SATELLITE-BASED NET LAUNCHED BY BASHAS'

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' Markets here intends to streamline communications chainwide with last week's launch of a satellite-based network.The retailer initially will transmit store point-of-sale and electronic funds transfer data via satellite, said Tony Rinella, director of management information services. Bashas' will also use its network to transmit information vital for future programs like

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' Markets here intends to streamline communications chainwide with last week's launch of a satellite-based network.

The retailer initially will transmit store point-of-sale and electronic funds transfer data via satellite, said Tony Rinella, director of management information services. Bashas' will also use its network to transmit information vital for future programs like computerized direct-store-delivery and automated store financial reports.

"Our satellite [network] is going to be the foundation for all of our future data communications," he said. "We intend to reduce our communications costs and improve reliability and speed" through the satellite network.

Bashas' linked its corporate headquarters to a satellite hub last week as an initial step. The retailer, after ensuring the system works at the corporate level, will next link a pilot store to the network in the next 60 days. A rollout to all 70 stores should be completed by early next year, he added.

"We chose satellite over traditional terrestrial lines because a lot of our stores are in remote areas and are often difficult to communicate with" due to an unreliable land-based system, he added.

Stores in remote locations often must rely on multiple phone lines of varying quality to communicate with corporate headquarters, Rinella said.

Bashas' intends to move its new check authorization system to the satellite network once each store is equipped with very small aperture terminals and antennas, he said.

The retailer is currently rolling out POS software that allows cashiers to access a data base of bad check writers. The data base is compiled from retailers in different classes of trade, Rinella said.

Bashas' has been contributing to the data base since March, and has already begun to recoup some losses from bad checks. "It's been a benefit because some customers have come back to us saying 'J.C. Penney isn't cashing my check because we owe Bashas' money,' and they pay off their bill" to Bashas'.

Rinella said the retailer is hoping it will see a good return on its substantial investments in software and fees to third-party data base and switch providers by greatly reducing check fraud.

Bashas' sees its satellite network, provided by Hughes Network Systems, Germantown, Md., as a link that will enable the retailer to launch a number of new initiatives based on store-to-corporate communication.

For example, the retailer is now developing a system to automate the reporting of daily store financial data. Using the satellite network will further improve the process, Rinella said.

"We're going to replace handwritten spreadsheets of daily sales audits with an automated computer spreadsheet," Rinella said. An automated store-based system with a satellite link to corporate headquarters "is a definite timesaver," he added. "Store [officials] now manually fill out big spreadsheets," Rinella said. "All of those sheets are taken into the headquarters here where they're entered into the computer and checked for errors."

Moving to a more automated system supported by satellite links will vastly improve productivity at the store and corporate level. "The balance [of the work] can be done at store level and transmitted to the host computer here," he said. "It will eliminate a lot of manual effort."