Company: RTCCustomer: HalfordsSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: February 2000If you were to ask any shopkeeper what are the most important functions within their business you can bet that one of the priorities will be how cash transactions are handled. If you are running a whole chain of shops or stores this issue becomes even more important. If you have as many as 400 stores, like Halfords (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Boots Group) the efficiency and versatility of the functions of the tills is critical to the effective conduct of just about every aspect of the business.Halfords is the UK leading retailer of car parts and accessories, cycles and cycle accessories with a growing business in car servicing and repair. Halfords own brand is the leading brand in its marketplace. It enjoys 40 per cent of the cycle market and its chain of 135 garages (co-located with its stores) is one of the largest national chains in the UK.

Halfords evolving needs led to a decision to replace ageing electronic cash registers and the evaluation of replacement point-of-sale equipment started in earnest in 1995. “The speed, efficiency and functionality of tilling operations – such as barcode reading, promotions and multiple currencies were particular areas of focus,” says Gareth Cole, Halford’s development manager. “Inevitably, the ability to integrate a new solution to the existing store systems was of paramount importance.”For Halfords, it was not just a matter of a suppliers ability to deliver a technical solution. In addition a responsive service organisation capable of demonstrating its competency through an installed base of customers and a partner with a strategic view with whom to build a long-term relationship was sought. To make this match Halford’s search was extensive.

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Market leaders who included IBM, ICL, NCR, Siemens, BIT, PSI and RTC, were ranked against these and other well-defined selection criteria before a short list comprising RTC and BIT was drawn up. According to David Griffiths, the director of systems at Halfords, “Our eventual selection of RTC was driven by our confidence in their ability to integrate their tilling system with our existing store systems. As well as meeting all of our other selection criteria and having the necessary UK presence they were able to demonstrate to us that they had both the technical skills and the will to provide a totally integrated solution.”The replacement of the ageing electronic cash registers with RTC’s Year 2000 compliant point-of-sale solution is drawing almost to completion. To date, around 250 stores have undergone the significant upgrade, the roll-out was completed in the Summer of 1999.

According to Gareth Cole, the roll-out has caused no disruption to business. “Every week about six stores are upgraded. There have been very few problems and I must say RTC is excellent at this kind of seamless implementation process.”The system chosen by Halfords is installed on a standard Pentium PC processor from HP to which a cash drawer, bar code reader and thermal receipt printer is added, which enables the system to maintain an electronic audit roll. RTC installs all the software at its Northampton office.

On average, a two till system will be installed per store and RTC is also handling the TCP/IP connection to the existing in-store SCO UNIX computer.The system offers Halfords a number of other benefits in that the bar code reading function means that they no longer need to use valuable man-hours on the task of manually pricing goods. There is also the opportunity to easily launch multi-purchase promotions where customers, for example, are offered three articles for the price of two.Prior to the installation of the system this would have been a time consuming process at the till and heavily reliant on the attentiveness of the till operators. Looking ahead to worldwide business, the system can also work in a number of currencies which is a further benefit to Halfords.

In view of the fact that the contract from Halfords was worth £2million, why RTC? “It was their demonstration of superior technical skills, mass roll-out capability to retail multiples and proven products and services that most impressed,” says Cole.When asked how critical RTC’s system is to the operation of Halfords, Cole was unequivocal in his response: “It is THE most business critical system in our possession. I am pleased to say that it is very reliable. Quite simply, there is nothing more important to a retailer.”