Niagara Parks Commission (Ontario) operates 20 retail stores along 44 miles of the Niagara Parkway. The largest store, Table Rock, has 36 POS units and does as much as $180,000 in sales per day.
Niagara Parks' legacy POS solution was incapable of providing accurate inventory data for merchandising and restocking purposes. Additionally, system crashes required IT and management intervention on a daily basis. As a result, Niagara Parks' stores would experience lines of people at the register, and sometimes customers would walk out because of the wait.
The decision to invest in a new system was finalized in the fall of 2001. According to Dave Southard, senior technician of IT consultant Systems Technology Group (Buffalo, NY), the integrator for the Niagara Parks' project, "They wanted a POS solution with cash balancing, journals, security reports, and merchandising reporting capabilities." The top requirement for Niagara Parks' POS solution was that the system had to consistently handle high volume.
Integrated POS Eliminates Downtime
After a few POS vendors and consultants analyzed Niagara Parks' system needs, the retailer chose IBM POS hardware and Retail Technologies International's (RTI's) (Folsom, CA) Retail Pro software. Contracts were finalized in November 2001, and orders were placed for an aggressive go-live date of March 2002.
To overcome problems with the terrain, all communications between stores and offices were established on a 3 MB wireless WAN (wide area network). Communications issues resolved, the Retail Pro back office system was tested and installed, user preferences were fine-tuned, employees were trained, and store data was loaded. In February 2002, the first store went live, and a total of 100 POS units were rolled out to 20 stores by the March deadline.
Niagara Parks uses Retail Pro to perform straight currency exchanges at the register between U.S. and Canadian money. Additionally, it uses the system's preset item buttons to sell People Mover tickets and parking passes. The solution includes an embedded Oracle 9i database running on a Windows NT platform. "The solution includes reporting capabilities that show store revenue and the most profitable merchandise and services within each store," says Southard. "Additionally, sales and merchandising information is used to manage marketing strategies, and departmental reports enable the retailer to set stocking levels by category. This year the stores will start using comparison reports to track weekly sales results against last year's results."
Troubleshooting Calls Down
Today, all of Niagara Parks' POS data is updated at the central office throughout the day. In the last season, the Park broke one-day sales records on two consecutive days and has been virtually failure-free across the enterprise.
"This year's physical inventory [PI] was done in Retail Pro, using its zoning features. Managers report this was the best and most efficient PI Niagara Parks has ever had," says Southard.