PLAINWELL, Mich. -- Harding's Friendly Markets here recently implemented software that gathers product sales information directly from the point of sale. The chain plans to use the information for more precise ordering than was possible based only on order histories.
The software can capture 64 weeks of product movement on a store-by-store basis, according to Curt DeVries, director of information systems at Harding's. In the past, the retailer based orders on warehouse withdrawal information supplied by its wholesaler, Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.
"The idea is to be able to go back for more than a year and find out how things did last year at this time," said DeVries.
Presently, one-half of the chain's 34 stores have implemented the software, though an eventual chainwide rollout is planned.
DeVries explained that the data will be especially helpful to managers around the holidays. He said that holiday ordering has always been based on "educated guessing."
For example, through warehouse withdrawal reports, Spartan could tell a new meat manager how many hams Harding's purchased for the same holiday a year before, but the wholesaler couldn't tell him how many hams were sold. In essence, the new manager wouldn't know if the previous manager had been stuck with too many hams.
"It gives us some reporting possibilities that we've never had before," said DeVries. "Ultimately, I'm hoping it will make us a little more efficient in ordering so we don't get shorted, and we don't get stuck," he added.
DeVries said that because the software compares sales movement to how much is being ordered, individual departments will be much more aware of how much or how little stock is needed, making monthly inventory easier to track.
"One of the first things that we want to do is set up for the produce department some automatic reports that print out, every week, a ranking of their items, best to worst. That's probably where we'll start. It gives our merchandisers the ability to see problems early, before inventory is taken at the end of the month," said DeVries.
The software captures sales information from the store's POS system, which is then sent to the store's main personal computer. Every Sunday night, the store PC compiles the weekly sales movement information, and then sends it to the main computer at Harding's headquarters via a frame-relay network.