Custom Programming

Do you need your POS system to do something unique? STCR Business Systems can create custom code to enhance IBM Supermarket, IBM ACE and SMS.


Requests for these types of projects sometimes come to us from your STCR salesperson but most often start at our Support Center. You may call the Support Center looking for a certain report or some functionality that you cannot find in the application, the Support Center analyst performs an initial investigation and finds that the solution is not in the application and then would pass your request to STCR’s Technical Solutions department for further investigation.

The process for creating a solution starts with you, our customer providing a detailed definition of your request. Sometimes it’s as simple as a new report but can be as complex as an entire new procedure or process. STCR will come back to you a number of times during this phase of defining the request as we want to ensure we have a complete understanding of your need before moving forward.

Once we have a full understanding, we will investigate to see if we can provide the enhancement by changing a configuration or personalization. Using what exists in the application is often the least expensive and fastest way to provide that needed change.

If we find that we need to make custom changes to the application, we will design the solution and then present that to you as a mock-up or an outline. We then ask you to approve this solution or tell us what needs to be different. Through this process we come to a mutual understanding of what STCR needs to create.

The next step is for STCR to create a proposal including the cost of the solution. Depending on the type of changes, the cost might include programming, configuration, testing, installation and setup. Some solutions may require STCR personnel to come to the store, others may not.

The final step is the in-store testing and roll-out. This might be as simple as you viewing a new report or as complex as a week long, in-store test. In the end our goal is to provide you with the solution to that unique challenge in the fastest, most efficient manner. For more information please contact STCR at (607) 757-018

IBM SurePOS 500 Series

The IBM SurePOS 500 Series has a new sleek, slimmer design, cutting edge, infrared touch screen with resistive touch sensitivity, energy-saving deep sleep, tool free design and IBM Light-Path Management, advanced security features and enviro-friendly packaging.


A satisfying store experience helps create Advocates… consumers who have increased spending with their primary retailer by 31% over the last two years.

Now more than ever, consumers are looking for differentiation when choosing their retailers. They expect a higher level of satisfaction—better service, better prices, better quality and convenience. Access to product information and fast, accurate transactions, performed by capable, informed employees are vital to a positive experience and help promote customer loyalty.

1. Infrared touch screen and Light-Path Management on Model 566 only
2. Deep sleep is defined as “suspend to RAM” (random access memory), meaning the power supply is in a reduced power mode
3. The IBM Institute for Business Value Study, IBM Global Services 2008

1. Cutting edge, spill resistant, infrared touch-screen (Model 566 only)
2. Tool free design with back access
3. IBM Light-Path Management (Model 566 only)
4. Biometric fingerprint reader (optional)
5. Cooling tunnel technology
6. Programmable magnetic stripe reader (MSR) (optional)
7. Retail hardened design resists damage in harsh environments
8. Audio speaker (Model 566 only)

To learn how the IBM SurePOS 500 can transform your front end operations, please contact STCR Business Systems, Inc at 1-800-776-6576. STCR has been selling, installing and supporting IBM Cash Register Systems for more than 30 years and has been in business for 43 years. We are an IBM Premier Business Partner, with the in-house expertise to install IBM Products and train your personnel in the most professional manner.

Maintenance on your POS

As an Independent Grocer always looking to improve your business and cut costs it can be tempting to view your annual maintenance expense on your POS system as unnecessary. This can be a costly mistake. Unfortunately some don't perceive the value of maintenance until it is too late. None would argue the mission critical importance of the POS system. So what value does the maintenance provide you? Below is a breakdown of the three types of maintenance offered by STCR:


1. Hardware maintenance:
• Contract Management
• Asset Management
• Remote Diagnostics
• Call Dispatch and Coordination
• Call Tracking
• Call Resolution

2. Software maintenance:
• Access to software developer support
• Entitled to upgraded software levels (services not included)

3. Remote Help Desk Support:
• 24x7x365 access via phone, internet and email
• Remote diagnostics
• Call tracking
• Call resolution
• Remote program upgrades
• Answering 'how to' questions
• Software personalization changes
• Some setup and configuration changes
• Tax table updates
• Backup verification
• Disaster recovery
• Incident reporting
• Closed call automatic notification
• Satisfaction follow up call backs
• Online Help Desk access to open new calls and review call history

As you see the list is extensive, with the added benefit of fixed costs. Without this coverage you run the likely risk of costly and excessive down times and service bills, on an as-needed basis, upgrade software license fees and all the other intangible costs when your system is not performing properly. Typically, most service organizations prioritize resources for maintenance clients. Don't let your business be exposed to these unavoidable situations. Protect your investment and know that you are covered bumper-to-bumper. If you have any questions regarding STCR maintenance offerings, speak to one of our knowledgeable Sales Representatives at (607) 757-0181.

Customer Service gets Social

In the world today, the relationship between customer service and social media is becoming more  relevant. Networking sites such as Twitter and others allow companies to track what their customers and potential clients are saying about the company. Social networks and blogs are, in effect, a new mainstream medium for word-of-mouth marketing.


Small businesses have the potential to gain valuable market share from their larger competitors on social media-based services, if they are able to respond to questions and concerns quickly and in a way that’s personal, timely and directly helpful. However, if you are a small or growing business, you may not have the additional resources to hire an employee specifically dedicated to monitoring social media outlets. Some ideas to help you make the most of this opportunity include:

1. Identify the social networks you feel will be most valuable to your company. There are the obvious choices, like Twitter and Facebook, but also look through YouTube, Flickr or even on personal blogs. Think about where your clients might give their opinions, good or bad, and check out those sites.

2. Take time each day to make sure potential problems found on social networks are addressed. If they can not be resolved right away, make sure follow up times are set up.

3. You can integrate customer service requests and issues into your sales process or purchase customer relationship management (CRM) software that offers this feature.

In today’s complex social world, understanding that people will talk about your company online whether or not you are monitoring the chatter can be critical to business success. If you ignore this aspect of business you run the risk of developing a bad reputation. Monitoring these avenues and speaking the language of your customer, including listening and responding to conversations on social media networks, can boost your reputation for providing stellar customer service.

PCI AND POINT TO POINT ENCRYPTION (P2PE)

You have probably read or heard about any one of the P2PE technologies available today. While they may make the job of security easier, Bob Russo, the general manager of the PCI Security Standards Council, sums up his concerns, “It is important to remember there is no silver bullet to securing a payment environment.” and, “Implementing one of these technologies will not automatically make you compliant with the PCI DSS.” Bob goes on to say, “Focus on good security and compliance will follow.”


A recent document https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/pdfs/pci_ptp_encryption.pdf posted by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) discusses P2PE and several of the factors to consider when evaluating the technology for your location.

Since P2PE is an immature technology, implementation may result in vendor lock-in; products from one vendor cannot communicate to or be replaced by products from another vendor. Additionally, your credit card processor may only support devices from one vendor and not another.

P2PE solutions will not eliminate the need to maintain and validate PCI DSS compliance, but they may simplify validation efforts by reducing the number of system components to which PCI DSS applies. Any network attachment that is not segmented from the device performing the encryption is still required to be PCI DSS compliant. Bank charge-back data still requires a PCI DSS compliant environment and handling procedures, as well as any imprinted or legacy card data.

