The Vermont Department of Liquor Control (DLC) is in the midst of replacing all things technological.
At the end of 2010, it had its new warehouse management system (WMS) up and running. It plans to eventually update its systems for education, licensing and enforcement. And it is now knee-deep in replacing both its central-office system and the retail system, including the point-of-sale systems used by its 70+ agencies.
The project to replace the central office and retail system alone is big. It is, according to Frank Perricone, DLC’s information technology manager, “the largest IT project” the DLC has ever undertaken and possibly the largest project of any sort for the department. “This project will take several years,” he said.
Such change can be time-consuming, complicated and expensive. So, why do it? Hardware and software becomes obsolete. “Some of our hardware is so old that it was impossible to get replacements,” said Perricone. “If we experienced certain failures, we would be in big trouble.” Requirements, most notably Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards, evolve. People’s expectations, including those of customers at the point-of-sale, also change. And new systems can do things that save time and money – in the long run.
All of the above was true for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC), when it upgraded all of the hardware and software in the point-of-sale systems running in its 334 stores last year.
Managing such a project calls for much more than hard work and a budget. (The cost of upgrading the POS system in the Virginia state stores was $12 million.) It also requires a lot of organization and planning.
Rolling Out a New System
The Virginia ABC managed to roll out the new POS system in its stores in record time, according to Becky Gettings, the DABC’s director of public affairs. Explained David Walker, program support manager for the DABC’s retail operations division, “We began at the end of October, with a small roll-out, to work out any kinks in the system and to get the [roll-out] process down. Soon, we were doing 10 to 12 stores a day. We took a break during the holiday season and finished up in January.”
None of the stores had to close during the upgrade. “The store would close at its regular time – 9 p.m., the store’s staff having prepped the store by cleaning up the register and back-office areas, the installation company would arrive at 4 or 5 a.m. and the store would open that day at its regular time, 10 a.m.,” said Steve Fox, the DABC’s chief information officer.
Why did the Virginia DABC make the change? Meeting new PCI requirements was one reason. “Security is one of the most important issues,” said Fox. “PCI changes every year and is pretty rigid, with harsh penalties, including losing the ability to accept credit cards. Not being able to accept Visa or American Express or MasterCard would be devastating to any business.” The DABC has three full-time staff people dedicated to maintaining the security of its networks. “It’s a big deal,” said Fox. “For me, security is the number-one priority.”
And then there was the question of increased capabilities. The DABC wanted to be able to accept debit cards, for example, which, while standard today, were not on the radar when the old system was put into place ten years ago.
The registers are now equipped with 2D scanners where before they had 1D scanners, which could only read the simplest barcodes. “This allows us better age verification using driver’s licenses from Virginia and other states,” said Walker. “Before, we just got the age. Now, we can access more of the information on the 2D magnetic stripe, including the birth date and the expiration date of the license.”
The new system also allows the DABC to do things in-store that it couldn’t do before, such as set up sales to run automatically on certain dates. The DABC, for instance, ran Black Friday specials on the day after last Thanksgiving – and it was all automatic. “The POS gave discounts for purchases over a certain amount but only in that time frame,” explained Fox. “The clerk didn’t have to remember.”
And the DABC stores can now – again, automatically – collect donations for the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund during times of disaster. Customers can decide to donate – by cash, credit or debit card – at the point of sale. The register will even print out a receipt they can use for tax purposes. This capability has, to date, raised $188,000 for the victims of last year’s spate of tornados and severe storms.
Do state store customers notice the changes? “They do notice the shiny new equipment,” said Fox. “We now have 19-inch, rather than the old 14- and 15-inch, monitors and we have new display poles.” Walker added, “Customers definitely notice the increased speed at checkout, particularly the increased speed in credit card transactions and also the speed of the receipt printing. The old dot-matrix printers printed one line at a time, while the new laser printers do the whole receipt at once.”
The DABC is looking ahead at other technology improvements and upgrades for the future. Said Walker, “We are looking at several things, such as adding mobile, handheld scanners to the stores to handle things such as line busting and inventory management.”
