Small Business Strategies

The technology innovation trendwe saw it the past year will continue in the retail industry, with mobilepayment as one of the emerging technology. Shoppers can now compare prices of any item online or inbrick-and-mortar stores with a smart phone. Retail analytics can predict shoppers’ life styles and target them withpromotions to increase margins.  So howdoes a small business compete with large retail boxes that have the ability toafford the cutting edge technology?  Thisis not an easy task but here are three strategies that could help.

 First, a small business should look to diversify its revenuestream.  A small business could notcompete on price along with the larger retail box.  One advantage the small business has overchain stores is that it knows its customers on a personal level.  Offer customers the experiences that theynormally wouldn’t get from a chain store. For example, local grocery stores could offer healthy eating and cookingevents.

We all know that small business is the backbone of oureconomy.  Local businesses can takeadvantage of their connection to the local community and enlist support from withinthe community.  One example is to partnerwith local schools and charities to offer support to these organizations.  By doing so, local businesses increase theirrole in the well-being of the community and therefore could increase thesupport and loyalty of the community.

Another strategy is to garner support from its vendors.  Vendors who sell to large retail boxes areusually forced in negotiation to provide products at a deep discount.  Small businesses could take advantage of thisfact to create mutually beneficial relationships with their vendors andsuppliers.

Finally, small businesses need to look at the technology andhow they could adapt and utilize what they can afford to compete with largeretail chain.  Small businesses could dothat by choosing scalable POS and back-office systems that provides them withthe same functions and capabilities as the large retailers.

Investing In Training is Profitable

The most successfulcompanies have long recognized the value of a well trained staff.  Some of the many reasons savvy businessowners realize how investing in training will impact the bottom line are:  increased job satisfaction and morale amongemployees; increased employee motivation; increased efficiencies in processes,resulting in financial gain; increased capacity to adopt new technologies andmethods; increased innovation in strategies and products; reduced employee turnover;enhanced company image.  These are justsome of the compelling arguments to make ongoing training an organizationalgoal.

Staff training can be on the job where more experiencedemployees are assigned to train new employees. Cross-training existing employees various tasks handled by otheremployees is also important.  Thisensures operations are not disrupted when employees leave the company eithertemporarily or permanently.  Sometimes acompany does not have the knowledge internally to train staff for variousreasons: key person left the company, company acquired new technology or simplywants to learn how to leverage more features/functions from their currenttechnology.  Regardless of the reason, aprudent owner will recognize the investment value of developing their humanresource to actualize increased efficiencies that will ultimately impact thebottom line.

These same principles hold true for independent grocers inthis competitive market.  As a solutionsprovider for independent grocers we understand these needs and have developedtraining programs to assist our customers in this ongoing effort.  If you want to make the investment to improveyour operation, contact STCR at (607) 757-0181.

Montague Foods Implements Fuel Rewards

Montague Foods has beenserving Michigan’s White Lake community since 1988.  They first opened their doors in the groundfloor level of the building across the street from their present location.  Their purpose was to provide the White Lakecommunity with a truly local hometown supermarket where they could purchasequality food and groceries at an affordable price.

 Due to steady growth in the customer base and demand forincreased product selection, they began to look for opportunities and make plansfor expansion.  In 2001, they built a newstore in their current location, providing their customers with easier access,an updated shopping atmosphere and a greater variety of products to choosefrom.

They recently went through a remodel of the present store sothat they could again expand their line of products in many of theirdepartments, and be able to serve their customers even more effectively.

As part of the remodel they installed gas tanks and pumps inthe parking lot to allow them to offer an additional convenience to theircustomers.  As part of the new offeringthe SMS fuel control was installed by STCR to allow them to manage bothin-store and fuel pumps, with the same system. This allows them to customize numerous options within the system toappeal to a broader customer base, while promoting shopping rewards that can beredeemed at the gas station.

IBM Executive Briefing Center

STCR hadanother opportunity to visit IBM’s Executive Briefing Center in ResearchTriangle Park, NC with some of their customers. Retail Industry Experts were brought in to present and discuss thetrends of the grocery industry.  Thepurpose was to learn more about the innovations of IBM Retail Store Solutions(RSS) and how our customers can benefit from them. 

