The general public is increasingly immersed in technology and expects to see it everywhere – in doctor’s offices and convenience stores, at their banks and their kids’ schools –with the exception, perhaps, of local and state government agencies. But when it comes to the liquor agencies in control states, they are often pleasantly surprised.
Stephan Abrams is a partner at The Liquor Store and The Wine Loft retail operations in Jackson, WY. “The State of Wyoming is our only vendor for liquor and, considering especially how small our state is, just over 500,000 people, they do a great job,” Abrams says. “I can go online and order listed products by 2 p.m. and receive them the next day by noon. I can also order special-order products or submit a request for a new special-order product online.”
Consumers have a certain expectation when it comes to technology – a credit-card transaction that doesn’t process instantly causes a double-take these days – and, in this time of economic turmoil, cutting-edge technology can allow a control-state agency to run more efficiently even as it deals with staff and budget cutbacks.
That was one of the reasons behind the decision to implement a new point-of-sale (POS) system in the 25 stores run by the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) in Montgomery County, MD. Faced with a county-wide mandatory budget cutback of five percent, the DLC had to eliminate staff positions, including in its administrative division where the department’s numbers are analyzed. The new POS system – Microsoft RMS – has such enhanced reporting capabilities compared to the old POS system that the department will have better access to information about its operations even with six fewer people working on reports and data collection.
The new $2 million system includes integrated credit-card processing. Previously, in order to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of security requirements developed by the major credit card companies for any business that processes, stores or transmits credit card data, the Montgomery County DLC had to run credit card transactions through a separate terminal, which was a cumbersome process. “Now, it takes five to six seconds for us to complete a transaction,” says Gus Montes de Oca, the DLC’s chief of operations. “The customer swipes their card, gets approval and their receipt prints out in no time.”
The system has touch screens for the store staff and screens which show the customers exactly what’s being rung up. “The staff and customer feedback so far has been fantastic; very positive,” says Montes de Oca. “It’s a world of difference; like night and day.”
Currently the department is utilizing the system in two stores. “In the beginning, there were a number of bugs to be worked out at the first store. That’s typical of any system; they have a lot of moving pieces,” said Montes de Oca. He estimated that the DLC would be able to install the system at the rate of two to four stores per week, completing all 25 by mid to late October.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC) launched a Business Intelligence (BI) initiative meant to tweak and improve its systems with an eye toward better data collection and analysis. The department has approximately 1,800 employees who run its automated warehouse in Richmond and its 334 stores. It processes over 24 million customer transactions per year, to the tune of $675.5 million in annual gross sales for fiscal year 2010. “We’re looking at all our systems and processes that provide or generate data and are coming up with strategies to better harness and use that information,” says Steve Fox, the DABC’s chief information officer (CIO).
Currently, the DABC uses a “data warehouse,” a repository for all of its data. The DABC plans to expand its data warehouse to include information from financial, human resources and enforcement systems, as well as its public relations and hearings and appeals operations. For instance, the department receives an enormous number of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, which often have a set deadline by which the department must respond. “Right now, these are processed manually,” says Fox. “It’s an efficiency issue.”
The DABC also plans to implement a set of business intelligence tools – “in our case, fairly sophisticated ones,” says Fox – so that all the information the different divisions need is automatically assembled and accessed.
Right now, the department is in the assessment phase of the project. Working with a consulting firm Fox and Eddie Wirt, the coordinator for the project, are interviewing people across the agency about their data usage and needs. “We’re identifying where there have been duplicate requests and reports, so we can remove duplicate activity,” says Wirt. “Our goal is for people to spend more of their time analyzing information as opposed to extracting it.”
Steve Fox explains, “There’s got to be a plan. We need to gather what our requirements are: What’s missing? What could be improved? What’s the wish list? If you could have certain information, what would it be? A lot of the time, people don’t know what they don’t know.” Fox has heard people from across the agency sit in on the demonstrations of business-intelligence tools and say, “I didn’t know I could get information like that.”
The second phase of the plan is to look at the business intelligence tools available on the market and choose the best fit for the agency. “We’re not sure if we will go with one company or with tools from several,” says Fox. “Big companies like Oracle and SAP have comprehensive suites of tools. Unfortunately, they are very expensive. And there are other, smaller companies that offer some really good tools.” One goal for the agency is to make the information that is available up-to-the-minute. “Instead of a static report, we might move to having an online dashboard,” explains Wirt.