Being compliant with the PA-DSS guidelines is an ongoing process and grocers need to be ever vigilant. You can find up-to-date PA-DSS and PinPad information at http://www.pcisecuritystandards.org.

CISCO 100 SERIES OVERVIEW

Product Small PhotoCisco 100 Series Switches deliver powerful network performance and flexibility for small business networks, without complexity. With no installation software and nothing to configure, you get an affordable, reliable network that just works, right out of the box.


Cisco 100 Series Switches offer:

High-performance capabilities: With powerful network performance at an affordable price, you can give your network a boost of speed and capacity to support bandwidth-intensive applications.

Support for advanced technologies: Built-in quality of service (QoS) intelligence on all models helps maintain consistent network performance and keeps your applications running smoothly.

An eco-friendly solution: Optimizes power usage to be energy efficient without compromising performance.

Affordability: Designed specifically for small businesses that need a basic network with automated features that get you up running in minutes.

Peace of mind: All Cisco 100 Series switches are protected for the life of the product by the Cisco Limited Lifetime Hardware Warranty.

Ease of use: Works right out of the box, there's no software to install or configure.

To learn more about network switches and other products and services provided by STCR, please contact STCR Business Systems, Inc at (607) 757-0181. STCR has been selling, installing and supporting IBM Cash Register Systems and network equipment for more than 30 years and we have been in business for 43 years. We are an IBM Premier Business Partner with the in-house expertise to install IBM and a wide variety of electronic products and train your personnel in the most professional manner.

Does your Dairy Department work for you?

Dairy accounts for 19 percent of an average supermarket’s profit while taking up just 3 percent of store space, according to the Willard Bishop Store Super Study. Dairy generates more than 2.6 times return on space than produce and 6.2 times higher return on space than grocery in general. It’s no surprise that many retailers are looking for ways to reinvent their dairy departments.


Dairy Management (DMI), which supports the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, recently released a guide to help retailers reinvent their dairy departments. The Dairy Department Reinvention Activation Guide is the result of more than three years of research by DMI, Kraft Foods and Dannon. Since 2006, the coalition analyzed 343,000 shopping trips, audited 22,000 retail grocery stores and spoke with 2,500 consumers. With milk penetrating 96 percent of U.S. households and acting as a trip trigger that often leads consumers to the store, putting a focus on dairy can be a great way to increase profitability.

Understanding your shopper’s needs drives store loyalty, which increases shopper perceptions and can lead to increased sales. The best practices outlined in the Dairy Department Reinvention Activation Guide address the feedback from consumers. Comments include that the dairy department was traditionally not an emotional engagement, that they often had difficulty finding items, that they often felt rushed and usually bought the same things week after week. Shoppers’ wishes include making the dairy department easier to shop, personalizing the engagement, leveraging more meaningful merchandising and fostering interaction.

STCR Welcomes North Coast Co-op

Since 1973, North Coast Co-op has been a member-owned consumer food cooperative in Northern California operating two full-service grocery stores in Arcata and Eureka. The Co-op has a production bakery and deli serving great food without artificial ingredients. They also use organic or natural ingredients whenever possible.


In March of 2009 the Co-op was recertified as an organic retailer by CCOF, a third party certifying agency. The North Coast Co-op is the first food co-op on the West Coast and the only food retailer in California north of the Bay Area, to be certified organic.

They recently installed STCR’s IBM SMS Integrated Retail Grocery System in both stores along with the SMS host system. With the host system, they centrally manage merchandise pricing and company reporting. As part of the implementation they are also utilizing STCR’s new “Locally Sourced Product” feature. Items that are sourced locally can be flagged in the item file as such. This distinction allows the system to display a separate sub-total and highlights this sub-total on the customers receipt as “Locally Sourced Products Purchased.”

PCI

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is a worldwide information security standard defined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. The standard was created to help organizations that process credit card transactions minimize fraud. The standard applies to all organizations which process or exchange cardholder information.


The PCI Security Standards Council continues to develop the PCI DSS as needed to ensure that the standard includes any new or modified requirements necessary to remove all security risks. Changes to the standard follow a defined 36-month lifecycle with eight stages, described below.

Stage 1: Standards Published

Stage 2: Standards Effective

Stage 3: Market Implementation

Stage 4: Feedback Begins

Stage 5: Old Standards Retired

Stage 6: Feedback Review

Stage 7: Draft Revisions

Stage 8: Final Review

Each of the stages varies in length with a total of 36 months. Retailers need to be proactive when it comes to PCI and credit card security risks. You can find the most up-to-date PCI information at https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/index.shtml.

GS1 DataBar

As the June 2011 deadline approaches, compliance for GS1 DataBar Coupon codes appears to be on track. While the initial date was set for January 1, 2010, a shaky economy combined with a limited number of stores that have implemented the technology, have forced the compliance deadline to be extended.


The new barcodes will allow retailers to fight coupon fraud as the embedded serial numbers on the new formatted coupons can be automatically captured at the POS terminal. Coupon verification and limited cashier intervention ensure the correct processing of discounts. DataBar coupon codes can have values up to $999.99 and are not limited to the traditional table of 100 values. Additional information can include product details, embedded expiration dates, as well as retailer specific coupons.

Another benefit of the new barcode format is the standardized promotions built in and available in all supporting POS systems. Executives at major manufacturers say the promotions supported by GS1 codes will be fully functional at the start of 2011. Manufacturers will also be allowed to stop printing UPC codes on coupons. Experts say that UPCs will be phased off of coupons by June 2011, giving retailers a bit of buffer to make upgrades.

With coupon compliance as the first step future applications are not far off. The next readiness deadline of January 1, 2014 will allow the use of GS1 barcodes globally on any product. After coupons the next DataBar application will be labeling for loose produce, replacing the current PLU codes. This will allow tracking of products to the grower that supplied the product and allow more traceability of the products.

Other fresh categories that will follow suit include meats and cheeses, as well as sensitive categories such as health care merchandise.

PCI Update

PCI is here to stay. Much has and continues to be written about the PCI Standards, as it is constantly evolving and changing. The goal this month is to point out some of the recent changes and to have you re-evaluate your thoughts that “this won't happen to me” or that “I can worry about that later.”


The July 1, 2010 timetable has passed for ensuring that your pin pads are now PED compliant and processing with Triple DES encryption. Hopefully all retailers have done the upgrade to their pin pads; some retailers have found that the needed pin pads are in short supply. The processors have said they do not intend to fine for non-compliance at this time so there is a sort of temporary reprieve. This does not mean that you should not complete this update as well as be compliant with the new rules which will take effect January 2011.

Earlier this year in an article the two year cycle for PCI requirements was discussed. Due to feedback from different organizations, the PCI council has changed the process to three years in order to match other similar processes that are ongoing. This means you may no longer be compliant due to the changes made to the standards. Also as the industry has learned more about the requirements as well as the methods to meet those requirements, it will be very beneficial to work with your card processors and POS vendors to be sure that all is in order today.

Some software versions that were PCI compliant even just last year may no longer be listed as compliant today. This will continue for the foreseeable future, so just one upgrade does not mean you are set forever. Instead you should consider upgrading as often as every other year to stay up to date. Also keep in mind that the software is only part of 1 of the 12 steps which must be reviewed regularly.

