SUPERVALU SIGNS ON TO NEW PROGRAM

WASHINGTON -- When Supervalu discovered its printing programs for in-store signage were fast becoming out of date, it cast a wide net for a solution.Its call for a better computerized system was answered by several vendors, all armed to the teeth with software savvy and eager to team up with the large Minneapolis wholesaler.A desire for reduced maintenance costs, integration capability with other

WASHINGTON -- When Supervalu discovered its printing programs for in-store signage were fast becoming out of date, it cast a wide net for a solution.

Its call for a better computerized system was answered by several vendors, all armed to the teeth with software savvy and eager to team up with the large Minneapolis wholesaler.

A desire for reduced maintenance costs, integration capability with other Supervalu products and design versatility at the store level eventually led the company to choose a PostScript-based system, said Bill Reierson, lead analyst for in-store systems.

As a result of installing the new system, Supervalu has now succeeded in bringing the creation of shelf labeling, shelf-talker and stand-alone signs into a single program that works on multiple platforms. "Even though we're running on DOS, we didn't want to be locked into it in the future," Reierson said. "We wanted the ability to run in DOS, UNIX and Windows."

With the program, developed by the Seattle-based Access design firm, retailers can create and print signs to their liking, and do it faster than before using a standard printer language.

Griesmann and Reierson outlined the exhaustive selection process, the system's implementation and the future path for design and printing of in-store signs at the recent Retail Systems '94 conference here.

The executives described how they strove to find a solution that would simplify the in-store signage system while preserving its flexibility. Today, 18 months into the program, about 200 retailers are using the system.

Reierson used examples of stand-alone signs and shelf labels to illustrate how one retailer may opt for a classic typeface, while another prefers a "more down-home look" that closely mimics a handwritten sign.

The key, he noted, is to increase variety of sign presentation so retailers can customize as they see fit. "We don't want to hardcoat anything," Reierson said. "We want to give flexibility at the store level."

Using a host of third-party software programs, Reierson demonstrated how retailers using the service today have increased printing time while reducing costs. In some cases, a five-minutes-per-page printing rate for logos and other graphics was accelerated to eight pages per minute.

Looking ahead, Griesmann said Supervalu would like to explore offering color printing support, though right now that option is "still a little expensive."

Another attractive option the company would like to offer is support for printing larger signs, up to 11 by 17 inches.

Other avenues Supervalu may explore is the offering of computer-based training and the introduction of Standard Interchange Language interface to promote "dynamic" data interchange, Reierson added.