And the DABC has recently implemented a licensee portal to its website for licensees to place orders. At first, 12 of the DABC’s larger stores tested the system, which has recently been rolled out to all the DABC stores and all its mixed-beverage licensees.
Licensees Ordering 24/7 Online
Before, these licensees had to place their orders, by phone or fax, during store hours. Now, they can place their orders online, 24/7, and the order goes directly to the store’s POS system. “There’s no manual inputting of orders at the store,” explained Walker. “The store staff simply assembles the order. Once they scan the products, to verify against the order, the licensee automatically receives an email that their order has been verified and is ready for pick-up.” Licensees can see real-time inventory levels at stores and also see the present and future discounts available on products.
In some ways, Virginia DABC’s upgrade was relatively simple. It involved only the point-of-sale system. The change in software was an upgrade of the system the DABC had been using, not a replacement of it. And though the hardware, at ten years old, was somewhat outdated, its replacement with newer equipment was straightforward.
Not so for the Vermont DLC. This department is replacing two systems, its back-office as well as its point-of-sale systems. And it is replacing them, not updating them. Back when the DLC had implemented its new warehouse management system (WMS) in 2010, Frank Perricone wrote, in the DLC’s internal newsletter, DLC Spirit, “With our WMS project completed, we’re moving on to begin the largest and most ambitious phase of replacing our obsolete, hard-to-maintain computer systems. Due to the very tight connections between our point of sale (POS) and back office retail (ERP) systems, it only makes sense to replace them together This project will ultimately amount to replacing most of our core business software, and re-engineering most of our business processes; it is very easy to underestimate the scope and impact of this project.”
The current back-office system, dubbed Sequoia, is a very old, yet beloved, system, developed in-house. “We will eventually roll it out of the building with a fond farewell,” said Perricone. But the software is 15 years old, written in Cobol and uses a Unix operating system. “It’s hard to find people to hire who can program in that language,” said Perricone, “and the operating system is obsolete.” Also, the hardware is almost 30 years old. Meanwhile, the POS system is 15-year-old software running on 10-year-old hardware.
Maintaining these systems has become increasingly difficult and they “can’t do what people are used to being able to do. Sharing information, for example, even internally, can be hard,” said Perricone. The systems can’t handle gift cards and other kinds of promotions.
Ironically, the system’s old way of handling credit-card transactions – using dial-up modems and phone lines – protected it from security breaches and made compliance with PCI standards easier. The information was never on a public network. That will change with the new system.
“And our situation is unique,” said Perricone. Because the Vermont DLC uses agents to handle its retail sales, it is these agents and their employees in their own facilities who are actually handling the transactions. “The agency stores have employees we didn’t hire and we have no control over the physical location. The PCI standards assume you have control over your own people and own facilities,” explained Perricone, “yet we don’t and we assume all liability for the credit-card processing: the merchant account is the state of Vermont.” The DLC is looking at ways to meet PCI standards while minimizing the impact on the agents and their employees.
Using a Consulting Firm
The Vermont DLC issued an RFP for a consultant to work with it on its new systems and awarded the work to BerryDunn. This consulting firm has, since last spring, been working closely with the DLC. “They did an extensive documentation of our existing system,” explained Perricone. “They drew up a requirements list. They explored new business processes we might want to implement and looked at changes in retail that we might want to respond to.”
BerryDunn has been holding extensive, multiple sessions with all the sections of the DLC involved with the two computer systems. At each pass, the DLC staff is asked for suggestions and recommendations and asked to review the documentation of the process thus far. “We want people at the department to think of this project the department is doing, not a project IT is doing,” said Perricone. “Everyone has at least one idea in the project. Everyone has a much better idea of what to expect and our people are more invested.”
All of this is in preparation to write a second RFP, which is currently in its second draft, this one for the actual vendor who will provide and install the systems. “When the system vendor comes on board, they will essentially be starting on second base,” said Perricone. “This gives us a good head start.”