The problem of credit card data theft continues. Even with strict adherence to PCI requirements, your business could be next. There are at least two benefits to being PCI compliant, first you are less likely to be victimized and second you have protections in place when you are. Please call us today at (607) 757-0181 for information on our programs that have been reviewed and certified as fully PCI compatible.

https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/index.shtml

What is Social Media?


What is social media? Wikipedia defines social media as media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses web-based technologies to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues. Businesses also refer to social media as consumer-generated media (CGM). Social media utilization is believed to be a driving force in defining the current time period as the Attention Age. A common thread running through all definitions of social media is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value.

Some social media web sites are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter just to name a few. As social media becomes a more integral part of people’s lives, its reach and impact grow. Here are some of the recent developments that businesses should know and should take advantage.

One of the most popular social media sites is Facebook. Recently Facebook launched a new feature called Facebook Places which allows Facebook members tell each other where they are, what they are doing and even who they are with. This has a great impact for local merchants and small businesses because they are more likely to be included in the conversation among Facebook users. Facebook also creates a Local Business page for each of the Places that are listed in Facebook Places. When someone “checks in” to your business, it will include a link to the Facebook page for your business in the message that gets sent out to their friends.

So how do you participate? Facebook lets merchants “claim” their pages. If you already have a Facebook page for your business, it will merge with your new Places page. When you claim your page, you will also be able to manage your Place’s information such as address, contact information, business hours, business profiles, pictures, etc. You could also get aggregate information about how your page is used.

The growth of social media is growing at a very fast pace. As a retail merchant, you may want to consider taking advantage of this trend to increase your business’ exposure.

The Shopping List

A study done by the NPD Groups, the leading global provider of consumer and retail market research information shows that 94% of shoppers prepare a written list before leaving the house and 72% say they never or rarely deviate from it. Of the 25% who do buy on impulse, value is the main motivation, 80% say they do so when they see an item on sale, 67% say they buy when they see items and remember they were needed and 37% say they do so when something looks like a good meal or snack.


For retailers, it's about helping consumers get what they want. About 70% of people shop at multiple locations and stores that can get creative, using list functions on their websites, developing list software, even providing ways they can send their list ahead of time and just pick up the groceries have a better chance of getting those consumers in their store. For grocers, that means marketing to people in their homes is more important, people eat many times a day, but typically shop only once a week. People are looking for recipes and ideas on the Internet, so food websites are really important as well.

While women still tend to do most of the family's food-related work, the whole family contributes to the list: 60% of married and family households pencil in what they want and kids add to lists in 40% of homes. Consumers aren't walking into stores without an agenda that means it's all about how to get consumers into your store.

With the right point-of-sale system you can create customer loyalty, improve customer service and increase your bottom line. For more information on how the IBM point-of-sale system can work for you contact STCR Business Systems at (607) 757-0181.

IBM SurePOS ACE Independent Retailer Package

Objective
Offer independent retailers a powerful POS solution and technical support—packaged at an affordable price

Solution
The IBM SurePOS ACE Independent Retailer Package


Benefits
Transforms store operations with a complete POS solution to manage transactions and data, help lower costs and stay competitive

Independent retailers face trying times in an ever-tightening economy. They struggle to stay competitive in a world of retail giants with extensive resources and demanding customers, who are more price conscious than ever, yet expect an enhanced shopping experience. IBM understands the challenges independent retailers face and has developed the reliable POS technology to help differentiate your business in innovative ways and reduce the hassles of everyday operations. An Independent Retailer is defined as an enterprise of 100 stores or less who have five lanes or less per store.

The complete POS solution
IBM and STCR Business Systems, Inc. have been providing industry leading point-of-sale solutions for more than 30 years. IBM Retail Store Solutions offers the IBM SurePOS™ ACE (Application Client Server Environment) Independent Retailer Package (AIR) so that independent retailers can have the complete POS solution they need to be competitive at a price that works for their business. IBM and STCR are dedicated to providing the highest level of service and support to independent retailers.

The IBM SurePOS ACE Independent Retailer Package
IBM has utilized decades of retail POS experience in developing the AIR package to be flexible and extendable to meet the needs of dynamic retail environments and continues to make significant annual investment in ACE technology to surpass industry standards and requirements.

The AIR Package is offered in a Premium version, with a dual station printer with MICR. You also have your choice of colors, either Iron Gray or Pearl White/Storm Gray.

To learn how the IBM SurePOS ACE Independent Retailer Package can transform your business, please contact STCR at (607) 757-0181. STCR has been selling, installing and supporting IBM cash register systems for more than 30 years and we have been in business for 43 years. We are an IBM Premier Business Partner with the in-house expertise to install IBM Products and train your personnel in the most professional manner.

Changing Shopping Trends

During the last two years the vast majority of consumers (92%) have changed their shopping behavior, with 89% indicating they’ve become more resourceful and 84% saying they are more precise when they shop, according to a recent study. Most of these new approaches are based on frugal spending with 65% of consumers feeling like they’re not sacrificing much. In fact, segments accounting for about 80% of shoppers actually consider the changes they’ve made the source of emotional and practical rewards so they have little intention of returning to their old ways, according to researchers.


Many consumers have turned to private labels with three in four (75%) indicating that they’re more open to trying the private labels versus two years ago. Also, eighty-five percent of consumers say they have found several store brands that are just as good as national brands.

“We continue to witness consumers creating a whole new rule book and skill set for shopping that’s based on value, not boasting of brands,” a vice chairman of a leading consumer product practice stated. “Our analysis concludes that personal gratification and a desire to feel smart about what consumers are putting in their shopping carts are trumping brand satisfaction, and that price-consciousness, value-orientation and bargain-hunting will remain prevalent for years to come.”

Debit Card Interchange Fees

On June 21, 2010 an agreement was reached with key conferees on the Wall Street reform bill regarding the Durbin amendment regulating interchange fees which passed the Senate 64-33.

There are a number of modifications and compromises that were made to the Durbin interchange amendment. Some of those were:

•Discounting between card networks
The Senate-passed amendment provided that card networks could no longer prevent merchants from offering customers a discount to use one card network vs. another (e.g., a discount to use Visa vs. MasterCard), and that this discount would apply in both the credit card and debit card contexts.

This provision has been removed from the amendment. In its place the compromise includes a provision directing the Fed to issue rules preventing card networks from requiring that their debit cards can only be used on one debit card network (thereby ensuring that merchants will have the choice of at least two networks upon which to run debit transactions). This provision also provides additional competition to a previously non-competitive part of the market. It allows merchants to choose the debit network with the lowest cost – the opposite of the current system where merchants are forced to use a specific network with fixed prices.
•Discounting between forms of payment
The Senate-passed amendment provided that card networks cannot prevent merchants from offering a discount for one form of payment vs. another (cash vs. check vs. credit vs. debit). The compromise clarifies that these discounts cannot be offered if the discounts differentiate between card issuers or card networks.
•Setting of maximum/minimum transaction thresholds for use of a credit card
The Senate-passed amendment provided that card networks could not prevent merchants from setting a minimum or maximum dollar amount for payment by credit card.
The compromise provides that such a minimum may not exceed $10, with authority given to the Fed to increase that dollar amount. The compromise also limits the ability to set maximums for payment by credit card to the Federal government and colleges and universities. The compromise further clarifies the Senate language and establishes that a minimum payment not exceeding $10 – matching laws currently on the books in a number of states.