The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (DABC), meanwhile, has found two areas of its operations to tweak. Its administrators want to replace the RF or picking guns that its warehouse workers have been using with voice-to-pick technology. Instead of carrying an RF gun, the workers will wear headsets that allow them to hear information and reply to the system by speaking. The DABC, which is looking at proposals now, has budgeted $350,000 to add this technology to its warehouse operations and hopes to have it up and running by June of 2011. “Voice-to-pick improves accuracy and frees up both hands of the pickers. The ergonomics of it are a real plus,” says John Freeman, the DABC’s deputy director in charge of operations.
The Utah DABC is also in the midst of adding new technology to ten of its 45 stores. Customer service kiosks will allow customers to look up information on wine and spirits (and possibly beer), including recipes and food/wine pairing suggestions. Two of these kiosks have already been installed. “A customer who is not familiar with wines can enter their preferences, like ‘I’m serving pork, I like sweeter wines and I don’t want to spend over $20,’ and find wine suggestions,” says Freeman. “We put scratch paper by the machines so they can take notes. It’s kind of fun.”
Though the $2,000-3,000 kiosks are fun and flashy, they serve a practical purpose as well. “We had some cutbacks and now have fewer people in each store,” says Freeman. “This allows us to maintain customer service.” So far, so good, he reports. “We’ve had so much positive feedback from customers; just an amazing amount.”
Staying cutting-edge with technology is an important part of operations. Always being on the lookout to improve “is not about reinventing how business is conducted,” says Steve Fox of the Virginia DABC. “It’s about our responsibility to take our capabilities for accessing data to the next level.”
Sidebar: Getting the Word Out
A licensee wants to know what’s new and what’s on special among the state’s monthly list of products. A restaurant and bar equipment supplier wants to know what new businesses might be opening up. A newspaper or local television reporter wants to know what’s new at the state liquor agency. A state legislator wants to know about recent and proposed rule changes. A potential liquor agent wants to know when there are openings for new agencies. A job seeker wants to know about new openings at the commission.
Now in the state of Oregon all of these people can have the information they want delivered to them automatically for free, as soon as it’s posted by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), simply by providing their email address.
In May, the OLCC launched a new email and digital subscription management (EDSM) feature on its website (http://www.oregon.gov/OLCC). The service, provided by GovDelivery, allows members of the public to subscribe to topics of interest and receive automated email or wireless notification whenever the OLCC posts new information. The alerts provide links back to the updated website to see the new info. The 50-plus subscription topics on the OLCC’s website include information about administrative violations, the OLCC’s minor decoy operations, information about pending licensing applications and new licenses, the OLCC’s financials and product and pricing information.
According to Joy Evensen, OLCC public information officer, more than 2,000 people have subscribed to over 9,000 topics since May, with more signing up every day.
“Not only is it easier for the public to get the information they want, but it saves our staff the time that had been going to answering questions by phone and walking people through the website,” she says. “It also saves on postage. It has definitely been worth it.”
The new feature took Evensen about a month and a half to implement and cost $4,980, which includes set-up and unlimited training and support.
2010 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, Peachtree, Simply Accounting by Sage, BusinessWorks, Line 50 by Sage, Sage MAS 90/200. 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 along with an interface to an information kiosk for use by customers. 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. 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, launched in 2009, combines two systems into one: it’s an e-commerce platform and a marketing platform. BigCommerce is an all-in-one offering which includes web hosting, a domain name, an enterprise-grade e-commerce platform and dozens of built-in marketing tools (including the ability to list products on eBay, sell on Facebook and create Google AdWords campaigns for all products in your store. BigCommerce merchants enjoy higher conversion rates and more traffic to their stores. For more information on BigCommerce, visit http://bigcommerce.com or call 888-699-8911.
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 a web-based point-of-sale system meant for independent retailers. The company offers a 30-day free trial. Its system remains free if the retailer signs up for a merchant account with one of the credit-card-processing companies Cashier Live partners with. Alternatively, retailers can pay a subscription to use the system. For more information, visit cashierlive.com or call 877-312-1750.
Spirits by Cetech was designed specifically for New York State wine and liquor retailers. It was first installed in a Buffalo, NY store in 1987. The latest release, Spirits 4.5, includes paperless options where reports can be created electronically and stored as PDF files. Cetech also offers browser-based application development for the intranet as well as the internet. For more information call 716-884-8780 or visit cetech.com.