The DLC is already experiencing benefits from the increased communication between the divisions and the information-technology staff. “We are working now on a number of improvements, in the old system, that IT didn’t know about,” explained Perricone. “A lot of times people are doing their work one way and they don’t know that we could fix an easier way for them. They don’t think to mention it.”
The plan going forward for the Vermont DLC is to have the RFP for a vendor issued within the next few months, to start by replacing the central-office system first and to have both systems fully deployed in one to two years.
Keeping track of all the moving parts when making such large-scale changes to a control-state agency’s computer systems is no easy task.
2012 POS and Computer Systems Buyers' Guide
AccuPOS provides award-winning point-of-sale (POS), inventory-management and time-clock software for the retail and restaurant industries. The AccuPOS family of products is designed to be faster and easier than a cash register and to streamline the sales process while significantly simplifying the backend. AccuPOS products, based on open standards, expand the capabilities of an existing accounting program and allow users to grow and change over time, without being locked into proprietary vendor products. Specializing in end-to-end integration, AccuPOS allows a business to view and manage sales and inventory details within the most widely used accounting packages: QuickBooks, Sage 50 – US edition, Sage 50 – Canadian edition, BusinessWorks, Sage 100 ERP. Bundled POS solutions are available via fully supported hardware partnerships. AccuPOS also offers a wide range of discount Merchant and Gift Card Services through its simple and fast onscreen interface. AccuPOS is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA with regional offices in 13 countries. For more information, visit www.accupos.com.
ATLANTIC SYSTEM INC. (ASI)
Atlantic Systems, Inc. has offered POS computer systems for beverage alcohol retailers since 1980. The company provides complete systems including hardware, software, installation, training and long-term support. Spirits 2000 is a Windows-based software package that provides inventory and financial control for one store or a multi-store chain. High-speed integrated credit/debit card processing is done via the Internet. The system can identify a customer at the register using a bar-coded card or by entering the customer’s name or account number. Its Frequent Shopper Program can collect information on customer purchases and provide the retailer assistance in rewarding customer loyalty. Automated age verification and storage of results is available in most states. Targeted marketing can be done automatically by selectively filtering customer sales history and then contacting them via a mass email. Gift card processing can be done through the retailer’s credit card processor or internally in the system, which eliminates processing fees. A web interface is available for e-commerce. Spirits 2000 can integrate with security camera systems to overlay text that displays the sale information on images at the time the sale is rung up. Spirits 2000 also includes tasting notes for products that the user can input and print out. A handheld wireless scanner with a mobile printer can be used for inventory counting, price changes, price labels, stock checks and line busting. Prices for the Spirits 2000 system start at about $8,500. For more information, call 732-280-6616, extension 127 or visit www.asi-nj.com.
BigCommerce is a pioneer in e-commerce, focused on enabling small businesses to "Sell More" online. Its all-in-one marketing and e-commerce platform boasts SEO, tools to create beautiful online stores and over 100 built-in marketing tools that make selling on iPhones, Facebook and eBay a cinch. Over 30,000 businesses in 70 countries are using BigCommerce, including Gibson Guitar, Pandora Jewelers and Willie Nelson's shop. BigCommerce was founded in 2009 by two Aussies turned part-time Texans with a vision to make selling online easy. For more information, visit http: http://www.bigcommerce.com.
CAP Software’s store-management system, SellWise, is currently being used by more than 100 wine and spirit retailers. The system provides POS, free integrated credit-card processing, inventory control, customer tracking, order/receive, tag and barcode printing, Fintech integration, and back office reporting. Additional features include optional video monitoring for security purposes, touchscreen support, hot keys and customized reports. Prices for the software start at $1100. For a demo, visit the company’s website, www.capretail.com, or call 800-826-5009.
Cashier Live is an affordable, easy-to-use point-of-sale system designed just for independent retailers. The company offers a 30-day free trial of its web-based and iPhone point-of-sale systems and just announced the ability of the system to use iPads. For more information visit cashierlive.com, download their Cashier app from the App Store, or call 877-312-1750.