Investing in Training is Profitable


The most successful companies have long recognized the value of a well trained staff. Some of the many reasons savvy business owners realize how investing in training will impact the bottom line are: increased job satisfaction and morale among employees; increased employee motivation; increased efficiencies in processes, resulting in financial gain; increased capacity to adopt new technologies and methods; increased innovation in strategies and products; reduced employee turnover; enhanced company image. These are just some of the compelling arguments to make ongoing training an organizational goal.

Staff training can be on the job where more experienced employees are assigned to train new employees. Cross-training existing employees on the various tasks handled by other staff is also important. This ensures operations are not disrupted when employees leave the company either temporarily or permanently. Sometimes a company does not have the knowledge internally to train staff for various reasons: key person left the company, company acquired new technology, or simply wants to learn how to leverage more feature/function from their current technology. Regardless of the reason, a prudent owner will recognize the investment value of developing his human resources to actualize increased efficiencies that will ultimately impact the bottom line.

These same principles hold true for independent grocers in this competitive market. As a solutions provider for independent grocers we understand these needs and have developed training programs to assist our customers in this on going effort. If you want to make the investment to improve your operation, contact your STCR Sales Representative. They can tell you about what options and programs we can customize to fit your specific needs and then see how it can improve your bottom line.

PCI Update

The PCI Security Standards Council announced recently that all 3 standards it controls will follow a three year development lifecycle.


The PIN Transaction Security requirements which specify how pin numbers are handled already used the three-year cycle with Version 3.0 coming out earlier this year.

The PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) used a two-year cycle – the current cycle ends in October 2010. The PCI DSS is a set of requirements for protecting card data by way of procedures, policies, networking, software and other areas.

Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) also used a two-year cycle – the current cycle ends in October 2010. The PA-DSS is a set of best practices called the Payment Application Best Practices (PABP). The purpose of the PA-DSS is to help vendors and others build software that protects card data, including mag stripe data, CVV2 and pin numbers.

The reason for going to a three-year cycle is to allow more time for merchants, banks, processors and vendors to implement the standards and meet the requirements. It also allows more time for the council to receive feedback about the standards and to discuss that feedback at community meetings.

The council also continually evaluates new technology and threats, and if needed, makes changes to the standards or provides guidance. Bob Russo, general manager of the council said, “The PCI Security Standards Council relies heavily on feedback from our participating organizations and the PCI community to create standards that strengthen the security of payment card data, and the input we’ve received has been overwhelmingly in favor of lengthening the lifecycle… Moving the revision cycles to three-year periods for all three existing standards ultimately means organizations have additional time to focus on making sure they have the appropriate processes and controls in place to secure cardholder data.”
PCI Security Standards Council home page: https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/index.shtml

Are Processing Fees on the Decrease?

An estimated $48 billion in swipe fees were charged by credit and debit card networks in 2008. If assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin has his way these fees will be on the downslide. In May of this year the US Senate passed an amendment to a banking overhaul legislation that will impose price controls on the debit transactions taken at retail establishments.


The Durbin amendment could save billions of dollars for all types of retailers, from family restaurants, dry cleaners and grocery stores that are increasingly realizing that more and more consumers are making their purchases with debit/credit cards. Retailers have tried to get legislation to control these fees but have run into road blocks along the way.

The amendment would direct the Fed to issue rules to ensure that debit interchange fees are reasonable and proportional to the processing costs incurred. Visa and MasterCard currently charge debit interchange fees of around 1-2% of the transaction amount. These fees are far higher than the actual cost of processing debit transactions, and they mean that small businesses and merchants always get shortchanged when they accept a debit card for a sale.

The amendment also prevents card networks like Visa and MasterCard from penalizing merchants for offering discounts to customers. The amendment would allow sellers to offer discounts for customers to use competing card networks and for customers to pay by cash, check or debit card. The amendment would also allow sellers to choose to decline credit cards for small dollar purchases (because interchange fees often exceed profits on such sales).

Visa and MasterCard have reduced debit interchange rates in other countries while increasing them in the U.S. While Visa and MasterCard continue to raise U.S. interchange rates (which are already the world’s highest), researchers have found that “regulators in other countries have worked with Visa and MasterCard to voluntarily reduce their interchange rates.” Just last month, Visa lowered many European debit rates by 60% while increasing many U.S. debit rates by 30%.

The amendment does not affect credit card interchange fees. Some have argued that the Durbin amendment would reduce credit availability by regulating credit card interchange rates. However, the amendment’s reasonable fee requirement only applies to debit cards.
Stay tuned, it is not a done deal yet. The banking overhaul bill still needs to pass the Senate, and then it must be reconciled with a House bill that does not mention debit card interchange fees. Credit card companies and banking institutions promise to fight the bill.

Is Your Backup Working?

In the wise words of Ben Franklin ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. A good backup/recovery solution for mission critical systems is an ounce of prevention crucial to any business owner. The pain of a hard drive failure without a good backup could include irrecoverable data loss, having you system down for an unneeded longer amount of time and could prove to be very expensive. Not only is there the obvious expense of the required emergency services, but even more costly is the lost revenue and customers associated with excessive down times.


STCR Business Systems provides a full backup/recovery solution to all our customers but having a solution in place is only the first step. Ensuring it is completing correctly is the second step and should be a high priority for every store. Some solutions are automated but they too need to be inspected. It would be a mistake to assume a backup will be there when needed only to find out, when it’s too late, it’s not. There is no better way to protect your investment and minimize potential down times, due to a hard drive failure, than consistently confirming your backups are completing correctly. This way you can be proactive and call the Help Desk if there are any issues.
If you don’t know if your system(s) are backing up or even how to check, please call STCR’s Help Desk at (607) 757-0181. One of our friendly, professional Retail Systems Analysts will be happy to assist you. Let us help you prevent the costly mistake of not periodically verifying the backup solution is working successfully.

What is Chip and Pin?

Will smarter credit cards be in our near future? What is Chip and Pin? Chip and Pin is a UK government-backed initiative to implement the EMV (short for Europay, Master Card and Visa) standard for smart payment cards.


EMV has been adopted in virtually every part of the world, including Canada and Mexico, for the storing of payment-card data. The U.S. maintains a vested interest in magnetic stripe based cards and the devices associated with them. Expense is currently the biggest barrier for US implementation along with liability for fraud loss. Criminals already working around the system also figure into the reluctance to bring it to American cardholders.

Javelin Strategy & Research estimates an EMV roll out across the United States would cost about $8.6 billion including the following:

• POS terminal replacements -- approximately $6.75 billion
• EMV card issuance -- around $1.4 billion
• ATM upgrades -- approximately $500 million
Also to be considered is the fact that the greatest beneficiaries of Chip and Pin are the card issuers with merchants and customers taking the brunt of the losses. The same merchants that will need to pay for most of the upgraded equipment to accept the new devices.

