FAIRWAY SET TO UPGRADE CREDIT, DEBIT PROCESSING

NEW YORK -- Fairway Market, an upscale two-store chain here, expects to install a new payment-processing system early next year to eliminate the paper reconciliation of credit and debit transactions as well as improve speed and uptime. In the future, the system could provide an opportunity to transmit promotional messages to customers as they wait for their transaction to be processed, as well as

NEW YORK -- Fairway Market, an upscale two-store chain here, expects to install a new payment-processing system early next year to eliminate the paper reconciliation of credit and debit transactions as well as improve speed and uptime. In the future, the system could provide an opportunity to transmit promotional messages to customers as they wait for their transaction to be processed, as well as the potential to add loyalty- and gift-card programs.

Since Fairway handles 840,000 transactions per year - with a high percentage being credit-card payments - improving the efficiency of handling those transactions was essential.

"A lot of our customers prefer debit and credit cards," said Marc Paoloni, director of management information systems. "And that number is growing and growing," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of paper and labor necessary to reconcile those transactions."

The new payment-processing system from Hypercom, Phoenix, which Paoloni expects to be operational early in the first quarter of 2000, will be integrated with the retailer's point-of-sale system, which has been "heavily modified" by the in-store technology staff over the years, he noted.

"The ability to electronically capture, store and retrieve receipts, for example, is a tremendous asset to any retail operation," he said. "Right now, our system for processing credit-card transactions doesn't communicate directly with the point-of-sale system. POS reports are compared to reports as to how much we get credited by the bank for credit-card transactions. These figures have to match, and it takes a lot of manual reconcilement. What we're aiming to do is get the people out of this process so that they have the time to concentrate on what is important," he said.

The new system will also improve the speed and uptime of the retailer's credit-card processing system, Paoloni explained, although he did not provide specifics on how much faster transactions would be processed. "Each credit-card processing system can run independently, so if a terminal is down, only that lane will be affected," he said. "In addition, if our server goes down, the credit-card processing system can still operate," he said. "That is very key to the whole thing, because it is all about how smooth your point of sale is."

The machine also offers some merchandising opportunities, such as the ability to display promotional messages on the screen as the transaction is being processed. "We're still evaluating whether that would work in Manhattan," he said.

The system could also be used to handle the processing of gift and loyalty cards in the future, he noted. "There is a lot of room for growth and expansion to add new features and services for our customers," he said.