailers to its customer base. For example, the recent peanut butter scare had manufacturers recalling many products. Retailers with customer loyalty program would be able to report on which customers purchased recalled products and send mail to notify of the recall.

If you are running a customer loyalty or frequent shopper program there is no limit what you can do to create customer loyalty and to increase your bottom-line. For more information please contact your STCR representative at (607) 757-0181.

STCR in the Community

STCR Business Systems is pleased to join the American Cancer Society Relay For Life® in an ongoing effort to make a positive difference in our community and beyond. Fighting cancer is a team effort. The impact we can make together is much greater than what any of us could do alone. By supporting STCR’s “Register Hope” team, you will be a part of a life-changing event that celebrates the lives of those who have battled cancer, remembers loved ones lost, and empowers all of us to fight back against a disease that takes too much.
You can help STCR in the fight against Cancer by making your donations to the American Cancer Society through our team, “Register Hope”. You can also join us at the walk to show your support to the many people affected by cancer! The “Relay For Life” event will take place on Friday, June 19, 2009 and will wrap up on June 20th at noon. This event will be taking place at McArthur School in Binghamton, NY.

We are selling balloons for $1 for the “Rope of Hope.” Our goal is to sell enough balloons to make the “Rope of Hope” extend all the way around the track. We will also be selling luminary bags.

STCR Business Systems has also been working closely with CHOW, Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. CHOW has many great programs that help our community feed the hungry. One such program is the “Back Pack Program.” Once a month volunteers go to the CHOW office to fill bags with nutritious food for school aged children. On Fridays CHOW volunteers go to the local schools to give these bags to children of low income families. This program ensures these children will have nutritious snacks for the weekend. STCR enjoys volunteering with CHOW to help with this program.

STCR Celebrates 23 Years with IBM

In 1986 IBM created their Business Partner Program. IBM was looking for companies that knew their specific industry and could represent IBM in the marketplace. IBM recruited STCR.
In 1999, IBM created three levels of business partnership: Member, Advanced and Premier.

Entry into the 'Premier' level is by invitation only. Premier members must earn their membership each year by:
  • Passing customer satisfaction audits overseen by IBM

  • Demonstrating competency in deploying IBM solutions

  • Having their quality assurance programs and structures certified by IBM
    to educate their personnel

Of the hundreds of business partners selling and supporting IBM retail store systems, STCR Business Systems is one of only a handful of companies in the world to earn the 'Premier' designation.
This year STCR celebrates its 10th consecutive year as a Premier IBM Business Partner and its 23rd year as an IBM Business Partner. We appreciate the opportunity in serving our customers and look forward to many more years.