When it comes to supermarket technology, point of sale may not be the most exciting, but it’s one of the most vital elements to keep stores running. There are so many choices for store owners, both in point of sale companies and in the software itself.
Lowe’s Supermarket, based in Littlefield, Texas, has 150 supermarkets across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas. The family-owned chain, which opened its first store in 1963, reached a point where it needed a new point of sale system for the whole company. “Our equipment, hardware, and software had reached the end of life,” says Rory Glidewell, IT director for Lowe’s Supermarket. “We had to upgrade. The hardware was older, some of the software was no longer being actively updated, and we had three different platforms.” Lowe’s was introduced to IT Retail while looking to implement cash handling in its stores. During that investigation, Lowe’s began reviewing IT Retail’s grocery solutions, including POS.
IT Retail was founded when a retailer became frustrated with his point of sale system and wanted an interface that worked similarly to Microsoft Office. The POS software is designed specifically for grocery stores and is built to align with grocers’ daily workflows. From the easy-to-use cash register interface to the advanced back-office reporting suite, IT Retail software was designed to perform alongside passionate business owners. The system enables store owners to compare sales, determine best-selling products, track customer buying patterns, and view daily sales tenders. With IT Retail’s system, cashiers use touchscreens with fully-customizable screen formats to quickly check out customers.
When Lowe’s began researching POS for their stores, one of the most important requirements was a cloud-based system. They wanted to minimize the amount of equipment needed in stores. Previous systems had required multiple servers in every store. Any time Lowe’s wanted to make changes to the system, like updating the appearance of a receipt, Lowe’s had to connect to every store’s servers to make the change.
Furthermore, end-of-day processes would cause frequent problems with the old system. “Oftentimes, the system would merge several days of sales and make a mess of the business,” Glidewell says.
“Lowe’s owners like to partner with somebody they can have a long-term relationship with,” he adds. “We’re partners — more than just us paying IT Retail and them providing a service.”
The cloud-based software makes it easy for Lowe’s to make adjustments from the corporate office. Plus, it eliminated the POS end-of-day processes. The system allows for automatic updates to both the operating system and the POS. “IT Retail evaluates those updates and makes sure they’re not going to cause any issues. Since it’s cloud-based, we’re able to release that update to all of the stores, or just a few of the stores,” Glidewell says.
The new system also sends out proactive alerts if something fails, so the store personnel knows something is wrong, such as missing sales reports or data that has not been generated and uploaded from one of the stores.
In addition to software upgrades, the new POS system allows Lowe’s to reduce the equipment necessary at the checkout lane. The old system had large monitors sitting at checkout for the customer display, which meant Lowe’s had to maintain and service them. The new system moved the customer display to the PIN pad, eliminating the monitors.
Lowe’s and IT Retail partnered with Wincor Nixdorf, which provided the checkout lane hardware and back-office computers, and performed the physical installations. All software configuration at the store level was handled by IT Retail. Lowe’s and BR Data converted the POS data and copied it over to the new system.
For installation in each store, Lowe’s converted the data from the store’s existing server the day before the scheduled installation. Then, this data was transferred to the new POS after installation. The hardware installation began at 7 p.m., after the evening rush for most stores. Once the process began, the Wincor Nixdorf team installed systems for the lanes not in use. Then, after the stores closed at 10 p.m., the team finished the remaining registers. Once the hardware was installed, the IT Retail team ensured the software was running properly and verified that all POS data had been transferred properly.
“We planned on this project until we were tired of planning,” Glidewell says of the installation process. However, all the planning resulted in a smooth rollout with very few bumps in the road. The equipment was already at the store when the installers arrived because the Wincor Nixdorf team planned the hardware deliveries for the day before installation and had someone on-site check the shipment to ensure every item had arrived.
“Overall, we did have a few disruptions in the stores, but not to the point it bothered our business. If I were to show you sales reports or sales data, you’d never see the difference,” Glidewell says.
To prepare staff for the new system, Lowe’s had all store personnel review the online training manuals created by IT Retail. Additionally, they set up a mobile training center which traveled to each of the company’s 11 regions to pre-train the staff. “We tried to train as close to the
install as we could. You can’t do it too far in advance because they forget,” Glidewell explains. Wincor Nixdorf provided on-site training staff, as well as accessible personnel to answer questions and assist after the install.
The changeover went smoothly because IT Retail customized the appearance of the POS screen to Lowe’s specifications. This reduced employee confusion and nervousness. “We didn’t have any issues at the lanes because it was very intuitive,” Glidewell says. A few problems did crop up at the service center, due to the differences in selling lottery tickets, money orders, and cashing checks. “That’s where we had the biggest learning curve,” he adds.
The back-end reporting was also customized to fit Lowe’s specifications for integration into its older system data. “We accomplished what we were trying to accomplish,” he says.