Independent thinking… with Postmark

Mark Janson-Smith, md of London specialist card retailing group, Postmark spends the day at PG Live discovering new ranges for the shops, but also discussing EPOS.

For me PG Live is the best trade show of the year.  Over the last nine years it has really proven its worth, attracting a very strong selection of publishers and new talent. So when it comes into view on the calendar and the reminder emails are coming thick and fast I always get excited about what the day will hold, and this year did not disappoint.

Leona couldn't resist a pic with Gru and a rather sad looking minon - the kids were suitably impressed.
Leona couldn’t resist a pic with Gru and a rather sad looking Minon – the kids were suitably impressed.

The weather on the other hand, wow, what was all that about?! But soggy or not we arrived along with hundreds of others, ready to get back ache from carrying a ton of brochures and work up a thirst for the all-important after show drinks. As always we headed to Springboard first, bumping into agent Jake Tibbs along the way who announced he’d (finally!) gotten engaged to his girlfriend. Fantastic news and a great way to start the show.

For us, Springboard has proven very fertile ground over the years, introducing us more recently to the likes of Tache, Rosie Made a Thing and Louise Mulgrew. This year was no different. There were lots of talented newcomers and more familiar faces with some great new lines.

The stand out for us was The Grumble and Co, with whom  we chose to spend our Golden Ticket from last year’s Retas. We’d been aware of the guys before the show, as they’d contacted us through social media, but at the time we didn’t feel their products were right for us. However meeting them in person and seeing where the brand was going first hand changed our minds and we’re looking forward to introducing them instore very soon.

As we made our way around one of the topics of conversation that kept coming up throughout the day was EPOS systems and the importance they’re beginning to play in the industry.  Ten years ago very few retailers, particularly small independents, were using them but now as more cost effective, and monthly subscription systems, become available this is beginning to change.

Bright new designs from Portfolio
Bright new designs from Portfolio

The knock-on effect of this rise in popularity for publishers is that more EPOS means more data requests. Being ready to send product data to retailers quickly and efficiently so they can upload new products to their systems and ensuring all of their products barcoded.

Unusually we’ve been using an EPOS system since we first opened in 2004. At that time we were probably one of the first single shop outfits to invest heavily in an EPOS system. Was it the right decision? For us, absolutely but I’ll be honest and say there has been a lot of trial and error with it over the years. That said it has played a vital part in our growth,  allowing me to track trends, manage stock across one and then multiple sites and to build an automated ordering system which has saved me a huge amount of precious time. It would also be impossible for us to run a multi-channel business without our EPOS system as our website is linked to the stock levels of our Dulwich store.

This all sounds great and it is, but I think it’s important to be clear that EPOS systems do take work and you really need to maintain it to get the best out of it. This means regularly clearing off old SKUs and making sure you’re on top of what lines are being discontinued. Without this you will end up with a database that is out of date and spend time trying to order stock that is no longer being produced.

So is it right for you? If you’re running a single shop you should weigh up the pros and cons carefully as no matter how cost effective a system is, installing and running it will cost you time and money.

Leona with Pennie Bryant, co-owner of Tache.
Leona with Pennie Bryant, co-owner of Tache.

The pros have to be the incredible insights it will give you into your sales patterns and trends, as well as control over your stock. If you’re thinking of growing in the future or want to move online then you’ll definitely need some sort of EPOS system.

The cons, and this is where you’ll need to be honest with yourself, is the time you’ll spend uploading new products and maintaining the system.  Will it add value to your business? If not then the answer is most likely no.

Clearly it’s not for everyone. In fact at PG Live we were discussing just this with a well-respected retailer who runs a very successful business across four locations on a ticketing system.  We were totally amazed and baffled by her system and how intricate it was, as she was by ours.  She had tried EPOS but it was not for her, so it really is about what works for you.

Pictured at top: Mark (far left) and Leona with Grumble and Co’s Nicholas Child (2nd from left) and Ross Thomas (far right).

Postmark is an award-winning independent card retailer based in London.  Run by Mark and Leona Janson-Smith they currently have four Postmark shops in south and west London as well as an online shop at www.postmarkonline.co.uk

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