ChoiceMaster can simplify staff training, build good will with customers and increase sales. With ChoiceMaster running on a touchscreen kiosk in the store, customers can find food pairings, recipes, party planning advice and more. ChoiceMaster can be linked to many POS systems, allowing price and inventory information to be updated automatically, and can be used in multi-store operations. New this year is a digital signage version of ChoiceMaster which has more impact on shoppers and allows for advertising to play in your store. For more information, visit www.ChoiceMaster.com, call 410-745-8137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORESense, founded in 2000, offers a wine and spirits retailing version of its software-as-a-service (SaaS) or web-based product. Its system best fits retailers with at least $1 million in annual sales. The CORESense retail management system is meant to support all aspects of the retailer’s business, both its brick & mortar stores and its e-commerce business. It can also handle a business’s back office, merchandising and customer-management needs. For more information, visit www.CORESense.com or call 866-229-2804.
This technology-integration company specializes in providing turnkey systems, including installation and ongoing service, for mid-sized to large organizations in the retail industry with a focus on control state ABC Boards. Dalcom can provide point-of-sale (POS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, using products from IBM, NCR, HP, Microsoft and SAP. For more information, call 336-851-1802 or visit www.dalcom.com.
GovDelivery is the leading provider of government-to-citizen digital communications solutions. Over 350 government agencies use the GovDelivery platform to send over 150 million messages per month. Every day, more than 10,000 people sign up to receive updates from the government by email, text message and through social media. For more information, visit www.govdelivery.com.
Financial Information Technologies, Inc. (Fintech), founded in 1991, provides eCommerce solutions to buyers and sellers of regulated goods and services, such as beer, wine and spirits, including invoice exchange and financial settlement. For more information, visit www.fintech.net.
First Data, a global leader in electronic commerce and payment processing, processes more than 30 billion transactions a year and serves more than 5.3 million merchant locations. It offers a range of point-of-sale terminals as well as complete point-of-sale systems, including its First Data Retail Solution, meant for small to mid-sized retailers. For more information, visit www.firstdata.com.
This company offers two retail POS software packages: Store Keeper POS, a very affordable system for single-store retailers, and Store Manager ES, for chain-store customers and retailers whose operations have custom requirements. Both systems use touch-screens, are easy to use, and are certified PCI-compliant by Visa. Both systems support age verification, automatic case discounts, and multiple units of measure (buy beer by the case; sell cases, 6 packs, and singles with a single item). Call (877) 849-6615 or visit http://infotouchliquorstore.com/ to see a video demonstration.
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. 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 http://www.winepos.com; www.winepos.com.
IntelliScanner offers the Wine Collector mini, a tiny, wireless barcode scanner that automatically organizes wine collections. Wine lovers can scan the barcodes of bottles of wine they are interested in, at a tasting, in a restaurant, at a friend’s house, or in a store. When they get home, they download the information onto their PC or Mac by simply plugging in the scanner to download, just like a digital camera, and the included wine management software will automatically provide and record the wine’s information, such as name, winery, varietal, country and region, by accessing IntelliScanner’s database via the internet. Wine Collector mini starts at $279. For more information, visit www.intelliscanner.com or call 800-550-5470.
MERCHANT SOFTWARE CORP.
This company has specialized in point of sale software for liquor and beverage retailers for the past 15 years and has just released a new version, Version 5.2, of its LiquorPOS system. This new version is fully PCI/PA-DSS-compliant, conforming to the latest credit-card encryption and security mandates that just went into effect in July. Other new features include full touch-screen capability, enhanced receipts with custom graphics and the ability to receive updates to the software automatically via the internet. LiquorPOS software is currently used in over 3,000 locations. The system comes pre-loaded with a database of 15,000 beer, wine, liquor and tobacco products to speed up a store’s installation. Its beverage retail specific abilities include driver’s license scanning for age-verification, inventory tracking of multi-pack products (such as beer sold by the case, bottle or six-pack) and the ability to handle keg and bottle deposits. The company also offers Go!POS, a wireless inventory scanner, for use with the system. For more information, call 1-800-565-6675 or visit www.merchantsoft.com.
Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is a new end-to-end offering designed for midsize specialty retailers. The solution offers retailers a deep level of integration across point of sale, store management, supply chain, merchandising and financials to address business productivity while enhancing customer service in a single solution. Customers will receive out of the box integration to a purpose-built point of sale – fully connecting back-office data to the retail store – which is unique in the industry. Through a single, end-to-end Microsoft-provided solution, retailers can lower the total cost of ownership, reduce complexity and improve the accuracy of information, all of which is vital in today’s evolving retail environment. Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail is available in 16 countries, including the U.S., with additional countries to follow. For more information, call 888-477-7989 Option #1 or visit www.microsoft.com/dynamics/en/us/products/ax-retail.aspx.
