POS Printers and Scanners

POS remains one of the areas where retailers are making major investments, particularly in printers and scanners. Improved printer and scanner technology are allowing retailers who upgrade to improve checkout speed and accuracy. Retailers cite durability as one of the most important considerations when upgrading POS printers and scanners. Ease of maintenance, which minimizes service time and increases total system availability, also is cited as a prime criterion when choosing new printers or scanners.

Zagara's Marketplace, an independent grocer based in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, for example, recently upgraded its entire POS system, including printers and scanners. The new, 15-lane POS system handles customer service, front-end checkout, and transactions at the deli, cafeand liquor store, and includes the NCR RealPOS 80c terminals with the NCR DynaKey cashier interface, NCR RealScan Bi-Optic scanners, designed specifically for high-volume checkout environments, and NCR RealPOS thermal receipt printers.

Software included in the deployment includes NCR Advanced Checkout Solution (ACS), the WinEPS electronic payment solution from MTXEPS, and the BRdata back office application.

Owner John Zagara explains the upgrade: "Zagara's Marketplace has been a tradition in Cleveland Heights for 70 years, yet we never stop looking for ways to build a better business. This is a solution that's flexible, highly dependable, and streamlines our transaction processing. We always strive to offer our customers a personable, reliable, and convenient shopping experience. Best in class technology helps us do that."

Integration with Legacy Systems

Many retailers opt to upgrade only their POS peripherals instead of the entire system. The peripherals may have reached the end of their lifecycle, or the retailers may want to take advantage of new capabilities. Whatever the reason, when the decision is made to upgrade the peripherals instead of the entire system, the new equipments' ability to integrate with legacy systems becomes a consideration.

Crate & Barrel found itself in a position where the peripherals needed upgrading. The company's POS printers began having serious problems a year before a new POS system was scheduled to pilot. A bridge between the legacy and the new system was required -- POS printers that would easily integrate were the answer.

Crate & Barrel worked with Epson and Direct Source, an Epson Strategic Business Partner, to install Epson Connect-It interfaces that would allow some 700 Epson TM-H6000II printers to integrate with the company's legacy NCR POS system in 91 stores throughout the U.S. The interfaces were the key to easing migration to the new, open-architecture systems, as it allowed the printers to work with both the legacy and the proposed system. When the new system was ready, the interfaces were removed and exchanged (standard serial interfaces were installed at that time), and the printers were able to work with the new system with no modifications required for the operating system or the application.

"This sped up our checkout," said Ed Rennemann, CIO and vice president of MIS at Crate & Barrel, "and gave us time to complete development and pilot test our new POS system." It also allowed the retailer to avoid the financial "black hole" of deploying a stopgap POS printer that would work with the legacy POS system but would have to be scrapped and replaced when the new POS system was ready to deploy.

The Freedom of Wireless

Wireless POS peripherals are rapidly gaining in popularity, due largely to the freedom and flexibility offered by these devices. Outfitted with wireless scanners and printers, store managers and sales associates are no longer tied to their cash registers. Instead, managers and associates can interact with customers anywhere on the store floor, access real-time inventory, and even perform complete checkouts.

At Staples, the world's largest office products retailer, sales associates need to be out on the floor. To increase floor time, Staples deployed Fujitsu iPAD POS devices. The devices weigh only 10 ounces, but include both a bar code scanner and a magnetic stripe reader for maximum utility. The Fujitsu iPADs are powered by Intel XScale technology and Microsoft Windows CE .NET.

According to George Lamson, Staples' director of application development, "The handhelds are critical enablers of our Make Good on the Goods program and other IT initiatives that have brought us measurable increases in retail sales and customer satisfaction." Staples estimates a two-year positive ROI on the deployment.

In addition to giving associates the ability to perform on-the-spot checkouts anywhere in the store, the iPADs are used to scan out-of-stock items each morning, speeding replenishment. And Lamson says there are other benefits: "The (iPADs) bring the information and applications to the store associates and the customer."

"Store associates get up-to-the-minute access to corporate data without having to find a kiosk or leave the floor," he explains. "They spend more time selling, driving higher revenues. If an item isn't on the shelf, they're guided through standard procedures that promote consistency across our stores and give the customer an easier shopping experience."