BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Bruno's last week began rolling out a $5 million communications network designed to speed data flow to and from stores and enhance existing programs from check verification to energy management.
Driving the decision to go online now with the system, however, was the need to improve inventory management, said Morrell Dodd, vice president of engineering for Bruno's here. All 258 Bruno's stores will be hooked up by year-end, he said.
"We hope to get point-of-sale data on a daily basis that would allow us to manage our inventory, our buying, based on the movement at the store level," he said. "Right now we do that based on movement through the warehouse."
Although Bruno's already retrieves POS data from "a few stores" on a weekly basis, the chain had not been using the information as a tool for decision support. Access to current product movement information will enhance the company's category management efforts, Dodd explained, "and allow us to better manage our stores and improve our gross margins."
Dodd said Bruno's also will reap additional benefits when it replaces its sluggish dial-up system with high-speed, digital lines leased from Bell South and a multipoint branch networking platform from Motorola Codex, Mansfield, Mass.
"We realized quickly that the other thing a network would allow us to do was to have an effective check verification system," he noted. "The potential for savings there," by reducing losses due to bad checks, "is probably as great
Other business applications to be brought onto the network include energy management programs, automated teller machine processing and electronic mail communication. "We hope E-mail will eliminate some of the paperwork that has to be sent [from headquarters to stores] on a weekly basis," Dodd said.
Approximately 40 store locations are equipped with ATMs, Dodd explained, and are linked to the service bureau by their own designated leased lines. Integrating the ATMs with the network will eliminate the need for those analog lines, and instead move information over the new network's digital leased lines, "utilizing something we're going to pay for anyway with the network."
Brunos' networking program also includes some new customer services, such as credit and debit transactions, and could "possibly" lead to the introduction of a frequent shopper program, Dodd said.
Currently, fewer than half of Bruno's store locations offer a credit payment option and only the three pilot stores can accommodate debit transactions. Upon full implementation later this year, all stores will offer both payment options with a faster processing speed than afforded by conventional dialup.
Bruno's operates primarily in Georgia and Alabama, with some locations in Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida.