With voluminous paperwork, mismanaged inventory, and sketchy knowledge of its customers, Fast-Fix Jewelry Repair needed a fix of its own. A retail management system became the strongest link in the chain.
Like a chef cooking at a hibachi table, certified technicians at Peter LeCody's Fast-Fix Jewelry Repairs do their work right before your eyes. That's a novelty in jewelry repair, where service is traditionally delayed because work is shipped to technicians for repair and mailed back to the jeweler. But when quality repair is promised "while you watch," presentation of the shop is just as important as technical skill. There's no room for inefficient transactions at the point of sale (POS) or the mass of paper that can be generated from tracking an inventory of thousands of tiny pieces of silver and gold.
Finding The Right Fix
Until 1992, LeCody, who owns a seven-store Fast-Fix franchise in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, was tracking inventory manually on paper and processing transactions with a mechanical cash register. "We faced many inconveniences then," recalls LeCody. "We were being swallowed up by paperwork, and I had no control over inventory." Fast-Fix maintains an inventory of thousands of jewelry findings (spring rings, lobster claws, watch crystals, etc.), as well as the silver and gold chains and Fossil watches that make up the retail segment of its business.
LeCody began shopping for a solution, spending six months examining everything on the market from then cutting-edge DOS systems to a boxed retail solution being sold at the time by Radio Shack. After narrowing his choices to eight proposals, he finally decided on Infocorp's (Winnipeg, Manitoba) Softwear/POS retail management system. "Our initial concern was that Infocorp is in Canada and we're in Texas," said LeCody. "We worried about what would happen when we needed help. They convinced us that they would be here for us, and I'm impressed to this day that we can always get help after 5:00 PM and on weekends," he said. "We have to know that if a system goes down due to a software problem at 8:00 on a Saturday night, we'll have someone to call. They gave us an after-hours pager number, and they always have someone available."
Using Softwear/POS, Fast-Fix has reduced its inventory by more than 40% compared to what it maintained with the previous system. All of its stock is now labeled with a 12-digit UPC (universal product code), and inventory duties are handled with a handheld scanner rather than a calculator. "It now takes us a day per store to do inventory, rather than a week per store," claims LeCody. The software monitors stock levels so that orders are placed only when product is depleted to a predetermined point. Every Monday, order reports are generated and purchase orders are drawn up and faxed to vendors. "Now we get stock from our vendors only when we need it," says LeCody. "Cash flow has been improved dramatically due to this." While Fast-Fix doesn't have EDI (electronic data interchange) capability right now, LeCody's future plans include it.
Using It For All It's Worth
The Infocorp solution has not only alleviated LeCody's inventory headaches, it has also cut his payroll management expenses. The software tallies payroll hours at each store and feeds the data to the server at headquarters via e-mail on a daily basis, eliminating paper time sheets and data entry. Because of the reduction in time spent calculating payroll and the elimination of hand counting inventory each week, two people are now handling these functions across all seven stores.
Fast-Fix has also been using information gathered by Infocorp's Customer Management software to identify and develop its customer base. Data, such as purchase and repair history and home addresses, is leveraged to target customers with specific mailers and has led to the creation of a frequent repair customer program. "When we found out what kind of information we were getting, we said, 'hey, wouldn't it be neat if we did this,'" says LeCody. "We patterned it after a frequent flyer program to reward customer loyalty." The program has generated results - last year alone, 3,000 customer repair cards were redeemed.
The installation at LeCody's stores has served as a model for other Fast-Fix franchises, and now all 107 stores nationwide are running the same Infocorp retail management software that LeCody started with in 1992. What began as a fast fix for one franchise has become a permanent fixture for them all.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at MattP@corrypub.com.