HOUSTON -- In addition to installing a new computer-based point-of-sale system in 100 stores this week, Bruno's, Birmingham, Ala., is considering how to integrate World Wide Web-based POS functions and self-checkout technology.
"About six months ago I was playing with the Internet, and I commented, 'web-based POS will never be practical,' " said David Meany, vice president of information technology for Bruno's. "[Now I realize] if I want to stretch my POS investment past the few years of normal PC technology, this is probably the next place that we are going to go."
Meany explained the retailer is investigating running POS systems off an intranet -- a secure internal Internet. The strategy would allow Bruno's to gain information about its customers in-lane and access the information through the network by extracting pieces of applications -- or applets.
"It is an infrastructure that can be used to distribute the information and complete transactions instantaneously," he said.
According to Meany, the new POS system will be installed in 200 stores by June. "We expect to have 100 stores done this month, and the other 100 stores up with the POS system by June," Meany said at the Food Marketing Institute's MarkeTechnics conference here this month. He took part in a workshop titled "POS System Migration: Making the Case for Change."
Bruno's began using a prototype of the PC-based POS system 18 months ago in one store. Thirty stores are currently using the technology.
In addition to the PC technology, the POS system uses a transmission control protocol/Internet protocol Ethernet local area network, allowing the retailer to instantly update price information and other data throughout the system.
According to Meany, the new POS system runs on an open architecture platform that will support the integration of hardware and software in a plug-and-play environment.
The open system enables the retailer to enhance display capabilities, add interactive multimedia applications and even pursue new checkout alternatives, such as self-checkout of orders at POS and self-scanning of items throughout store aisles.
"As alternative checkout methods continue growing, this system will give us the option for self-checkout or self-scanning," he said.
"We also explored peripheral integration complexities associated with self-scanning," he said. "These are the additional things that need to be integrated at the front end of the store, necessary to make self-checkout work," such as multimedia and interactive technology.
When looking at the area of self-scanning, Bruno's addressed other issues related to the POS, including radio-frequency capabilities in the store, as well as monitoring complexities for security issues.
"Self-checkout and self-scanning are trends that customers will look for in the future and the PC-based architecture will support this," Meany said at the conference.
Bruno's PC-based system supports running order totals on-line, so customers can monitor the accuracy of prices and redeeming coupons. "By using a PC at checkout, it is nice to see smiles on our customers faces as they watch between 15 and 20 items appear on the monitor, rather than watching price information on a two-line display," he said.
The system also enables Bruno's to run various applications to collect merchandising information and data on customer buying patterns for frequent-shopper programs. Bruno's has been using this feature for eight months.
Bruno's decision to adopt a PC-based POS system was focused on the increased time pressures customers are facing. "Because our customers' shopping time is decreasing, we need to decrease the transaction time, while creating the perception that they are spending less time in the checkout lane," Meany explained.
With a focus on providing value at checkout, Bruno's is looking at interacting with customers at POS. According to Meany, Bruno's is planning to involve customers in the transaction process, possibly through a touch screen on the multimedia PC.
"We are toying with concepts of allowing customers to choose to sort receipts by price, or item, or to change or update information on frequent-shopper cards," he said. "We want them to interact with technology, which will in effect distract them while waiting on line to be checked out."
Bruno's uses Aurora POS software by Innovax Concepts, Irving, Texas, and hardware provided by Epson America, Torrance, Calif.