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.
A leader in retail technology, Radiant Systems offers a fully integrated, end-to-end solution including its retail POS system, CounterPoint. Other components include integrated ecommerce, built-in gift cards, customer loyalty programs and payment solutions. Radiant Systems hardware, specifically designed for retailers, is available. For more information, visit www.counterpointpos.com or call 800-852-5852.
Retail Anywhere is a developer of POS and retail management systems for wine and liquor store retailers. The company has more than 25 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 1-800-257-2734 or visit www.retailanywhere.com for further information.
This company offers POS, store operations, merchandising and business intelligence applications for specialty retailers. For more information, visit www.retailpro.com.
RITE (Retail Information Technology Enterprises)
This company is an award-winning provider of Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS) and has tailored it to specifically meet the needs of beer/liquor/wine retailers, with clients in over 30 states. RITE has customized RMS to add functionality that addresses the special problems liquor retailers face on a regular basis, including the ability to integrate with their suppliers (invoicing and pricing), integrated age verification via drivers licenses, profit-margin monitoring, and web site integration. For information, visit http://www.rite.us or call toll-free 1-888-267-RITE.
SAGE NORTH AMERICA
Sage North America specializes in business-management software and services for small- and mid-sized businesses. Its latest release, Sage Peachtree 2011, for small businesses, has new features including streamlined service billing, an inventory and service management center, job status indicators, change order processing and enhanced assemblies reporting. For more information, call 800-228-0068 or visit www.peachtree2011.com.
Developed by a wine retailer, ShopKeep.com is a web-based point-of-sale system designed for independent retailers. Subscription prices start at $49 per month for a basic system with one register. For more information, visit shopkeep.com.
SHOP TO COOK
This company provides interactive merchandising solutions for grocery and supermarkets. Its latest solutions feature 37-inch LCD high-definition screens, blending the advantages of digital signage with interactive kiosks. Depending on the software package chosen, the interactive devices provide wine-tasting notes, artisan-cheese information, meal-planning help, including recipes and shopping lists that can be printed, wine-pairing suggestions, and an item locator, which pinpoints where a desired product is in the store, plus an optional integrated price checker. An interactive weekly circular rounds out the merchandising suite, allowing shoppers to view more detailed product information, promotions, tasting notes, or pairing associated with any weekly featured item. Two new features for 2010: the “Coupon Channel” provides over 100 manufacturer’s coupons weekly that shoppers can view, print, and redeem on the spot and “MobileRewards,” a program shoppers can opt into either online or in the store, through the interactive display, which allows the retailer to send them instant promotional offers via mobile text. Shoppers redeem an offer by typing in the unique code at the kiosk which prints out a coupon redeemable at checkout. The Shop to Cook interactive displays provide the retailer with reports about the items customers have been searching for and the features they have been using. Solutions are also available for the web, providing retailers with consistent branding and content, online and in-store. For more information, call 716-362-3168 or visit www.shoptocook.com.
SofTechnics provides mobile price and inventory management solutions for the retail sector. The 20-year-old company offers grocery and general merchandising solutions and has provided software solutions to some of the largest state and provincial government operated liquor agencies in the U.S. and Canada. SofTechnics, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mettler Toledo Corporation with North American headquarters in Columbus, OH, and regional offices across the United States. For more information, call 330-665-1698 or visit softechnics.com.
WASP BARCODE TECHNOLOGIES
Wasp Barcode Technologies provides data-capture and tracking solutions designed for small businesses. Products include QuickStore Point-of-Sale, inventory software, asset software, barcode scanners, barcode printers and barcode software. Wasp solutions give small business owners the tools to operate more efficiently and profitably. Learn more at www.waspbarcode.com or call 866-547-WASP (9277).
WINE MARKET ASSISTANT, LLC
Wine Market Assistant, LLC, a NCR and IBM Partner, offers specialized Enterprise Class customer kiosks, called Wine Market Assistant. The in-store kiosk allows customers to search for a wine, spirit, or beer in various ways, from a simple “red wine under $10” to more complex information searches for wine collectors. It also offers food pairings, information on over 400 cheeses and thousands of recipes. Wine Market Assistant offers the retailer options to integrate into their POS for nightly updates to pricing and products, loyalty program, in-store promotions and the store map. The content includes independent wine reviews as well as winemaker notes. Lease prices for a kiosk start at $10 per day. In addition, a retailer website extension and mobile application is available for private branding. For more information, call 888-450-4529 or email Marketing@WineMarketAssistant.com.