A few facts about IBM Retail Store Solutions are:

·      Retail Store Solution established in 1972
·      2 Million + POS shipped and installed
·      65% of the Top Retailers use IBM
·      17 year Leader in POS patent (5,896 patents in2010)
·      40% of staff has 10+ years  with IBM
·      10 year commitment to service and support onproducts once introduced
·      Improvement in EFF increased about 35% whichsaves about $25/machine a year

The group was taken on a tour of the RSS Development andTest Lab.  We have always known IBMdesigned their Retail Store Solutions to exceed industry standards and foryears we’ve touted this higher standard but this brought things to a whole newperspective. 

The facility is the size of a football field end-zone toend-zone.  Half of it is filled withequipment running and diagnosing all of IBM’s Retail Software.  All customer issues in the USgo through this facility.  The other halfof this facility is where these machines are put to the physical test.  Needless to say this is reallyimpressive. 

One station had Touch Screens where gallons of water weretossed at them, while another station had these units placed under containersthat dripped gallons of water over them and still another had a pinball machinetest performed on it to ensure the screen picks up movement.  The printers are constantly printing andcutting to simulate several years of wear and tear.  The terminals are electrically shocked andexposed to extreme temperatures (-40 – 140 degrees).  Cash drawers loaded with nuts and bolts weremechanically opened and closed at various points to simulate a cashier’shabits.  Dirt was replicated anddeposited in machines to simulate years of accumulation and put into a devicethat accelerates use. 

At the end of the day we were give the special treat offseeing the infamous “Cloud” (a computing model providing web-based software,middleware and computing resources on demand). This 60,000 sq. ft. facility has advanced software analytics which allowthe facility to adjust and anticipate client data and energy workloads.

This tour was a little over an hour but what an impressionit left.  It reinforces our belief thatIBM Retail Store Solutions are the best and STCR is the right company to bringit to you.   If you are interested invisiting the IBM Executive Briefing Center please contact your salesrepresentative at (607) 757-0181.  

Is Your System Secure?

It is important to make yourstore secure from intruders.  As you knowas a store operator, you are required to follow the PCI guideline to protectthe personal data of your customers.  Oneof the many things that you have to do is to make sure that your POS softwareand hardware is updated to the level that is compliant.  This is probably the most obvious step towardthe compliancy.  However, there areseveral other areas that you need to address.

If you have an Internet connection, you are vulnerable toInternet intrusions.  The intrusion couldcome in many forms such as virus, spyware, etc. There are also more active ways that a hacker can gain access to yourcomputer.  The challenge is to stay aheadof these intrusions and it’s a never ending process. 

To secure your network, you need to have hardware andsoftware that are designed to limit access to and from your store.  A Firewall is a solution to protect yoursystem. A Firewall could be a hardware solution or software solution orboth. 

Even with all the technology to protect your system, thebest practice is to limit the Web access to business related traffic only.  Just because you use Windows PCs, it doesn’tmean you should use them like the Windows PCs you have at home.  A good rule of thumb is to “Let your POSsystem function as they are designed – to run your POS system.”

As the technology advances, so do the ways that hackers willcome up with to try to steal valuable information.  This is a never ending battle and you need tokeep up with hardware and software updates that are designed to stay ahead ofthe crooks.   As a POS systems provider,STCR is here to provide ever changing solutions to help you stay up todate.  If you have question on whetheryour network is secure or if your POS software is up to date, please don’thesitate to contact us at (607) 757-0181.

McQuade's Marketplace Wins “Green Chill Award”

McQuade's Marketplacehas been recognized by the federal government for its environmentalpractices.  The independent groceryretailer with stores in Westerly and Mystic, CT, as well as Jamestown, RI, wasrecognized by the Environmental Protection Agency's GreenChill Partnership forachievements in refrigerant management in the past year.

GreenChill, a voluntary program launched by the EPA in 2007,works with supermarkets to help them transition to environmentally friendlier refrigerants,reduce the amount of refrigerant they use, eliminate leaks, adopt greentechnologies and environmental best practices.  According to the EPA, refrigerants used bysupermarkets, if not managed properly, can contribute to climate change andharm the ozone layer.  More than 7,000stores belong to the GreenChill Partnership, 20 percent of the supermarketindustry.  GreenChill presents annualawards to retailers participating in the program.  McQuade's was awarded GreenChill's BestEmissions Rate Award for small retailers, for use of advanced refrigerationtechnology.

Michael McQuade, the company president, said the awardrecognized the cumulative performance of his three stores.  A new freezer system was installed in theWesterly store about 18 months ago.  If aleak develops, he said, the new system can lose no more than an eight-poundcharge or one gallon of Freon.  McQuade's had just a 6 percent Freon leak rate during the last year.  Before the advent of new technology, just fouryears ago, the EPA questioned whether stores could get below a 12 percent leakrate.  A conscientious staff that isfocused on maintenance put the chain in contention for the award.