"(Chip and Pin's) main attraction to banks is the 'liability shift,' which is precluded in the U.S. by Regulation E," wrote Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge, in an e-mail. "This shift means that disputed transactions will be blamed on the customer if a PIN was used and the merchant otherwise. Thus, in theory, the bank would never again be liable.

Such a shift isn't possible in the U.S. because of rules set up under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act of 1978, says Steven J. Murdoch, Ph.D., a security researcher at Cambridge University. This is probably good news for U.S. consumers: Murdoch says that since the standard was fully adopted, it's been next to impossible for British consumers to recover money stolen in fraud.

"The banks get to effectively make up their own rules, and the rule they've chosen is that if your PIN is used, then you must have been negligent about protecting your PIN, therefore you're liable for the fraud," says Murdoch.

With this much uncertainty and these expenses without a return on investment we don't expect Chip and Pin to take over the US soon.

SMALL BUSINESS TAX RELIEF BILL

The Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act of 2010 will provide tax cuts for small businesses to help them grow and create new jobs. The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act will enhance lending opportunities for small businesses. This legislation is offset by closing some existing tax loopholes.


This bill represents a continuation to spur job creation and improve the quality of life in communities. Small businesses need capital to create jobs and lead economic recovery. The Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act contains important tax cuts and lending opportunities that will help give small business owners the resources and flexibility they need to help their businesses grow.

The bill will increase the capital gains exclusion on investments in small business stock to 100 percent (from 75 percent in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) for qualifying stock acquired after March 15, 2010 and before January 1, 2012.

The bill will also alleviate certain onerous tax penalties on small businesses. Under current law, Section 6707A of the Tax Code imposes a penalty on the failure to disclose a “reportable transaction” on any tax return or information statement. There are six categories of reportable transactions, one of which is a “listed transaction,” a type of transaction identified by the IRS through guidance as a tax avoidance transaction. The penalty for failure to disclose a reportable transaction (other than a listed transaction) on a return is $10,000 in the case of individuals and $50,000 in any other case. For listed transactions, the penalty is $100,000 in the case of individuals and $200,000 in any other case. The bill generally would make the penalty for failing to disclose reportable transactions (including listed transactions) proportionate to the underlying tax savings.

In addition the bill will allow small businesses to deduct up to $20,000 in small business start-up expenses not related to capital or equipment. The bill will also allow non-recourse Small Business Administration loans to qualify for certain exceptions to the at-risk loan rules, allowing business expenditures made under those loans to be deductible against related business income.

Is Your POS Ready for Summer?

After Memorial Day weekend it’s the unofficial start of the summer season. Most people will take some time away from work for vacation to enjoy time with their families. Before the temperature hits the summer time high, you may want to take a few moments to go over this POS system maintenance checklist to make sure your POS system is ready to handle the summer holiday rushes and the summer heat.


UPS
Checking your UPS, Uninterrupted Power Supply, especially the battery backup side is critical to keep your POS system running smoothly. During summer seasons power consumption is at its highest. This increases the chance of power interruption in the form of blackouts or brownouts. A blackout is easier to detect but a brownout may not be easily felt. Power fluctuation could also cause a power surge. Any one of these power outage scenarios could damage your POS system or any electronic devices that are not protected by a surge protector or UPS. All of your POS system devices should be plugged into a UPS. If you have a UPS and do not remember when it was installed or replaced, you should replace them to ensure your store runs smoothly.

Backup
Your POS system is equipped with backup devices and media. There may be an automatic file backup in place but there is always a removable backup device and media in the form of a DVD-RW drive and discs. Your daily or weekly routine should be making sure your system is backed up to the removable media. This is the quickest way to restore your system after a hard drive replacement. Removable backup should be part of your operational routine, just like counting cashiers and running reports.

Venting/Cooling
Take a moment to inspect the surroundings of your POS equipment. All electronic equipment has vents for cooling. Be sure your POS equipment has room for cooling by looking at the vents to be sure they are clear of dust and are not blocked. Although your IBM POS system is designed to withstand the toughest conditions in the retail environment, periodic cleaning is still a good practice to help your system run at peak performance.

These are just some of the regular maintenance practices that you should do to help prevent any system down time. Other maintenance practices include keeping your scanner/scale glass clean and clear of debris to ensure accurate scanning and weighing.

Your POS system is the mission critical part of your operation. It pays to practice simple maintenance measures to ensure you and your POS systems have a great summer.

Protect your Customer Data


We live in an age of cyber crime. The incident rates of reported cyber crimes are exploding. One segment of this growing criminal industry is the organized effort to steal customer account data to be sold for fraudulent purposes. The level of sophistication and adaptability of these illicit enterprises is nothing less than astonishing. The cycle of innovation in attack methodologies as the criminals reengineer their processes and develop new tools, keeps the full time security analysts in a constant game of cat and mouse.

As a merchant whose business depends heavily on electronic fund transfers to transact every day (roughly two-thirds of all retail transactions), the security of your POS system needs to be a primary concern. Who is accessing the system? What do they have access to? Are they able to do anything that could potentially compromise your customers’ account data, such as getting on the internet and checking email? These types of activity in a POS environment expose your system to potential malware attacks that can lead to an account data breach. To protect their consumers the Payment Card Industry (PCI) got together and developed a Data Security Standard (DSS) mandating all merchants secure their networks and protect cardholder data. If compromised card data is traced back to a specific merchant’s business, they are responsible to comply and pay for the forensic investigation and remediation to address the breach. Heavy fines can be levied and in a worst case the merchant is kicked off the debit networks: no more electronic fund transfers. Assuming the business survives an investigation with EFT processing intact, the bad public relations and loss of customer confidence itself can be costly to restore.

As a business relying greatly on the ability to process electronic fund transfers, you don’t want to be at risk of having your POS system compromised. All merchants are expected to be in compliance with the PCI DSS. Some of the first steps to accomplishing compliance is protecting your system from intrusions and restricting access to only authorized personnel performing only business operations. Find out who is accessing your systems. What are they doing? Remember, your business may depend on it. To find out more about PCI DSS visit http://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/.

20th ANNUAL RETAIL TECHNOLOGY STUDY

Gartner Research worked with RIS to conduct a retail study in the first two months of 2010. RIS has been conducting this survey for the last two decades. Some of the highlights of the 2010 study are that customers are in charge. With so much new technology the customers are sharing their retail experience world wide and can be more informed than store associates. With this knowledge 34% of retailers surveyed said they will be focusing on customer satisfaction in the next 18 months.


Another top priority of retailers for the coming year is IT initiatives. 43.8% of retailers surveyed said they will spend more on IT this year than in previous years. The reason for this change is that IT initiatives can help retailers achieve market advantages against competitors while producing measurable gains for cost-containment initiatives. The study shows that 62.8% of retailer’s budgets will be spent on IT and 38% of that on hardware and software.

While only 12% of the retailers in the study showed they were leading edge in their approach to adopting IT, 30% said they were quick adopters. The study shows that 45% of retailers are looking for IT consulting. For the top category, IT

Consulting, where do retailers go for more strategic and broad-based IT services? Among our respondents IBM is the first choice for 53%.

