HTA technology conference report

Many topics were on the agenda for the HTA Technology Conference, which took place in Solihull this week. From apps, lighting and security to stock control, customer loyalty and EPoS ? technology impacts on garden industry business in many different ways.

Sponsored by CSY Retail, the conference included a panel session about the benefits and challenges of using electronic point of sale (EPoS) chaired by Grant Davis and featuring Simon Fraser from Ben Reid Garden Centre, Karen Elkington from Ruskington and Belton Garden Centres and Steve Grabham from Willowbrook Garden Centre.

Amongst the benefits cited were the ability to control stock more effectively, greater awareness of pricing and trends, and the ability to identify specific categories prone to theft. This last point resulted in better targeting of problem areas, which in turn leads to an improved margin. EPoS also provides great help to a business as a management tool as gut feels are not always correct. It can also be extremely invaluable in terms of customer interface, allowing staff to provide them with instant information about availability.

Independent consultant Grant Davis added to this by providing an overview about the capabilities of a management information system and demonstrating how once in place the ability to drill down into category information can help highlight trends, sales patterns and so on.

Ross Pierrepont, Managing Director from headline partner CSY, comments: ?CSY were pleased to sponsor the inaugural HTA Technology Conference. We look forward to working further with the HTA in this area and helping our customers continue to embrace new ways to enhance their businesses.?

The event programme also covered other technologies making an impact in the sector. Terri Jones from Joy of Plants demonstrated how her product provides retailers with quality plant information and easy to use technologies such as bed card printing, plug in plant information, imagery, and apps.

The HTA?s Market Information Manager David Denny introduced the audience to the new garden centres sales benchmarking system, which is currently under development. This exciting new resource will enable retailers to upload data onto a web portal and benchmark sales and profit performance against regional and national averages. Not only of benefit to the individual businesses, the project will provide valuable industry data for lobbying and media activity.

According to the British Retail Consortium 60% of retail crime is accounted for by customer theft. With this in mind Colin Warnock from B2B Links provided the latest update on how technology can assist in reducing this. From advance detection systems, stronger tags and enhanced CCTV it is all about keeping one-step ahead of the shoplifter.

Edwin Meijer from Garden Connect and Phil Blundell from Eagle Eye looked at how technology can be used for reaching out to consumers through apps, loyalty schemes and digital marketing campaigns. Connectivity (2 Circles) and lighting (NJS Lighting Solutions) were also highlighted as areas that are critical to the success of retail operations.

Finally, Jo Hailey from Striking Places provided insight into the services they provide using Google Street View 360 technology. By taking panoramic shots of locations and ?knitting? them together, Street View enables businesses to showcase their location and premises.

Using the example of Aylett Nurseries, who they have recently been working with, they demonstrate how it is possible to show customers and prospective customers of what you have throughout the seasons giving 24/7 access. Aylett showcase their garden centre through the seasons providing added interest and content to all their communication media such as website and through social media.

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