Upgrade From PCAnywhere To LogMeIn

If you are using PC Anywhere as your remote access software then you needto be aware of recent Symantec company reports of having their source codestolen for PCAnywhere.  Software Securityfirm Symantec has warned customers to stop using its pcAnywhere software.  For more detailed information followthis link read the full article from the BBC. 

With current PCIrequirements that are not easily met using PCAnywhere, STCR suggests that youupgrade to LogMeIn for ease of use and ease of complying with PCI remote accessrequirements.  STCR's help desk will handle the individual users' loginsetup, distribution and changes, which will allow each remote user to have toindividual access therefore complying with another of the PCI requirements.

From the LogMeIn website help files regarding PCI:

Is LogMeIncompliant with PCI standards?

LogMeIn understands that security and adherence to PCI requirements arecritical, and we fully support our customers’ policies for ensuring theiradherence to PCI-DSS compliance.
Our remote connectivity services only maintains limited session data associatedwith remote computers and does not retain or store any information, includingany credit card data, from remote computers or any information transferredduring a remote access session. Additionally, we protect all informationtransmitted with full, end-to-end 256-bit SSL encryption, the same encryptionmethod endorsed by MasterCard, Visa and American Express. We also support PCIcompliance with centralized user management, two-factor authentication forstrong access control measures, and maintain secure physical and networksecurity, with ongoing security monitoring & testing.

Fuel Up Your Store And Drive More Business

There is a growingtrend in the supermarket industry of selling gasoline and offering gas rewardsto cross promote.  The list ofsupermarket chains already offering gas is growing: Albertson's, Costco,Kroger, Safeway, Wal-Mart, etc.  The listgoes on.  In the near future grocers notselling gasoline will find themselves at a real disadvantage.  The push to add gas is seen as critical toincrease traffic, add convenience and drive customer loyalty.

STCR is excited to announce a new solution being offered toour customers:  SMS Fuel Control. SMS Fuel Control allows for the integration ofyour POS system with fuel pump capability. With one consolidated system,merchants can now manage all aspects of a fuel based operation.

All the features a merchants expects are at-the-pump, includingprepay and at-the-pump authorization. Additionally, this system addscapabilities to enhance control and flexibility for your business.  SMS Fuel provides: pump control from any POS,full or self-service operations (or a combination), integrated inventory andreporting, price book management and much more.

Promotions motivate customers and drive business, and SMSFuel easily delivers. With the same system managing both gas and in-storeoperations, SMS Fuel stores can customize numerous options within the system toappeal to a broader customer base. Major features include:
  • Pump Control
  • Pay at the Pump
  • Cross Promotions
  • Roll Back Price
  • Advertising
  • Loyalty at the Pump
  • Wet Stock Management
For more information about SMS Fuel and if it can integrated with your system, contact STCR at(607) 757-0181.

Protect Your Investment with A UPS

There is a veryimportant device needed to protect your technology investment.  It is called an UPS or uninterrupted powersupply.  The purpose of the UPS is toprevent a sudden loss of power and to allow for a controlled shutdown.  They also offer surge protection.  Computer equipment is very susceptible todamage from power surges which may not be covered by your maintenanceagreement.  It is highly recommended toplug all mission critical devices into a UPS (store controllers, networkswitches, registers, etc.).

In the event of a power loss the devices plugged into thebattery backup side of the UPS will be supplied battery power for a limitedamount of time.  This will allow you tofinish up any transactions or functions you may be doing, so you can thenperform a controlled shutdown until power is re-established.  Depending on the model and voltage of theequipment plugged into the UPS, the battery backup time can vary. 

While providing battery support, the UPS beeps to alert youof the condition, so corrective action can be taken.  The UPS will also beep when it is nearing theend of its life.  It is a good idea toperiodically test it to ensure it is in good working condition.  To test it, unplug the UPS itself from theoutlet it is plugged into.  If thedevices plugged into the battery side of the UPS stay up and running then thedevice is working properly.  If thedevices do not stay on, then your UPS is bad. 

For more information contact an STCR Representative at (607)757-0181 and we will be happy to assist you.

STCR at the NGA

Please join STCR at booth#805 at The N.G.A. Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Mirage Hotel, February 12th- 15th.   STCR has partneredwith IBM and LOC Software to bring the latest in technology to you.  Come to booth #805 and participate in a shortdemonstration, your name will be entered in to one of two drawings for a Lenovo Tablet.  

