Retailers are gearing up to implement a wish list of New Year's technology resolutions that extends from the front end to the back door -- and everywhere in between.
In 1995, retailers will be unveiling a wide range of technology initiatives. Among them: replacing older point-of-sale systems with "open" personal computers, upgrading frequent-shopper programs and testing electronic shelf labels.
Retailers also will focus on improving productivity at headquarters while enhancing interstore communication. Installing dedicated leased telephone lines for speedier data transmission and retrieval tops the list for many. Clearly, the move toward a paperless data pipeline is gaining momentum.
Easier access to information through local and wide area networks has broadened retailers' views of their operations, allowing them to plan strategies on a global basis rather than piecemeal.
Here are some retailer technology plans for 1995:
A main priority will be rolling out automated [direct store delivery] receiving. We're going to put a data base system in place to monitor all vendor deal prices at the back door. We're going to use hand-held [devices] for scanning vendor deliveries at the back door. I hope to roll out automated DSD to every site by the end of the second quarter 1995.
We're also going to do electronic invoicing, which will tie directly into our accounts payable system. [DSD] is going to be a huge area for us. The next logical step will be to create a perpetual inventory system at store level. Once that is in place, we will be able to do store-level computer ordering and shelf allocation by item. That should be installed by late 1995.
We are installing leased telephone lines in all our stores to create a wide-area network. That will allow us to pull daily data collection files and implement a target marketing program. It will also give us the ability to move a huge amount of data to our office for processing.
We have a frequent-shopper program now, but we want to expand the use of that data. We want to know which shoppers are buying what products. We want to create a monthly mailing for selected customers based on their purchasing behavior.
We're also going to start using radio frequency hand-held terminals to do some computer-assisted ordering. That's still in the test mode. We've waiting for Spartan to provide us with an electronic invoice. But that should be rolled out really early in 1995.
We now have computerized labor scheduling in place in 12 stores, and we hope to have six more stores installed by Jan. 11. Everyone thinks we're nuts to install the system during the holidays, but we want to have it up and running for January-March, when supermarkets typically overspend on labor because sales are softer.
Larry Elias Sr.
Pueblo Xtra International
Pompano Beach, Fla.
One key area will be an expansion of electronic data interchange into invoices and advanced shipping notices. We're doing only purchase orders right now, but I hope to have invoices in place by the middle of 1995.
We're also preparing for a manual cross-docking pilot in our major warehouse in Puerto Rico.
Our initial efforts in category management will involve developing a completely new way of viewing profitability and running certain areas of the company.
We're also looking at a more automated way to track, control, manage and reduce shrink at the front end, using data from the scanners and management-supplied parameters.
manager, mainframe support
Seaway Food Town
All the store support areas are key for us. We're building a product management system in the stores and putting in a direct delivery system using it. Right now, we don't have much control over direct delivery products, in so far as knowing whether items are authorized or we're getting everything we're supposed to. The new system will help improve that.
We're automating the main store processor to gain control of retail pricing at the front end and building a host system to install a wide-area network for in-store communications.
Al Van Luvender
Bedford Heights, Ohio
We just kicked off a preferred shopper program that offers instant discounts at the front end. We might expand that in 1995. Right now it's an instant discount at the time of purchase for customers with preferred shopper cards.
We're looking into more comprehensive target marketing.
From the wholesale side we're looking at some systems improvements to our buying system.
Our other divisions are now determining what their priorities are, which will dictate what many of our [corporate] priorities are. We're rolling out electronic payments in the stores and we're testing labor scheduling.
VP, corporate affairs
Big Y Foods
We're going to test electronic shelf tags. We've been talking about it with different vendors for some time. One thing we have settled on is trying the tags in a new store so that we don't have to disrupt an existing store to set up the program.
We're also going to do some application development using our leased-line communications network. We're in the process of rolling out the network to all of our sites, including our distribution center. We're also revamping the network at headquarters level.
We're also looking to select the next generation of our POS equipment. We're comparing and researching different front end options for registers to see what's going to take us to our next level.
Probably our biggest single effort will be in the area of processing orders. We're installing a new warehouse system by going to a Unix platform. We're going to be running a package on that platform and expect to achieve productivity gains in the warehouse and a more efficient way of moving products into the building.
We will finish installing a new retail price management system. Stores that choose to can be on-line with us.
We've got a leased-line network started that we're putting into all the stores so we can become a paperless company.
We're going to be giving stores increased access to our servers here in the office for personnel and pricing information.
Leased lines are the biggest thing for us next year. We want to get the stores hooked up to be able to access information at the headquarters level and speed up the flow of information. We have three stores installed now and are getting ready for three more.
Back door receiving will be the next project we're concentrating on. Since they came out with Standard Interchange Language, we're trying to get involved and have it run on the hardware we have.