Fingertip control boosts performance and profits29 February 2016
Computerised sales terminals can improve the way drycleaners conduct their businesses. Kathleen Armstrong reports
Anyone who is anyone has one. That's how Mark Reynolds of Spot Business Systems describes how widespread the use of fully computerised, electronic point-of-sale terminals (EPoS) has become in the UK drycleaning sector.
Just as smartphones have become a must for many, EPoS is now a necessity in most retail shops. Ticket writing is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, even for single-shop owners. Reynolds estimates that around 90% of UK retail drycleaning shops now have an EPoS system.
"Some old established businesses may not see the advantage of changing over from the old ticketing system," says Jonathan Beach from DryStream. "For some it may be a fear of technology; for others it may be resistance from staff. But as shops change hands and a younger generation takes over, the new owners are going for EPoS. It can change how they do their accounts, stock control, collection and delivery."
Pauline Quigley installed DryStream's EPoS systems in her five AngoraBesco retail drycleaning shops in Jersey around six years ago and extended it to her Arrowsmith Marlowe shops in Guernsey the year before last.
They all run on broadband, enabling her to monitor income and expenditure across the shops and to better identify opportunities for offers and promotions. Because the systems are online, DryStream can easily resolve any problems remotely. This is a real advantage for Channel Island-based companies, such as hers, that cannot be accessed as easily as those on the mainland.
Quigley says that EPoS has had a marked impact on stock control, especially with respect to the shop's retail lines. "The system is easy to use - you can get an account set up in a matter of minutes."
Currently, the reports are printed off and reviewed to identify the lines that sell well and those that don't and to see when new stock needs to be ordered, although the system will flag-up when stock is running low.
"We probably underuse the system at the moment," Quigley admits.
Oskan Halil, director of Whiteleys Cleaners in south London, has used the DryStream EPoS system to monitor performance across his shops for the past 14 - 15 years. It helps him to keep an eye on what items are coming in, what goes out and what's in stock.
The system has been gradually improved and updated over the years but there are still services on it that Halil has yet to use.
"You can put whatever you want on screen, including laundry, drycleaning and repairs, and have dropdown menus," Halil says. "It links in with everything in the shop." Each shop holds its own customer data. The head office can see all data but it is not shared across shops.
Checking a customer in is quick and easy and if they return to collect their order and say they have lost the ticket, the system can still locate their garments.
Whiteleys uses an email rather than text messaging to notify customers about promotions and although it can take payment by credit card, the business does not retain card details. For further security, there is a lock-down on the system, which allows management to adjust an individual's access to the system.
Simplicity is important, says Reza Vladkhani from the EPoS Company. "You don't want it to be too complex, especially for older customers and those who don't come from IT backgrounds."
"When a customer comes for the first time, you just need to get their telephone number and name." Different buttons record the type of garment - trousers, jackets and blouses - then, when all the information has been entered, the system prints out receipts for the customer and the shop in just a few seconds. This is much quicker than writing out a ticket.
If companies want to make the system cloud-based, they can do that and everything on the terminal is saved into the cloud every 30 seconds. However, Vladkhani says: "Most of our customers don't go for that option - maybe we don't push it enough. But if they want to keep an eye on what is happening in the shop, they get the cloud."
Greenstone Drycleaners in Hammersmith has used an EPoS system from EPoS Company for the past three years. Owner Emad Sandouk says it allows him to identify what customers are spending their money on. It also tells him what services they are not using so that he can send promotional texts to encourage them to use more services. He also uses the system to send texts to let customers know when their laundry or drycleaning is ready.
As a single-shop business, Greenstone does not use the cloud but keeps the data on the shop computer and uses options for customer records, accounts and VAT. "Whatever you need, you can add," he says.
While the EPoS Company mainly caters to smaller drycleaning and laundry businesses, Spot Business Systems' customers tend to be larger drycleaning companies at the higher end of the market that want to take advantage of a Spot cloud-based EPoS system in order to stay in touch with their businesses from headquarters. They can also use it while travelling either in the UK or internationally. By sharing a common database in the cloud a large operator can manage and report on the activity of stores in several different countries.
