Magazine Article | February 1, 2000

Overhauling An Outdated POS System

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

The Children's Place was using software that would not accommodate hardware upgrades to its POS system. The solution: change platforms.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2000
The Children's Place is a nationwide retail children's apparel chain. The company currently has 293 locations ranging from Florida to Utah, and the company is growing at a rate of about 30% every year. In addition, the chain employs about 200 people. Unfortunately, this boon in business was not matched by the point of sale (POS) stations running in the company's many retail stores.

The IBM hardware that the stores were using was a good fit, but the outdated software couldn't easily accommodate upgrades in the hardware. The specific software problem was the antiquated DOS platform on which the hardware was running. Explains Alex Rivier, director of POS/data center at The Children's Place, "The software was written in PASCAL. Trying to find someone who could make the changes we needed was a huge hassle." The company felt that, beyond creating inconvenience, the software was also hurting its customer service. The software was often the cause of downtime and didn't allow the company to harvest all the potential demographic and marketing features with the latest hardware. In response to these obvious problems, Rivier began the search for a POS solution that would satisfy the company's goals.

Finding A POS Solution
In searching for a technology provider, The Children's Place didn't have to go far from home. The retail chain decided to work with a company with whom they had a long-standing relationship: Eagen, MN-based R2 Corp., provider of POS solutions. Rivier explains that The Children's Place "had been buying hardware from R2 for years. We were looking for a one-stop hardware provider and software integrator. We looked at three or four vendors — then we took a step back and found that we were already working with someone who could solve our problems."

The Children's Place opted for a Windows NT platform in place of the old DOS system. The company chose this platform to solve the obvious problem of compatibility with hardware. The old software was crashing and causing problems at the registers. The company needed to resolve these problems to continue growing its business.

Implementing A Solution
Most installations are a matter of hindsight and evaluation. The Children's Place, however, is in a unique position. The company started the installation in February 1999, and to date, has transferred 80 stores to the new platform. For technical reasons, though, the company postponed installations in the remaining 213 stores until after the Y2K scare.

The most notable problem in this situation is having two different platforms for the POS stations, communicating with one host system. But, The Children's Place has managed that issue. The host system supports both data formats, and although the new environment is more "streamlined," the information looks almost the same to the back end. Rivier comments that, "Despite the obstacles, being caught midstream has not been a major problem. We plan on wrapping up the project by the end of April 2000. To date, it has been a success."

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