Retailers Realize Benefits From Industry-Specific Hardware and Software Bundles Powered by Microsoft Retail Management System

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 2, 2004 — Microsoft Business Solutions today announced the availability of retail vertical bundles of software and hardware designed for small and medium-sized retailers specializing in beer-wine-liquor, apparel, sporting goods, gifts and hobbies, and specialty retail. At the core of the packages is Microsoft®
Business Solutions Retail Management System 1.2, which has a track record for easily automating inventory management, speeding up card transactions, creating effective productivity reports, tracking customer purchasing habits and giving retailers more control over their business — all of which help save time and increase profits. The packages, which will be distributed by ScanSource and Tech Data Corp., allow independent merchants to invest in information technology at a lower cost than if they purchase the components separately.

“One of the biggest barriers to entry for small retailers is price,” said Brendan O’Meara, general manager of the Microsoft Retail Management System at Microsoft Business Solutions. “Microsoft Business Solutions, together with its partners and distributors, is responding to small retailers with a complete POS offering that includes four industry-specific hardware and software packages available at a low total cost of ownership.” Pricing for the industry packages starts at an estimated retail price of $2,999* (U.S.), which is more than 30 percent less than the average cost if the components were purchased separately.

The hardware component of the packages includes a retail-hardened point-of-sale (POS) terminal with monitor from manufacturers such as Pioneer and IBM Corp. Keyboard, receipt printer, cash drawer, bar-code scanner, magnetic stripe reader, required cable and accessories, and a mouse are provided by manufacturers including Symbol Technologies Inc., Cherry, Epson and APG Cash Drawer, a division of UMI Company Inc.

Packaged Retail Offering Developed to Drive Efficiency and Profitability

Shipping of the packages began Nov. 1, but businesses in the targeted industries have already started realizing the benefits of the offering via a beta testing program. For Nabil Absi, proprietor of the 10-month old Seattle Wine Co., drawing on purchasing history to instantly determine which customers will likely be interested in an upcoming, limited shipment of Australian shiraz and cabernet sauvignon can turn a potential loss into profit. The wine, Absi says, enjoys a limited but highly devoted following, and not notifying aficionados of its availability could cost the company sales. Absi selected Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 as part of a package developed to help beer-wine-liquor retailers better meet and exceed customer expectations and streamline purchasing procedures.

According to Absi, the combination of hardware and software has resulted in a pronounced improvement over more traditional methods. “It’s definitely better than sitting in the back room trying to keep track of customers manually,” he said. The technology also helps Absi make more-strategic purchasing decisions by tracking which regions throughout the world are generating the most sales for the Seattle Wine Co.

In addition, other specialty retailers are using industry-specific packages that include Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2:

  • Beer-wine-liquor retailers. For these retailers, the need to manage hundreds of inventory items with similar characteristics is critical. Retailers in the beer-wine-liquor industry segment report that it’s often challenging to determine what’s selling and that overbuying can negatively affect profits. For the Seattle Wine Co., which has two employees, the ability to keep track of 2,500 SKUs is critical to profitably managing inventory. “Not only does Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 keep track of inventory, it manages it,” Absi said. That the technology is offered as part of an industry-specific package makes it all the more compelling. “The system is essential for tracking inventory and monitoring it with quarterly and monthly reports,” he said. “It’s a perfect system for retailers, and I recommend it regardless of what industry you’re in.”

  • Sporting goods retailers. Sporting goods retailers have said that it’s challenging to keep a lean inventory; track items, warranty agreements and work orders; and build customer loyalty. To help smaller sporting goods retailers more effectively compete against the big-box stores and the Internet, Microsoft Business Solutions developed the packaged offering for sporting goods retailers. Rory Stevenson founded Northern Wave — which sells snowboards, wakeboards and related accessories and is located on Puget Sound in Silverdale, Wash. — three years ago. He said the Microsoft Business Solutions sporting goods package was compelling to him because it was all-inclusive, but that the most attractive part of it was Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2.

    “We needed a solution that would grow with us,” Stevenson said, adding that he spent a year looking for a solution that could accommodate his industry and his plan to launch an Internet-based, multichannel retail plan. “We needed a system that would handle our expansion onto the Internet, and I’m confident we made the right choice. The system is intuitive and easy to use, so our employees required very little training.” The bottom line for Stevenson is that the package makes it easier to manage his business. “Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 and the other products in the package work for you,” he said. “It just makes life easier.” Stevenson says he’s looking forward to integrating online and in-store inventories with operational data, which will allow him to carry a wider variety and higher volume of products in his store. “With the ability to move inventory from two places at once, I’ll feel comfortable carrying 15 varieties of sunglasses instead of five,” he said. “With technology, we’ll be able to keep inventory moving from both the store and the Web site without worrying about running out of room.”

  • Hobby and gift stores. For the owners and managers of hobby and gift stores, slow-moving inventory is an enemy of profitability. To help combat that enemy, Microsoft Business Solutions will offer the Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 package for gift stores such as Symphonica, The Seattle Symphony Store. According to Symphonica manager Linda Rio, the package Microsoft Business Solutions developed for gift stores gives her greater visibility into her inventory, which includes many unique items. It also allows her to handle a high volume of customers in condensed periods. This is important to Rio because most purchases are made during 20-minute intermissions at the symphony. Rio finds the technology easy to use, which also is important to her since her gift shop is partly staffed by volunteers. “In a business where most of your sales occur during a brief but busy 20-minute intermission, you have to be able to move a large number of customers through quickly,” she said. “Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 does just that.”

    Other benefits of the gift store-specific package for Rio include automated sales and inventory tracking, the provision of data that can be used to analyze the business, the package’s affordability, and the ability to be accountable to auditors who monitor nonprofits. “The main benefit of this technology package is that it frees me from performing manual tasks,” Rio said. “That means I have time to do more strategic things, such as analyzing the business and solving problems.”

  • Apparel retailers. Small apparel retailers face increasingly stiff competition, particularly from larger retailers. To help them achieve and maintain a competitive edge, Microsoft Retail Management System 1.2 is easily customizable and usable, and includes inventory tracking functionality to help apparel retailers determine exactly which products — by color, size, style and more — are selling. Other features of the package for this industry include customer sales reports that facilitate intelligent purchasing, an easy-to-understand touch-screen monitor that will allow sales staff to quickly process even the most complex transactions, and the mechanisms needed to quickly retrieve customer buying histories.

About Microsoft Business Solutions

Microsoft Business Solutions offers integrated business applications and services that allow small and midsize organizations and divisions of large enterprises to connect employees, customers and suppliers for improved efficiency. The financial management, customer relationship management, supply chain management and analytics applications work with Microsoft products such as Office and Windows®
to streamline processes across an entire organization, giving businesses insight to respond rapidly, plan strategically and execute quickly. Microsoft Business Solutions applications are delivered through a worldwide network of channel partners that provide specialized services and local support tailored to a company’s needs.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* Estimated retail price; reseller prices may vary.

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