VERNON, Calif. -- Smart & Final Stores here will begin installing in 60 days a new point-of-sale system based on personal computers and capable of running customer-specific applications.
The first open architecture POS system will be installed in the retailer's new Hollywood, Calif., store in April, according to Robert Graham, director of store systems for Smart & Final.
The system will be rolled out to 22 new Smart & Final stores in California and Florida this year and within three years will be installed chainwide.
The POS system supports a keyboard designed for intuitive operation to speed cashier learning and improve interaction with customers.
Graham described the keyboard as working much like an automatic teller machine, because it guides the operator through the process.
"It replaces the traditional keyboard and display with graphics and applies a logic sequence for cashiers to process transactions," said Graham. "A graphic of a cash drawer even tells our associates how many bills to give back customers."
The POS system's interactive keyboard decreases employee training time, Graham said, and Smart & Final expects a nine-month payback on the investment through reduced training costs.
Smart & Final's new POS technology will provide the platform on which new projects can be launched. In particular, it will enhance data collection on shopper purchases so the chain can identify its best customers.
"This data will give us the ability to uniquely identify and target consumers through mailings and sweepstakes, and help us build customer relationships," he said.
The top 10% of Smart & Final's customer base spends "vast sums of money," he said, noting that some shoppers spend $1,000 on one visit. "We want to interact with these customers through this system and take care of them."
To develop that relationship, Smart & Final rolled out chainwide in December a card-based customer-loyalty program that will be integrated into the new POS system. Connected to a database, the POS system will collect consumer data for the retailer to track customer purchases.
Another application that Smart & Final will carry over to integrate into the new POS system is its signature capture software for credit card charge transactions.
"Customers sign directly onto a glass screen at the POS unit, and the captured signature is stored in our host system," Graham said. "Stored signatures and other transaction data can be retrieved instantly from our database for research -- it is a great benefit."
Other benefits include eliminating multiple-part receipt papers, and storage space and shipping charges associated with researching electronic payment transactions for reconciliation.
Going forward, Smart & Final will explore opportunities to target promotions to customers in the checkout lanes.
"We have discussed using the POS monitor to send video messages targeted to our best customers while in the checkout lane," he said. Graham told SN that following the chainwide rollout of the POS system, the retailer will research new opportunities like linking the POS with the Internet.
"We have to see if there is a return, but the architecture of the POS system affords us these opportunities," he said. "It is not definite, but it is something that we would like to do and are looking into."
The point-of-sale system operates on the Windows NT operating system from Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.; the keyboard is from NCR, Dayton, Ohio; and signature capture terminals are from Custom Technical Service, Cambridge, Ohio.
"By continuing to base our strategies on technology solutions, we stay on the leading edge, and can provide a return to our customers and for us," he added.