The Green Sheet Online Edition
January 12, 2009 • Issue 09:01:01
Seek profitable harbor with POS
Maintain merchant stickiness; that's the mantra for 2009. The way to do that is by offering merchants value added services. Gift and loyalty card programs, cash advance and back-office products and services are some of the ways ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) can keep their merchant customers from being snared by competing service providers.
But New Jersey-based ISO United Bank Card Inc. has gone a step farther in its merchant retention strategy by developing its own full-blown POS system. Harbortouch POS is designed for small and medium-sized businesses in the retail and hospitality verticals.
The system - which comes in two configurations (one for retail, the other for hospitality) - reportedly offers smaller merchants the same degree of functionality that big-box retailers and national chain store restaurants, hotels and motels enjoy with their POS systems.
Jim Surber, Vice President of UBC's POS division, illustrated the value of Harbortouch with a recent discussion he had with one of UBC's MLSs about a Harbortouch installation.
"That salesperson was out talking to one of his merchants," Surber said. "And the merchant said, 'You know, after a month I had $10,000 more in my pocket. After the second month I had another $8,400 in my pocket. This system is making me money.'"
Surber said that in the retail environment, Harbortouch excels at inventory management. "Not only having the right amount of inventory in stock, but having the right items," he noted. "You can have the right dollar amount of inventory but all the wrong items and you won't sell anything."
Surber offered the example of a liquor store merchant on the Fourth of July to illustrate his point. Knowing a large quantity of beer will be sold that holiday weekend, the merchant orders 20 extra cases from two competing labels. All of the beer from brand one sells out, while 10 cases from brand two remain on the shelf at the end of the weekend.
"If I would have known that, then I would have put 30 cases of brand one and 10 cases of brand two on the shelf," Surber said. "I would have sold more and I wouldn't have my money tied up in stuff that I hadn't sold."
To alleviate that pain point, Harbortouch allows merchants to rank the popularity of their goods and adjust their inventory accordingly.
For small restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts, Harbortouch reduces shrinkage and table turn, Surber said. In the hospitality world, shrinkage refers to when a server or chef gets an order wrong and a diner receives the wrong meal; the order must be corrected. Essentially, the diner gets a free meal and the restaurant eats the cost, which reduces the amount of revenue received from that table. Surber said Harbortouch helps eliminate such errors because orders are keyed directly into the touch screen.
Table turn pertains to how efficiently a restaurant manages its dining capacity on a daily and monthly basis. "The ability to turn your tables one more time in a month, two more times in a month, it's a huge amount of money," Surber said.
A restaurant with 20 tables that averages $100 per table can earn an additional $2,000 per month just by increasing the table turn by one revolution. But businesses fail to do that because of inefficiencies in communication between servers and food preparers. Orders can be incorrect or hard to read, resulting in unnecessary delays.
Wasted time means meals don't get prepared as quickly and tables are not turned over as quickly. This results in lost revenue. But Harbortouch "walks [servers] right through the process of placing the order so they don't get it wrong," Surber said. "It's right when it gets back to the kitchen."
According to Surber, hundreds of Harbortouch systems have been installed to date. Merchants who have gotten by with just card swipers and PCs are getting set up with them by their ISOs and MLSs. Merchants are also switching from competing systems to Harbortouch.
Surber related one instance where a merchant would have had to spend $6,000 to achieve Payment Card Industry Data Security Compliancy on a competing POS system. "And they put a Harbortouch in for less than that," Surber said. "They got a brand new system that costs them less than to upgrade an older system."
UBC supplies its ISOs and MLSs with the tools to sell the system - from brochures to return on investment (ROI) models to online demonstrations of the Harbortouch's capabilities.
Set-up times vary according to type of business. Surber said installation is quicker for general retail environments than for hospitality. UBC must build databases for hospitality businesses.
But once the system is up and running, businesses can expect to see a quick ROI. Thus, Surber believes the inherent value proposition of Harbortouch makes it an easy sell. "And in many cases it sells itself," Surber said.
United Bank Card Inc.
800-201-0461 ext. 136, ext. 145 (East Coast),
ext. 219 (West Coast)
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