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North American Retailers Use Technology to Foster Growth: Part Two

In our opening post on this topic, we detailed three North American retailers whose experience is confirming what a recently conducted Epicor survey by MORAR Consulting found: despite the challenge of larger competitors, small and mid-sized retailers have growth squarely on their agendas. The survey showed that two-thirds of this segment is expecting to develop their business by taking advantage of key growth factors while mitigating risk.

Our post today concludes with three more retailers writing their success stories in a highly competitive environment by smartly using technology to foster growth. 

We've gained at least a 25 percent productivity improvement since we automated. Our profits have also definitely improved.

Sandi Hillermann-McDonald
president, Hillermann Nursery & Florist

Case #4: Hillermann Nursery & Florist 

  • Success Factor: Agility and response to market demands 
  • Risk Factor: Seasonal spikes may lead to unforeseen consequences that could negatively impact the business

Situated on 15 acres in a town known as the world's corncob pipe capital, Washington, Missouri-based Hillermann Nursery & Florist is a large, family-owned nursery/garden center that was established in 1951. The company is diversified through departments that include nursery, garden center, floral/gift shop, outdoor equipment, and landscape/Irrigation.

The key question for Hillermann as it looked to the future was how do they grow profits when their business deals in perishable goods and is highly seasonal? The company found a simple, straightforward answer: be ready to move as fast as the environment does. For Hillermann, this means using the Epicor Eagle N Series solution to manage everything from inventory and accounts receivable to its customer rewards program to grow profit margins in addition to beautiful flowers and plants.

Hillermann has to scale quickly and efficiently during a 10-week period in the spring, when it earns 60 percent of its revenue. It helps that Epicor's powerful POS system can be learned by 30 to 40 additional seasonal staff in less than a day. "It lowers costs and increases productivity to have our new employees quickly proficient," says Sandi Hillermann-McDonald, the company's president.

Every day, management looks at customer counts, sales by the hour and department, and gross profit percentages, comparing performance to the previous year to better manage labor costs and staffing levels. "If I need a report, I can quickly access it with just the click of a button," comments Hillermann-McDonald.

Further, within the landscape division (Hillermann's highest performing profit center), a once highly manual quoting process is now automated through the Epicor system. "We've gained at least a 25 percent productivity improvement since we automated," says Hillermann-McDonald. "Our profits have also definitely improved." These are real, hard benefits, not pipesmoke.

"It is essential for our business to utilize intuitive technology to remain competitive and drive our business forward," she concludes.

Case #5: BURNCO Landscape Centre

  • Success Factor: Having the right technology in place 
  • Risk Factor: IT systems may prove unable to cope with managing a larger, more complex business model

North American Retailers Use Technology to Foster Growth_HillermanNursery

Calgary, Alberta-based BURNCO Landscape Centre (BURNCO), a wholly-owned subsidiary of BURNCO Rock Products, provides high-quality hardscape and bulk materials to contractors and retail customers from locations across Western Canada.

Whether a company is adding new products, locations, or sales channels, growth brings with it greater complexity. As BURNCO discovered, the right tools in the right hands can make all the difference. When the company decided to extend its presence by going online, the obvious choice was Epicor iNet® eBusiness Suite. "If you don't have the ability to sell, or at least feature, your products online, it's going to be tough," says Steven Sample, administration manager for BURNCO.

With 16 locations in three provinces, the business had a solid physical presence; but it wanted customers to be able to buy landscaping supplies at any time of the day or night, and have their order delivered the next day.

A key reason BURNCO chose Epicor iNet eBusiness Suite for its e-commerce solution was its flexible handling of shipping. The system automatically calculates shipping based on the rate for the items ordered and the load. The order is automatically sent to whichever store has stock and is nearest to the shipping location, where the dispatcher arranges delivery.

Another key reason for choosing Epicor iNet was its integration with the Epicor Eagle solution already in use by BURNCO. If an item is available at multiple stores, information for that SKU is loaded just once and populates the fields for all stores. If a price is changed in the Eagle system, it's immediately updated on the website. Additionally, customers' online orders go straight through to the POS system. "It's seamless and creates huge savings in labor and time," concludes Sample. "Getting e-commerce up and running is challenging, but it's much easier with Epicor iNet."

Case #6: Thompson Pharmacy

  • Success Factor: Having the right technology to accommodate growth
  • Risk Factor: Not having the wherewithal to support changing business models

With five locations in Altoona, Hollidaysburg, and Centre Hall, Thompson Pharmacy is one of the last independent pharmacies in its region in Pennsylvania. 

As the company grew, both in services offered and number of stores, it quickly became apparent that its legacy POS system wouldn't be able to cope. Continued growth called for IT that could handle a multi-store business from end to end. "We had some issues with our previous system not being able to successfully integrate with our prescription management system, or manage the multi-store system that we required," says Mindy Baker, IT manager for the business and one of its store managers.

The company decided to implement Epicor's Eagle solution to solve the problem. With this solution, staff can immediately see when a prescription has been processed. "Now we have immediate access to that information at all locations," explains Baker. If the business had stayed with its previous system, it would have had to hire an additional person. "With the Eagle system, we can control the inventory for all stores with only two people managing the POS system," she notes.

Previously, when staff took a UPC gun to the sales floor to check inventory levels and pricing, they had to scan items and return to the computer to upload the information, then return to the floor to update items. Printing labels also required trips between sales floor and a printer. "This took an enormous amount of time and took our employees away from other significant responsibilities," says Baker. Now, staff uses handheld scanners to do everything on the sales floor, from updating stock numbers to printing new pricing labels.

An enormous difference has also been made in Thompson Pharmacy's customer loyalty program. No longer must staff print out hundreds of vouchers per month, then stuff and mail envelopes. The Epicor loyalty management system automates the process, now entirely electronic.

The overall savings to Thompson: thousands of dollars annually, when every dollar counts as the independent competes with national chains.

The Lesson Learned: Integrate to Succeed

Seventy-seven percent of the companies who took the MORAR survey agreed that an effective and integrated IT infrastructure is essential for business performance. The cases outlined in these two posts underscore why that is so. To see other resources that illustrate how retailers are working with Epicor for sustained success, you can go here.

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

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