Modern till technology circa 1912

Hillier ran their 15 garden centres using old-fashioned cash registers, and had no in-store inventory management system. Thinkers helped them to choose a modern EPOS till system to cover the entire breadth of their business, from placing supplier orders through to touch-screen tills and bar-code scanning.

Garden Centres are much more complex retail businesses than first meets the eye, because they carry such a wide range of stock, much of which is seasonal, and they have so many different suppliers, many of whom do not have sophisticated systems.

Hillier wanted to choose a modern system to cover the entire breadth of their business, from placing supplier orders, receiving goods and managing inventory, through to touch-screen tills and bar-code scanning. Such systems are often called EPOS systems, standing for Electronic Point of Sale, although that is a misnomer because there is much more to them than just the point-of-sale.

Although Hillier had lots of staff who knew about plants and retailing, they lacked experience in modern computer systems. Hillier engaged Thinkers to help them choose an EPOS vendor.

The project naturally began by helping Hillier think about the most important things that they were trying to achieve. We ran workshops with the head-office management team and garden-centre managers. The IT manager, Ian Nightingale, who has 30 years service at Hillier described this as “the most interesting day I’ve ever had at this company“. We distilled the key functionality that Hillier required of the system.

We designed a vendor selection process to test the vendors and their systems accordingly. This started with meeting short-listed vendors to brief them on the opportunity, which is the beginning of the negotiation process. We created a script and timetable for the workshops so that each vendor would be required to demonstrate the same things in the same order, and in a manner that the Hillier workshop participants could understand. This ensured that we were able to compare like with like.

This process culminated in choosing Corby & Fellas, primarily because their system had the best and simplest till user-interface and handled supply chain errors well, and we had gained confidence that Hillier would be able to be able to work well with them during the implementation.