Running a retail or wholesale business in the hardware/building supply industry in the current economic climate requires innovative, affordable and effective IT solutions in order to remain profitable and competitive.

How do you find the right IT system for your store?
Chris Steyn, a director at Stellenbosch -based IQ Retail, explains: "Firstly, you have to draw up a needs analysis to make sure you are getting what you want and not what someone is trying to sell you. A system that would give you a 95% fit right now, might only give you a 40% fit in two years time, when you open that second, third or fourth branch.
“Secondly, you might want an integrated system. This is a system where all the systems, data and processes are integrated and realtime. Importing and exporting data from/to other systems is time consuming, inaccurate and requires expensive resources to maintain. You might need to look at integrating Point of Sale, Inventory, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Custom Ordering, Ledger and everything in between. This way you have traceability throughout the system with exceptional full audit tracking. Your reporting is now simplified due to the fact that all data comes from a central database and available to the user immediately and accurately.”
Steyn adds: "Common point-of-sale and common data are critical factors to the success of the system. A lot of your flexibility comes from the embedded reports, as well as the report writer that ships with a system. Furthermore you have to look at your outlay costs. Firstly you have the ROI (Return on investment), where I personally believe in “saving” on the initial investment (I will call it SOI), rather than waiting for the return. Compare apples with apples and see how many systems and service agreements you will have to purchase and sign to get the same benefits as an integrated system.
“How will your system help you to increase sales? Besides standard tools like email marketing campaigns, the number one tool for selling is Attitude. If your sales department has all the information at their fingertips, they will have the confidence to sell. Do they have the clients’ information, client sales history, stock item details, stock item history, purchase prices available on the same screen or by the push of a single button, or are they jumping from screen to screen to get the information?
“How will your system help you save, optimise stock holding and prevent losses? Do random and frequent live stock takes whilst trading. Gone are the days where you get “surprised” at the annual stock-take. With perpetual stock systems you don’t have to wait for a year’s accumulated “surprises”, so isolate the variances and take action immediately. Integrate your CCTV systems with your Point of Sale systems so that you have till overlays on your video streaming. Monitor your stock turns and customise your ordering.”
IQ Retail is a Stellenbosch-based company, which was established more than 20 years ago and has developed and designed business and accounting software specifically for the retail industry, including the hardware/building supply sector.
Steyn says,” The company started our growth path with the hardware/building supply stores in the early 1980s with 42 hardware stores on our first integrated MS-DOS systems (IQ8).Build It (a division of the Spar group), Benbel Hardware, P&L Hardware, Essential Hardware and individual stores were the major additions to the hardware/building supply group here at IQ Retail. We now have more than 400 hardware stores on IQ systems and growing rapidly."