1. Why is it so important for independent garden centers to have effective POS and inventory management software?

SK: Almost every business I work with is experiencing higher operational costs. A big part of this is labor, and other common focus areas are cash flow and customer retention and growth. With labor costs on the rise, most businesses are looking at getting more from existing employees than hiring additional staff. Technology can help employee productivity with mobile apps for functions like receiving merchandise, physical inventory, mobile POS and access to inventory quantity and sales numbers anywhere you are in the world. You no longer need to be tied to a computer.

2. What do retailers need to know before investing in new software?

SK: I always ask, “what are the goals for the business? What do you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, and where do you want to be in 3 to 5 years?” Technology can help businesses bridge the gap of today and tomorrow, meaning we can look at where technology can help businesses reach their goals, including increasing cash flow, planning succession, growing the brand and differentiating from competition. With goals in place, make sure the technology provider has the ability to not only help you today, but in the future to grow together.

3. What sets Epicor’s software apart from competing systems and services?

SK: There are a few items that Epicor offers that really differentiate us from the competition, including access to your business numbers anywhere you are. You do not need to be behind a computer to know what is going on in the business. We can provide dashboards tailored to individual businesses on the key metrics they are following or monitoring. Businesses can set up notifications to alert them when something happens in the business that should have attention. So we are not just fixing data, but we are improving processes.

Inventory is critical in the lawn and garden industry, especially with seasonality. We offer easy-to-use analytics to make suggested orders based on inventory performance so you are properly stocked over seasonal purchasing, negotiating with vendors preseason to maximize discounts and knowing when peak season is. Epicor not only offers software, hardware and network support after the sale, but it can be your IT company or complement an existing IT department in the business.

4. What does a retail inventory management system need to accomplish to be effective?

SK: Top level support. It is critical for the top level to support technology and for the entire staff to have buy-in for a successful implementation. Accurate inventory is also a key to improving the bottom line in any business. There is a variety of tools today to help businesses accomplish this, and [it] needs to be a continuing company process. Lastly, yearly goal-setting and/or strategic planning. Businesses need short term (12 months) and long term (3-5 years) goals to drive toward.

5. Are there any new developments happening at Epicor that you’re excited about?

SK: Mobile apps. Epicor is continuing to release and improve mobile apps to help businesses gain more employee productivity. Mobile + is one of our latest. We are getting positive feedback on our Mobile POS — with new hardware, you can now remove the tablet from the POS station and walk with your customers, helping them anywhere in the business. We are also getting positive responses from clients at pop-up garden and consumer shows, who have the ability to process customers anywhere they are.

For more information: www.epicor.com