Spirits by Cetech was designed specifically for New York State wine and liquor retailers. It was first installed in Western New York stores in 1987. Cetech offers custom application development for the intranet as well as the internet. For more information call 716-884-8780 or visit cetech.com.
CHOICEMASTER DIGITAL SIGNAGE (CMDS)
CMDS has teamed up with leading digital-signage partners to provide beverage-alcohol retailers with a customer-service system that can also be used to show paid advertising from other businesses. CMDS is a complete system that has an all-in-one computer featuring a 15-inch touch screen, a scanner and a printer. It runs a 42 LCD screen that is mounted directly above the touch screen to catch the attention of shoppers. CMDS ties into the POS system and provides information on the products carried in that store. The advertising and promotional revenue can be shared with the retailer. There are lease options available that will cost the store approximately $100 month before ad revenue. Sources of ad revenue can be national or local. Retailers can display store specials, current events like wine tastings or advertise local businesses. The system can be used to educate customers about new products. Later this year, CMDS will have a smart phone app for use by the retailer’s customers. For more information call 410-745-8137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DSmart Technologies is a new company that offers retailers a free point-of-sale system, in order to buy advertising space from them on that system. On the cashier side, the DSmart Register is a fully functioning POS system. A second monitor, facing the customer, allows the customer to see the transaction being rung and also to see ads, matched to what the customer is purchasing. If a customer likes an ad, he or she can click on the screen and the promotion being offered will print at the bottom of the sales receipt or even buy the product right there at the check-out. All of the store’s data is kept in the in-store system and is also backed-up on DSmart’s servers. The free offer includes one register with the software; hardware for additional registers costs $2,000. DSmart can also be used by multi-store operations. For more information, visit dsmartinc.com or call 877-601-9192.
First Data, a global leader in electronic commerce and payment processing, serves more than 6.2 million merchant locations worldwide. It offers a range of point-of-sale terminals as well as complete point-of-sale systems, including its Payment Essentials™ Solution, which bundles comprehensive payment services, state-of-the-art hardware and 24/7 customer service into one easy-to-manage bundle . For more information, visit www.firstdata.com.
Harbortouch offers both a touchscreen point-of-sale system to retailers and also provides merchant services such as credit/debit and gift-card processing. For more information, visit www.harbortouch.com or call (800) 201-0461.
INNOVATIVE COMPUTER SOLUTIONS (ICS)
ICS has provided solutions specifically for beverage alcohol retailers for over 30 years and has systems installed throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. The company’s VISION system, a scalable application for stores ranging from a single register to multiple locations, can run on Windows XP and 7, LINUX and MAC/OS. The POS module within VISION is designed to provide full register capability, including price look-ups, discounts, customer-special pricing (and history), periodic sales and frequent-buyer or award points tracking. Tasting notes and coupons can also be generated from the register. Complete PCI-compliant credit and debit card processing permits the customer to swipe their own card, enter their PIN and sign electronically. The Vision POS can be operated on a standard PC or a touch-screen system. A 2-D scanner can identify under-age purchasers and add customers to a store’s mailing/special pricing list. The back-office module provides inventory control, extensive reporting, sales analysis, purchase history, FIFO inventory level tracking, and physical inventory. Cashier accountability features allow a retailer to track all transactions down to the keystroke, both on the POS and in the back office. VISION is turnkey and includes hardware, installation and training at the store location. Complete systems start at under $6,000, including hardware which can also be purchased separately. Call 732-223-0909 or visit www.winepos.com.
Lightspeed Retail is a Mac-based POS system for small to medium retailers. The system can be outfitted to use iPads and iPod Touches as registers. The company offers an open application program interface (API) to allow end-users to build their own custom add-ons to the system. For more information, call 866-932-1801 or visit www.lightspeedretail.com.