Two different technologies appeared in 1974 that changed the way retailers do business. The first was bar codes; the second was the point of sale system, POS played a much larger role by revolutionizing the ability to automate management and control. The heartbeat of a store today is found in the POS hardware and software. Right now 42% of retailers have up-to-date POS hardware and 36% have up-to-date POS software or they are currently finishing projects already begun. You can read the full study by going to: http://support.stcr.com/Newsletter/RIS_RetailTechStudy_040710.pdf

What is FACTA?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 is an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act which allows consumers to request and obtain a free credit report once every twelve months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies and also contains provisions to help reduce identity theft.


The FACT Act contains seven major titles: Identity Theft Prevention and Credit History Restoration, Improvements in Use of and Consumer Access to Credit Information, Enhancing the Accuracy of Consumer Report Information, Limiting the Use and Sharing of Medical Information in the Financial System, Financial Literacy and Education Improvement, Protecting Employee Misconduct Investigations, and Relation to State Laws.

Under the title of Identity Theft Prevention and Credit History Restoration is a section requiring the truncation of credit and debit card numbers. This act prohibits businesses from printing more than 5 digits of any customer's card number or the card expiration date on any receipt provided to the cardholder at the point of sale or transaction. The act did not become effective for three years after its enactment for any cash register manufactured before January 1, 2005 and did not become effective for one year after its enactment for any cash register manufactured after January 1, 2005.

If you are unsure if your system meets any of these guidelines please contact STCR Business Systems at 607-757-0181.

GS1 Databar

By now most of the retailers are aware of the term GS1 DataBar. However, not everyone is ready to implement this technology.


What is GS1 DataBar? According to GS1.org, GS1 DataBar is a symbology where the symbols can carry more information and identify small 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.

GS1 DataBar is available on many products with the specific focus on fresh products scanned at POS. Retailers who implement this technology can benefit in their fresh food departments with better food safety, quality and shrink control with the available data such as sell-by-date, lot number, country of origin (COO), weight of the product and price over $99.99.

While awareness of the upcoming GS1 DataBar sunrise date for coupons is high among independent retailers, 38% said they will not be ready by the January 2011 date according to an online member survey conducted last month by the National Grocers Association. This January 2011 sunrise date is just for manufacturer coupons. What it means is that starting January 2011, manufacturer coupons will only have GS1 DataBar. The benefits of GS1 DataBar include increased flexibility of coupon face values and purchase requirements, reduced cashier intervention and the opportunity to validate complex offers making it a promotional vehicle.

In the coming months and years, GS1 Member Organizations will continue to work with their retailer communities to determine when GS1 DataBar will be used in open trade on any items between 2010 and 2014. At this point, 2014 is the date when GS1 DataBar can be used globally in any open trade on any product.

To be ready for GS1 DataBar, your POS system needs to have the scanning equipment and the POS software, including your back office application, that maintain the POS item files capable of reading and processing this format. If you need to know if your POS system is ready, please contact your STCR sales representative at (607) 757-0181.

APC BACK-UPS ES 750 VA

The Back-UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) ES 750 VA includes a highly efficient charging system and modern look together with “green” features designed to minimize environmental impact while still offering the world’s most reliable power protection for computer systems and peripherals. Its new high frequency design means less copper is used which results in a smaller overall size and leads to the use of fewer plastics and less energy to ship it. Advanced features like Master/Controlled outlets that shut off power to printers, scanners and speakers when the computer is not in use saves additional money on electric bills and proves that it is possible to reduce electrical waste and still deliver up to 5 times more efficiency than competitive products.


Features
• Ten surge protected outlets, 5 with battery backup.
• Master/Controlled outlets that conserve energy.
• Included PowerChute® safe system shutdown software.
• Full dataline protection.

By eliminating “phantom loads”, the BE750G can save an additional $28 per year* when compared with competitor’s models, for an average $40 total savings per year on your electric bill.

STCR Business Systems has been selling, installing and supporting electronic equipment for several years. We recommend a UPS Unit for each Controller and POS Terminal in your store. STCR is an IBM Premier Business Partner with the ability to install POS systems and train your personnel in the most professional manner. If you would like to upgrade your current UPS Units or add these safeguards to your installation, contact STCR Business Systems at (607) 757-0181.

STCR Support Center

Since 1967 STCR Business Systems, Inc. has worked hard to bring independent grocers and specialty food stores top of the line retail systems and award winning support. We provide state of the art hardware and software along with a 24x7x365 National Call center based in the United States. Our team is made up of retail technology experts who undergo continuous training to remain at the forefront of their profession.

STCR uses a state of the art call tracking system to monitor all calls. Our relationship with IBM provides us with the ability to dispatch an IBM local service technician to the customer’s location while working closely with the technician to ensure complete follow up. We also offer a web portal to the help desk system to allow customers to open new calls, key word search and review their call history. We have fully functional lab systems to enable us to test and attempt recreates on reported issues. STCR’s help desk team is available at any time of the day or night to help keep your store running smoothly.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our support services by giving every customer an opportunity to let us know how we are doing by participating in our ‘Call back’ process. We understand the mission critical nature of the solutions we provide our customers and take pleasure in knowing we are helping them get the fullest return on their investment.

Boarman's Meat Market

Recently change has come to what is affectionately known by locals as the “Heart of the Heartland”.  Boarman’s Meat Market, a fixture in Maryland, has meshed old fashioned, neighborly business ethic with cutting edge POS technology.

Three generations of Boarman’s -- Larry, George II, his wife Terri, their son Georgie III and valued employees continue in the tradition of down home service initiated by family patriarch George L. Boarman I. Since 1955 the Boarman’s have been rendering service with that special touch continuing the tradition from the Mt. Rainier, Maryland, store which opened in 1933, things such as home delivery. Back in the days of the 30's and 40's, the drivers had access to customers' home keys and no one gave it a second thought to finding groceries neatly put away and the house locked backup tight. Today grateful seniors enjoy much the same service. It's not unusual to be greeted with a hug when entering the store or answering your door during a snow storm only to find George II with kerosene in hand and his horse in tow when no one else could get to the house.

It is with such values in mind that the family searched for a new POS system. When it came time, they decided on a vendor who is patient with the process of acclimatizing to new technology. Someone who is available at odd hours when the need arises. Most importantly someone who shares their understanding of how important loyal customers are to the grocery business.
"After researching various POS systems, we were sold on STCR because of their promise of support and service. STCR has lived up to that promise above and beyond. You would think they are your next door neighbor, always available and willing to help. The program was easy to learn and the Help Desk is FANTASTIC. It was reassuring to know that one company handles the entire bundle, not two or three different manufacturers' programs that have been integrated. The equipment is top notch too. We are very pleased with the system and already feel like we have a better handle of our business."
Issues such as GS1 Data Bar, PCI compliance and Triple Des Encryption were left to STCR while the important things like the best Sausage in the area, commitment to old fashioned community values and hugs were left to the experts at Boarman's Meat Market.