The N.G.A Show offers a business learning experience thatallows you and your staff to focus on how your company should respond toindustry and marketplace trends and issues that will translate into greatersuccess and growth.  We look forward toseeing you there.


Mobile Wallets and More Ways to Use Them

There is a rush by many to findthe next standard in the Mobile Wallet boom.  This Holiday Season was a window to what wewill see in the coming year as retailers try to test the technology on the “earlyadopters” of the MW technology.  Anarticle in Time Magazine discussed the recent transition of these companies asthey try to convert billions of dollars’ worth of transactions to cashless inthe coming year.

Here are just a few ways the Mobile Wallet isdeveloping.  Salvation Army Santas usedmobile phones to take donations this Christmas season.  Google has just launched Google Wallet inpartnership with Citibank, Mastercard and Sprint’s nexus S 4G phone.  PayPal will announce 20 partnerships this yeardesigned to allow you to order ahead, self-check out in stores and simply useyour phone number and pin to pay for purchases.  Isis, a Verizon AT&T and T-Mobile walletwith Visa, AmEx, Discover and Mastercard partnerships launches this year inSalt Lake City and Austin.  Visa’s ownvirtual wallet, V.Me, is also around the corner.  And don’t forget Apple, whose stores arealready using the iPhone to checkout customers.

There are a number of different deployment methods from NFC(near filed communications) to text messaging. Either way, there won’t be a shortage of routes that will be explored.  Estimates are that 12.1 billion dollars willtransfer through MW technology in the coming year.  When the dust settles who will set thestandard?  Only time will tell…staytuned.

PCI in Review

The number of customerdata breaches has reportedly decreased from over 350 Million in 2008 to lessthan 4 million in 2010 according to Verizon Communications research.  Visa Inc. along with the PCI Councilinstituted programs to encourage more usage of EMV (chip and pinpad orsmartcard) with incentives to reduce PCI compliance fees if they metimplementation deadlines.
Visa issued its own study showing that in 2010 there was alarger percentage of payment service
providers that were improving their PCI compliance.

  • In January 2011 Version 2.0 of PCI DSS and PA-DSS became effective.
  • In February 2011 the PCI Council announced newly enhanced educational offerings.
  • In March 2011 the PCI Council strengthened approved scanning vendor programs with a new PCI DSS training program.
  • In June PCI Council announced that PCI Awareness online training is now available as well as virtualization guidelines for PCI compliance.
  • In August 2011 the PCI Council released guidelines for the tokenization security process as well as PCI wireless guidelines.
  • In September PCI Council published requirements for using advanced, E2E (end to end), and encryption to limit PCI scope.
  • In October 2011 after stating they would no longer approve any mobile application as PCI certified, they announced that they would offer testing for encryption used in new mobile devices that manufacturers were developing or that merchants had in use. 
  • In November 2011 the PCI council announced that special interest groups would be involved in studying online and cloud computing security in 2012 to establish new security compliance standards.
PCI will continue to grow and evolve.  If you have not started addressing PCI inyour business there is no better time than now to begin.  Make it your New Year’s resolution to reachout for assistance and protect yourself as soon as possible.  Contact an STCR Representative for moreinformation at (607) 757-0181.

Update on GS1

In recent weeks manufacturer coupons with the GS1DataBar, as the only bar code, have entered the marketplace.  Retailers will being seeing these coupons inlarger numbers in the weeks and months to come. The expectation is that most retailers are able to process them at thecheckout.  The National GrocersAssociation found that just 55% of independent grocers were prepared to handlethe DataBar at the checkout, with another 10% expected to be ready in the firsthalf of 2012.

The Joint Industry Coupon Committee (JICC), themulti-association industry group that sets coupon policies, originally setJanuary 2010 as the voluntary launch date of DataBar-only coupons without theUPC-A.  However, it became clear thatmany retailers were still not prepared, so the issuing of the DataBar-onlycoupons was postponed until the end of 2011 or the first quarter of 2012.

In the coming months and years, GS1 Member Organizationswill continue to work with their retailer communities to determine when GS1 DataBarwill be used in open trade on any items between 2012 and 2014.  At this point, 2014 is the date when GS1DataBar can be used globally in any open trade on any product.

To be ready for GS1 DataBar, your POS system needs to havethe scanning hardware and the POS software, including your back officeapplication, that maintain the POS item files capable of reading and processingthis format.  If you need to know if yourPOS system is ready, please contact an STCR Representative at (607) 757-0181.

