What is the difference between one EPOS Stock Control System and another?

“For someone using a ‘general (non-size/colour) system’ like we used to, I’d certainly recommend that they move over to Top to Toe”

Mr Cricket (Sportswear)

“5 stars all round, great product and you couldn’t ask to speak to friendlier people.”

Eccleshall Saddlery (Equestrian)

“Even the new sales assistants can adapt to Top to Toe within minutes.”

Pie Clothing (Fashion)

“Top to Toe have greatly helped us manage & develop our stock system over the last few years. Their helpful & knowledgeable staff are always on hand to help.”

Tacklebag (Sportswear)

“Once the products are on Top to Toe, it’s very easy to then put those products onto a website.”

Angels Uniforms (Schoolwear)

“Friendly EPOS, insightful reporting facilities, seamless website integration and a friendly customer care & training team.”

RunPod (Footwear)

“Cannot praise the technical team enough, whenever we have issues they are always on hand, efficient, quick and get the problem resolved quickly! Excellent service.”

Sheen Sports (Sportswear)

“We used to do stock management manually. Top to Toe came to make such a big difference to all of our staff.”

Uniform 4 Kids (Schoolwear)

“Top to Toe has a really easy way of spotting trends – I’m able to identify what sizes, colours and styles are selling best. It’s intuitive, anyone can use it”

Claudio Lugli (Fashion)

“Incredibly easy to use, saving me hours upon hours per week. It’s both transformed my business and my day-to-day tasks.”

Michael Leigh Menswear (Fashion)

“Top to Toe was a revelation – we run much more efficiently now. We couldn’t run our business in the current climate without it”

Burrs Shoes (Footwear)

“Within seconds you can find things incredibly quickly using Top to Toe’s filter. Previously, we were trawling through lines and lines of data”

Uniform 4 Kids (Schoolwear)

Decide what information you need:

Remember, data is not the same as information

If, as an example, you have 500 products in one shop and you want to manage your business efficiently then you need to know the stock, sales and order numbers for each product. So you need three numbers per product, and that’s 1,500 ever-changing numbers to manage.

If you have another shop or web sites this number will double. If you need to track clothing and footwear (where a style can have 20 size/colour combinations) then this number grows to 30,000 for just one outlet.

The sheer volume of these ever-changing numbers is so far beyond what most of us can cope with manually that it is clearly a non-starter. You need an EPOS system to cope with these numbers. And if it’s a good EPOS system it will help you turn these numbers into meaningful information that you can use to optimise what you buy, how you sell it and where you sell it.

What should you be looking for in an EPOS system?

In practice there are two approaches to selecting the type of system you want. The first is ‘stock tracking’ and focus’s on actual stock and sales quantities for every product. This would provide accurate stock and sales numbers in your hub system, on your web site and perhaps at the point of sale tills. With these numbers to hand you can re-order as stock gets low, move stock between locations, see what’s selling and what is not.

The second approach is ‘analysis/reporting’ and is built upon the same principles as the first approach (you always have to know the basic numbers) but it goes a lot further. You would be looking for the EPOS system to turn these key basic numbers into really useful information. With this approach you would be looking beyond the basic in-stock and sales numbers for powerful reporting that quickly lets you see far deeper into the business. Information such as sell through rates, margins and profit centres that help you manage and shape the business.

All systems will have an element of both approaches, but more basic systems will be far nearer the ‘stock tracking’ system than an ‘analysis/reporting’ solution. The problem for clothing and footwear retailers, with their many sizes and colours per style, is that even their basic requirement is actually very advanced compared to other retail sectors.

 ‘Specialist needs’ change the rules:

General v specialist – clothing and footwear has special challenges

A general EPOS solution struggles if the requirement is specialist. For example, a general system treats every size/colour combination as a separate product. For fashion, sports and footwear with its multiplicity of sizes and colours this means that a general EPOS system may take 15 minutes to log a jacket into stock, whereas Top to Toe could achieve the same result in 1 minute.

In general retailing systems the stock quantity is one in-stock number and the sales can also be represented by one sales number. Whereas for clothing or footwear items with say eight sizes and three colours there are 24 stock numbers and 24 sales numbers – and because you have so many numbers you need them all presented in a matrix format to make any sense of them.

A general system will present them all as a list of separate sizes and colours rather than as a matrix. So the listed numbers will be visible to you, but that’s what they remain – a list of numbers, hard to assess and so quite a long way from being informative. Presented in a matrix the same numbers become easy to assess and really useful information.

Both systems contain the same numbers but the general system soaks up weeks of expensive in-putting time, and gives very little useful information back in return for all those days and days of extra work. The specialist system does the same job, but in something closer to a few hours and gives back a wealth of useful information you can use to grow the business and increase profitability.

So the simple requirement to see stock or sales quantities changes if you are dealing with clothing and footwear. For clothing and footwear even the basic stock numbers need a matrix presentation to be turned into useful information.

Features seems real – but they can be very misleading!

In many ways feature by feature seems to be the easiest level of comparison because you can, in theory, check a list of features off one by one for each system. The theory however has many holes – just checking features lists is usually misleading and can lead to serious issues downstream.

Say two systems both claim they have links to a web platform. Both are correct, but in reality, the first only synchronises stock positions and nothing else; even then it only works for products you have manually create on the web site. The other system automatically replicates the product on the site for you, synchronises stock and then tracks the whole sales process.

Yes, they both have a web linkage feature but one is only partial and the other is great. Examples like this can apply to almost every significant system module, the stock management system itself, analysis and reporting, purchase orders, customer relationship management, tills etc – there is a long list of modules and sub modules that potentially need to be evaluated before you can truly compare one system’s features to another.

The User Interface is King

How the user workflow makes or breaks a system

The usability of the User Interface (UI for short) is critical. Having a feature is all well and good but if it is so complicated it is practically un-usable, or can only be used by serious technical users, then much or all of its advantage is lost.

Imaging you need some information from your system. In the first system you go to a reports module, you go through a layer of sub menus and into an interface that requires still more clicks (each click is another decision you have to make). Overall it takes you 17 clicks and more than three minutes.

The second system does the whole thing in 5 clicks and takes just 15 seconds. So one system is at least 2 minutes faster than the other.

Now on the surface this 2-minute difference may not seem like a lot; in a demonstration you may not even notice it. But life as an EPOS user is made up of hundreds of these information requests a day; stock for this product, sales for that, sell through rates, margins, the list goes on and on. And this means that with the less efficient system even if you only ask for information a few times an hour the 2 minute difference multiples up into an extra 2 or 3 hours work per day.

So a key goal is to find a system that streamlines everything as much as possible. You may find a less efficient system that also costs less, but it’s not cheaper; in fact its far more expensive. If a system either sucks an extra two hours everyday out of your available time or costs you 2+ hours of salary then that is an extra expense on-top of its purchase cost. A cheap system can be very expensive.

The day is not infinite – there are only 10 hours in a working day

Just because you need more time to get analysis doesn’t mean that you’ll find that time. There are only so many hours in the day. The more time you spend doing one thing the less you’ll have for another.

In fashion, sports and footwear, with its multiplicity of sizes and colours, it’s very common to encounter retailers whose main task is just getting their stock and sales EPOS numbers correct – analysis is a minor concern.

They have lost sight of the valuable information that is trapped in their stock systems, since they just don’t have the time or the determination to extract it. If the input was easier they would save thousands of pounds in salaries. If their analysis/reporting was better they would increase their sell through and profitability.

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