Keeping up with PCI

For the last couple of years there has been a lot of buzz about PCI. PCI stands for the Payment Card Industry. PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is a worldwide information security standard defined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. The standard was created to help organizations that process card payments minimize credit card fraud. The standard applies to all organizations which process or exchange cardholder information.
PCI is an on going process. The PCI Security Standards Council continues to develop the PCI DSS as needed to ensure that the standard includes any new or modified requirements necessary to remove all security risks. Changes to the standard follow a defined 24-month lifecycle with five stages, described below.

Stage 1: Market Implementation
Stage 2: Feedback Begins
Stage 3: Feedback Review and Decision
Stage 4: New Version / Revision and Final Review
Stage 5: Discuss New Version / Revision

Each of the stages varies in length with a total of 24 Months. The next update takes effect on 9/30/2010. Retailers need to be proactive when it comes to PCI and credit card security risks. You can find the most up-to-date PCI information at https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org.

Is Your Store Secure?

Security, it’s the buzz word these days and everyone wants to feel secure. Everyone wants security but what does it mean to be secure? For starters, it’s important to make your store secure from intruders. You probably have security systems to prevent intrusion and theft. Beyond the physical security, do you know how secure your POS system and your computer networks are?


You are probably aware that as a store operator who processes credit cards you are required to follow the PCI guideline to protect the personal data of your customers. One of the many things that you have to do is to make sure that your POS software is updated to the level that is compliant. This is probably the most obvious step toward compliancy. However, there are several other areas where you need to pay attention.

If you have Internet connection at your store, you are vulnerable to Internet intrusions. The intrusion could come in many forms such as virus, spyware, etc. There are also more active ways that a hacker could gain access to your computer. The task is to stay ahead of these intrusions and it’s a never ending process.

To secure your network you need to have hardware and software that is designed to limit access to and from your store. A firewall is a solution to protect your system. Firewalls can be hardware solution or software solutions. For example, SonicWall Firewall is a solution that provides a physical connection of your internal network. It segregates your internal network from the public Internet. It has an array of functions and features that protects your internal network. For example, you can limit the Web sites that someone could access; thus, limit the chance of virus or spyware from getting into your computers. It also has the ability to centrally deploy antivirus software to all the Windows PC on the network.
Even with all the technology to protect your system, the best practice is to limit web access to business related traffic only. Just because you use Windows PCs, doesn’t mean you should use them like the Windows PCs you have at home. A good rule of thumb is to “Let your POS system function as they are designed – to run your POS system.” This way you will further limit any chance of intrusion.

As the technology advances, so do the ways that hackers will come up with to try to steal valuable information. This is a never ending battle and you need to keep up with hardware and software technologies that are designed to stay ahead of the crooks. As a POS systems provider, STCR is here to provide the ever changing solution to help you stay up to date. If you have question on whether your network is secure or if your POS software is up to date, please contact us at (607) 757-0181.

Nutritional Value

The nutritional value of food is a concern for most consumers and they are always looking for ways to decrease spending in food stores while being conscious of what they are feeding their families. In a study done by the NGA (National Grocer Association) the simple ‘desire to be healthy/eat what’s good for us’ came in #1. Some other nutritional concerns that ranked in this survey are:

• Fat content/low fat 13%
• Chemical additives 12%
• Salt/sodium content, less salt 10%
• Freshness, purity and no spoilage 6%

Of the consumers surveyed by the NGA 84% are leaning toward eating more fruits and vegetables and 64% of consumers are trying to consume ‘less junk food/snack food’. A surprising statistic is 33% of consumers in this survey look to their grocery stores to learn about nutritional issues on a regular basis where as 23% look to their doctor. This not only helps grocery stores keep their customers coming back but also gives them the opportunity to increase their customer base.

Loyalty programs can give your customers an incentive to be more nutritionally conscious. The more you know about your customers, the better you can meet their needs and gain their confidence.

MK500 Price Checker

Price checkers are a very important part of a successful store and are a very important piece to a successful Supermarket. They are known to improve your customer service and the shopping experience. It helps retailers put the power of self-service in every aisle or department for their customers.
Price checkers allow customers, on demand customer service, no matter where they are in the store. People in general do not like asking for help. If a customer has to ask for a price it becomes a hassle and most of the time they will just put that item back. By having a price checker available to your customers, you are giving them the opportunity to check the price of their items at their convenience and they don’t have to take time away from your cashiers.

STCR Business Systems is now selling the new Symbol MK500 price checkers. They are very compact and are very easy to install and use. These machines are very durable so, as a business owner, you don’t have to worry about your customers potentially breaking them. If you are interested in purchasing even one of these units, please call your STCR Business Systems representative at (607)757-0181.

IBM Executive Briefing Center

STCR had the opportunity to visit IBM’s Executive Briefing Center in Research Triangle Park, NC with one of their customers. The purpose was to learn more about the innovations of IBM Retail Store Solutions (RSS). It was quite the experience for both of us.
A few facts learned are:

• Retail Store Solution established in 1972
• 2 Million + POS shipped and installed
• 65% of the Top Retailers use IBM
• 16 year Leader in POS patent (4,100 patents in 2009)
• 40% of staff has 10+ years with IBM
• 10 year commitment to service and support on products once introduced
• Improvement in EFF increased about 35% which saves about $25/machine a year
Our group was taken on a tour of the RSS Development & Test Lab. We have always known IBM designed their Retail Store Solutions to exceed industry standards and for years we’ve touted this higher standard but this brought things to a whole new perspective.
First, this facility is larger then the inside of Giant Stadium. Half of it is filled with equipment running and diagnosing all of IBM’s Retail Software. All customer issues in the US go through this facility. The other half of this facility is where these machines are put to the physical test. Needless to say this is what really impressed us. It is like a torture chamber for the POS, each part of the system is exposed to various torture devices.

One station had a Touch Screens that had a gallon of water tossed at it while another underwent water boarding (placed under a container that drips gallons of water over it) and still another has a pinball machine like test performed on it to ensure the screen picks up movement. The printers are constantly printing and cutting; printing and cutting to stimulate several years of wear and tear. The terminals are electrically shocked and exposed to extreme temperatures (-40 – 140 degrees). Cash drawers loaded with nuts and bolts were mechanically opened and closed at various points to simulate a cashier’s habits. Dirt was replicated and deposited in machines to simulate years of accumulation and put into a device that accelerates use.

This tour was only an hour of a 2 day trip but what an impression it left. It reinforces our belief that IBM equipment is the best out there and STCR is the right company to bring it to you. If you are interested in visiting the IBM Executive Briefing Center please contact your sales representative at (607) 757-0181 and they will set things in motion.

Discounts and Health Foods

Reducing the price of healthy foods could place more whole grains, carrots and bananas in shopping carts, even months after the discounts are removed.


As rates of obesity continue to rise in much of the developed world, so does the urgency to improve people's food choices. Researcher Dr. Cliona Ni Mhurchu of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and her team conducted a six-month trial across eight supermarkets to determine the effects of two strategies: price discounts and nutrition education.

A total of 1,104 shoppers were randomized to receive a price discount on healthy foods, tailored nutrition education, a combination of the two or no intervention. Healthy foods were 12.5 percent cheaper for those randomized to receive discounts. Participants in the nutrition education group received monthly packages of food-group-specific information tailored to their shopping history. All supermarket purchases were recorded with handheld barcode scanners.