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for Retail is a global, end-to-end solution for midsize and enterprise retailers that offers multichannel management, store operations, merchandising, and enterprise resource planning capabilities. Unlike retail software built to solve the problems of the past, Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 for Retail delivers role-tailored, omni-channel scenarios seamlessly through a modern, unified technology offering. To learn more about the solution and see real product demos visit www.microsoft.com/dynamics/ax/retail. You can also follow the product on Twitter (http://twitter.com/msretail) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftforRetail).
mPOWER BEVERAGE SOFTWARE
mPower Beverage is designed specifically for beverage-alcohol retailers. The Windows-based system can be used for single or multi-store operations and offers integrated credit cards, remote access, touchscreen capability, e-commerce integration, and PCI compliance. Also, mPower Beverage can be installed on Windows 7 tablets for functionality such as inventory adjustments, ordering/receiving, or line busting. For states that require it, a wholesale module is also available for tracking back office orders and providing the needed reports to the state. The software costs $2,000 plus $1,500 for each additional register after the first. For more information, call 877-396-0141 or visit mpowerbeverage.com.
NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is a global technology company leading how the world connects, interacts and transacts with business. NCR’s assisted- and self-service solutions and comprehensive support services address the needs of retail, financial, travel, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, gaming and public sector organizations in more than 100 countries. NCR (www.ncr.com) is headquartered in Duluth, Georgia. For more information, call 866-431-7879, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.ncr.com.
Prophetline is a POS and retail management system for small- to mid-sized specialty retailers, including beverage retailers. Its systems include IP credit card processing, integrated web shopping and fully integrated accounting. It can handle operations ranging from one store to multiple sites with centralized purchasing, Prophetline is a four-time winner of the Microsoft Retail Application Developer of the Year Award. Call 800-875-6592 or visit www.prophetline.com.
Retail Anywhere is a developer of POS and retail management systems for wine and liquor store retailers. The company has more than 28 years of experience, helping retailers run their business efficiently and profitably while conforming to liquor laws imposed by the state in which they reside. Call 800-257-2734 or visit www.retailanywhere.com for further information.
RITE (Retail Information Technology Enterprises)
This company is an award-winning provider of Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS) and works with some of the largest liquor retailers in the country, with clients in over 40 states. RITE has molded the Microsoft RMS product to meet the special needs of beer/wine/liquor retailers, including the ability to integrate with their suppliers (invoicing and pricing /EDI), integrated age verification via drivers licenses, profit-margin monitoring, advanced purchasing tools and web site integration. For information, visit http://www.rite.us or call 888-267-RITE.
SAGE NORTH AMERICA
Sage North America specializes in business-management software and services for small- and mid-sized businesses. Its latest release, Sage 50 Accounting 2013 (formerly Sage Peachtree) for small businesses has new features including the ability to accept mobile payments, Sage Peachtree Business Intelligence for customizable reporting, and the Sage Advisor, to help retailers maximize their software investment. For more information, call 800-228-0068 or visit http://na.sage.com/sage-50-accounting-us.
Developed by a wine retailer, ShopKeep POS is a complete iPad point-of-sale (POS) system designed for independent retailers. Subscription prices start at $49 per month for a basic system with one iPad register. For more information, visit www.shopkeep.com.
Windward System Five is a fully integrated liquor-industry-specific business-management software package. Windward System Five has been built to be fast, easy to learn and offers unique functionality to meet your liquor-store needs. It includes capabilities for integrated video monitoring, real-time accumulation of sales, customer relationship management, product tracking, case breakdown, 2D scanning for ID clarification, touch-screen capabilities, cost controls and reporting. The system is meant handle every aspect of a single- or multi-store business, from the cash register, to the back office, to ecommerce. Call 1-800-663-5750 or visit http://liquorstorepos.wws5.com/.
WOLF TRACK SOFTWARE
Wolf Track’s Liquor POS Software is available as software-as-a-service (SAAS). Though the system runs entirely on a store’s computers, the software can be downloaded from Wolf Track’s website. The software, which can run a touchscreen system, costs $30 per month per register. Updates to the software and support are free. Automatic database back-up is available for an additional fee. For more information, call 800-908-7654 or visit wolftrack.com.