Enterprise-Class Security

It’s not necessary for asmaller company to skimp on security.  SonicWALLdelivers state-of-the-art, comprehensive security that is both affordable andeasy to implement.  Too little securitycan be worse than no security at all, and the small business that simplyimplements any minimal firewall and forgets it, often has a false sense ofsecurity and more often than not, falls victim to unexpected attack.  SonicWALL’s TZ line of Internet Security Appliances,designed for the SMB market, deliver enterprise-class security at a smallbusiness price.

Layered Protection

TheSonicWALL TZ family of appliances are total security platforms that offerlayered protection.  Ideally suited forthe SMB market, the TZ line features a compact form factor and an easy-to-useinterface.  Its sheer power transcendsits small size, and users are able to enjoy true layered security withintegrated gateway anti-virus, anti-spyware and intrusion prevention forreal-time protection against a wide array of threats.  The SonicOS operating system, standard on theTZ family of appliances, gives small business users a streamlined web-basedGUI, easy-to-use configuration and management tools, and wizards to guide youthrough the configuration process.  Bothwired and wireless appliances are available to meet every possibleconfiguration requirement.

Securecontent management

Content-basedthreats are a constant problem for businesses of any size, and SMBs arevulnerable to the same types of attacks that the largest enterprises face.  Secure content management keeps your networkfree from harmful content.  As part ofthis protection,  e-mail security alsokeeps your e-mail inboxes free from virus-laden e-mails, SPAM and phishingattacks through a combination of technologies that improve response time andensure full protection—all the while delivering superior performance and nodelays.

Continuousdata protection

SonicWALL®Continuous Data Protection (CDP) Series offers the only complete end-to-endbackup and recovery solution for SMBs.  Anideal replacement for tape-based systems, CDP provides foolproof, intuitive,continual protection.  Policy-driven CDPis transparent to the end-user, ensuring that data, applications and systemsare reliably protected.  Because mostrecovery involves a single file, CDP’s self-directed restore by the end-userhelps meet service levels while reducing burden on IT support. SonicWALL CDPtakes the complexity out of safeguarding your data by automating tedious tasksto provide a true low-touch solution.  CDPprovides flexible Offsite Data Backup, Site-to-Site Data Backup, LocalArchiving and Bare Metal Recovery with SonicWALL Universal Restore options toaddress any disaster recovery scenario.

Access to STCR's Premier Help Desk is Easy

We understand our clients' business and the missioncritical role the solutions we provide perform. Recognizing this, STCR has been offering easy access to 24x7x365 supportfor decades.

We maintain a team staffed with a highly qualified seasonedRetail Systems Analysts who are constantly updating their skills with ongoingproduct training.  We are always onstand-by to provide immediate assistance. As an IBM Premier Business Partner we consistently demonstrate a provencapability to deliver knowledgeable technical support; ensuring positiveoutcomes and achieving one of the highest customer satisfaction rates.

With an active Help Deskmaintenance agreement in place access to our technical support team is only aphone call away.  You can reach usanytime at 800-776-6576.  With a quickcall you are speaking to a live person who gathers some basic information.  This initiates an issue ticket that isassigned to a team member who starts promptly assisting you.  We appreciate the importance of gettingtimely answers and resolutions in a busy supermarket environment and alwayswork quickly to meet those needs.

We also understand not every situation requires immediateassistance and people welcome convenient alternatives to submitting supportrequests.  With this in mind we launchedthe STCR Online Help Desk webportal, enabling our customers to open a new incident as well as review thestatus and history of previous incidents. Email is yet another option to begin the process.  We use an industry leading call tracking systemto monitor all calls.  It supportsprocess automation to escalate and ensure follow up.

In an effort to constantly improve our support services everycustomer has an opportunity to let us know how we are doing by participating inour ‘Satisfaction Call Back’ process.  We know our systems and thatsupport is critical to our customers' operation.  We take an active interest in soliciting thisvital feedback.  Of course everyone lovesto hear how great they're doing, but more importantly we value the insightsthat help us improve our service delivery and always move quickly to correctany reported concerns.

STCR knows very well our clients' businesses depend on thesesystems and our support.  It has alwaysbeen our mission to deliver exceptional service and proven solutions.  We are constantly striving to achieve thehighest level of customer satisfaction. Discover the difference we can bring and let us help take care of yourbusiness.  We're just a phone call away.