The system can be accessed from a laptop, mobile or computer. When customers place an order on the drycleaning website, it establishes a link between the website and the system's database.
They can check the status of their order and make comments or requests, which feed directly to the Spot program on the shop counter. The system can also feed directly to drivers' route sheets for the delivery manifest.
"When managers go on holiday, they can still check the figures while they are away," comments Tony Tomkins, director of Birmingham-based Harpers. "You know how many pieces you've got, how many dead lines you've got. It gives us such flexibility."
Customer records are not only used to identify opportunities for promotions but can also help identify problems that have caused customers to migrate from one shop to another. It is also very user friendly so staff that are not tech-savvy can easily access it.
Once customers have a website link, they can also download an app called MyDryCleaner - Mobile. This is a stylised, streamlined version that drycleaners can offer free to customers. The same app also lets the drycleaner send out promotions in real time.
"When an offer appears in a smartphone ad, it will have an instant impact," Reynolds explains. "Drycleaning is not an impulse purchase. You need something to go out in the evening to have an impact in the morning. Ideally there would be three rolling ads that appear through the app on the smartphone."
To keep payment data more secure, Spot has introduced a system that prevents credit card numbers from being kept in store. From 1 January shops will need to request a token that will be stored instead of a credit card number. As with other systems, managers can set levels of permissions for what individual staff can do on the system.
Reynolds says the company will continue to develop ways to allow both businesses and customers to take advantage of EPoS remotely. "More and more people are ordering online," Reynolds says. "Why should drycleaning be any different?"
Southampton-based Pressing Needs uses its Spot system for a wide range of services. These range from detailing customer orders - including integrated card payment, to planning, preparation and van routing for the shop's extensive van service. The system is also used for managing customer statements and invoicing and for tracking orders that have been delivered but not paid for.
"We have a very mixed and diverse customer base, extending from the little old lady who just needs a once a week wash, dry and fold service to other domestic customers that use many of our services on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
The business also provides a range of services, including laundering table linen and towels, to larger trade customers.
Director Nickie Jenvey says "Spot impacts on our day-to-day routines and processes from the minute the staff walk into work and use the Time Clock to clock in and to get any internal messages that have been sent through the system.
He adds: "Spot's system has allowed us to improve the way we track work while it is being processed, right through to the point where the customer collects or we deliver it. The detailing of orders and comments is extensive but the system is very quick and easy to use."
Jenvey says the company is likely to extend its use by introducing an integrated barcode labelling system. "The bulk of our day-to-day work is regular repeat domestic orders and this would eventually bring huge time savings, by avoiding the need to tag items individually. It would also reduce the likelihood of errors with pricing and piecing."
Barcoding clothing, including domestic items, is becoming common in the US, according to LM Computers director Andrew Davis.
"In America, drycleaners have been barcoding garments for years. They used to barcode bundles but now they can label individual items. It takes five seconds to iron a barcode onto a garment."
LM Computers introduced its first touchscreen EPoS system to the UK laundry and drycleaning sector 20 years ago and is known for its Touchtill system. This provides integrated monitoring, security, text and email services for single or multi-site businesses. The next development, Davis says, will be an app that allows a drycleaner's customers to track their garments themselves. The company has also recently developed an assembly system that links back to the EPoS system. This involves a rail with a touchscreen that tells staff where to hang each garment after it has been processed.
But LM Computers is now setting its sights on the use of RFID for uniforms that are regularly sent to be washed or drycleaned by hotels and restaurants. "RFID can save people handling large work volumes a lot of money," Davis says. "Now managers will be able to see exactly what is in the bag, how many times each garment has been washed and whether it was washed in the factory."
It can link into the laundry or drycleaner's EPoS system, but at this stage, it is likely to remain exclusive to high-volume uniform processing.
GREATER PRODUCTIVITY: Pauline Quigley installed DryStream's EPoS systems in her five AngoraBesco retail drycleaning shops in Jersey around six years ago and extended it to her Arrowsmith Marlowe shops in Guernsey the year before last