According to a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, after six months of intervention, participants receiving price discounts bought approximately 1.7 more pounds of healthy food per week compared with those not randomized to pay the lower prices.

This was an 11 percent increase from purchases made prior to the study and included just over a pound more fruits and vegetables per week or about six servings. The total difference dropped to around 0.8 pounds, but remained significant, six months after the study was over. No consistent differences were found between the groups in the amounts of purchased saturated fat or other nutrients.

Study participants were generally more informed and interested in healthy eating than average individuals. Nutrition enthusiast or not everyone likes a bargain. The price reductions may have provided an additional incentive over health to buy healthier foods. Although these reductions didn't change the quantity of unhealthy food purchased, almost two thirds of the additional healthy purchases were fruit and vegetables.

Balancing Daily

Regardless of the point of sale software you use today, it is very important to balance any external accounts on a daily basis. This applies to all of the electronically processed tenders you handle.


When you ring sales and tender the transactions using electronic tender, the customer’s information is sent to your credit card processor and an approval is normally returned. This amount then logs to the cashiers accounting file. For some of the forms of tender in today's systems the option exists to either sign the slip of paper or sign on the register's pin pad. Then the electronic signature is stored somewhere on the system for later retrieval. In the past the slips of paper would be picked up from the cashier’s accountability and moved to the stores accountability. Now that the electronic record is created some stores automatically move the accountability to the office at the time of the transaction. This does simplify and speed up the process. The down side of doing this is that now the transaction is totally electronic and some stores have taken the POS reports to be the final total for the store. What is forgotten is somehow the same amount of money needs to be deposited into the stores bank account to make the entire transaction complete.

Different POS systems and credit card processors vary with the method to compare what the store has processed and what the processor is giving you credit for. Some POS systems show you a one report comparison; others have a separate web site that reports what credit the processor has given you credit for. Sometimes the reports do not match and this is normally because some transactions were taken off line and should show up as an overage on the next days report.
Finally the most important step of the process is to implement a method that the credit transactions are tracked to make sure the money expected actually makes it all the way to your bank account.

Consumer's Survey

Competition in the grocery industry has never been greater. In addition to traditional supermarkets, there are now many different types of food stores to choose from. It is estimated that shoppers spend over $500 billion annually on food in all types of food stores. The traditional supermarket lost a great number of their customers to super centers and discount stores. Traditional supermarkets also have seen a decline in how much shoppers spend and how frequently they shop in a particular store.
Most grocers believe that focusing on their primary shoppers and offering products they want to buy, at fair prices and treating these customers with lots of tender, loving care will be the key to successful growth. The NGA (National Grocers Association) researched what is important to the shopper. In the 2010 Consumer Survey Report done by the NGA, 46% of the shoppers surveyed stated they would like to see their primary grocery store improve on price and cost savings. Some of the other items that ranked in this survey are:
41% - More locally grown food
30% - More variety/better assortment/wider choice
22% - More fresh made food
22% - Better customer service/employees

Creating a positive shopping experience and creating the perception of value in the customer's mind, will be the absolute key for traditional supermarkets to succeed in the marketplace. Ideally, retailers need to know who their customers are and what they want.

DSD Receiving

In follow up to last month’s discussion on DSD some additional recommendations to help improve the process and receive a better ROI on labor invested.

AP Audits
It’s recommended that once a year an AP audit should be performed by a third party. This audit will catch the following:

• Deal pricing front and back loading
• Varying price by location
• Credits paid as bills
• Deals not offered

While you typically give up 50% of the findings, you can use the DSD Audit report to plan and train for the current year to prevent similar findings the next year. This process is a must in order measure the effectiveness of the receiver, buyer and accounting department.

Each year a goal should be set to reduce the findings by the outside auditor. You will know you are effective when the outside auditors don’t want to return because it is unprofitable for them. This is a sign of success.

Deal Pricing and Costs
While a 3rd party DSD audit will identify the issues mentioned, controls need to be established to insure that vendors are not loading in before or after the deal and costs between stores are valid. These functions can be accomplished via accounting, operations and your purchasing department.

• Proper pricing files should be maintained in the DSD system.
• Accounts payable should sort invoices by vendor (periodically if another sorting system is used) and look at pricing for the same item between stores. Sometimes different pricing is acceptable due to different distributors. However, if it is the same vendor, the lower cost between stores should be taken in all stores.
• Operations and merchandising can work together to police deliveries. Look at the ad items in advance. Are vendors loading in before the deal period? Have the store managers talk to drivers and let them know that this behavior is unacceptable. If it continues (besides deducting money from the bill) call the regional manager of the distributor and let them know what the route driver is doing. In short, let them know that you are watching.

Receiving audit
Someone who is not directly involved in the process should perform a periodic audit of receivers and vendors. Do not use your alternate receiver or receiving manager. It is a simple yes no audit and results should be reviewed for any weaknesses.

Security
The back door should be locked during all hours except hours that the door is manned by the receiver. (Please note, if this is an emergency exit, check with your local fire department or building inspector to determine if alarmed panic bars are acceptable.) The back doors should not be left unlocked for smokers or a cool breeze. Trash should be removed in clear trash bags (ideally, a locked compactor would be used with secure access from inside the store.)

SUMMARY
The above are general receiving practices and do not address the additional security required for items such as cigarette and alcohol deliveries. In addition a review of proper pricing and deal reconciliation is contained in a separate document. The above policies, coupled with a periodic operational audit and a 3rd party AP audit, will insure you are protecting your back door and your store operations and assets.

Getting More from your POS

Remember when your POS system was first installed? There were many things that you and your staff had to learn, such as the basic cashier functions to the back-office accounting and reporting features. There were adjustments that were needed to make the system fit your specific needs. Now that you have had some time using your POS system and your staff is proficient in their daily tasks, we’d like to suggest that you take another look at how you could get more out of your POS system to help improve your business. Most POS system users only use a small portion of the available functions and features. This may be sufficient to run your business but if you are looking for growth in your business or improving your bottom line, it’s worth your time to look at what else your POS system could do for you. Here are some examples and suggestions:


Advertising - It is everywhere. Advertising is on all forms of media and you see it from the time you wake up until you go to sleep. Most POS systems provide the functionality to place advertisement on the customer display. You may have the ability to place and change the pictures displayed on the customer display screen to further help you advertise to your customers in conjunction with the in-store signage.

Promotions - Everyone likes to get a deal. Promotions are great ways to gain new customers and create customer loyalty. However, it may take a little planning and creativity to come up with promos that benefit both you and your customers. We suggest that you don’t make the promo too complicated to understand. After all, the goal is to reward your customers for their loyalty.

Reporting - Arguably, the most valuable part of your system is the information gathered from all the transactions. What could you do with all that data? You could run reports like the basic daily sales and movement reports to comparison sales reports between this year and last year. Other options include reports that could help you with theft prevention and data-mining customer shopping patterns. These are just some functions and features that you could utilize to improve your bottom-line. Other functions and features which may be available include: deli scale management, ad-planning, price optimization and electronic signature capture.

If you would like to learn how you can get more out of your POS system and learn how to use any of the above functions or just want to know if something can be done, please contact STCR Business Systems at (607) 757-0181.