Thursday, October 10, 2013

Special Orders

Proficiently handling special orders is the difference between being your average game store and being a really good game store. Special orders are why I got into this business, because my local game stores sucked at them. Handling a special order is difficult, as most point of sale systems do a poor job, so retailers resort to binders of special order pages, spreadsheets, or note cards in little plastic boxes. Not surprisingly, the level of success of special orders is so low that many stores don't do them or do them half heartedly, discouraging customers and driving them elsewhere.

When selecting our new point of sale system, special orders was the primary problem I wanted addressed. It needed to have a real system, not some cheesy add on, like each of the POS systems has with employee time clocks. I'm happy to report that after two months with our new system (Lightspeed), it works very well. It's not perfect on our end, mostly because of some strange accounting and sales commission weirdness, but on the customer end, it's brilliant.

Customers come in and place a special order. We use a different section of our POS called Orders, which differentiates it from the usual transaction. We take the order, charge the customer, and have the option of printing an Order sheet or emailing it to customers. I really want to encourage customers to allow us to use their email, as it speeds things along. When that item comes in, we can send an email with the Order attached telling them their order is ready.

The four order stages answer the question of where an order resides through the process.

Orders are tracked, through this system with one of four designations: Requested, Processed, Received and Invoiced. This takes most of the guesswork out of figuring out exactly where an item is in that process. Has it been ordered? If so, what PO is it on? Has it been received? Has it been picked up?

As an accounting aside, Ordered items aren't "invoiced" with the sale booked until a customer picks up the item and it's manually Invoiced in the system. This is some extra brain candy to get that final process accomplished. It also accounted for our best sales day ever, when the last Magic set was released. Everything special ordered in the previous six weeks was booked as a sale on release day.

Pending Order Requests shows the special orders by item, which helps quickly identify items in need of order. About half our pre-orders are for items that don't exist yet.

Invoices are queued for generation, and during receiving, it's very easy to tell when a special order item has arrived. I would say this system has turned our manual, 95% success rate system to as close to 100% as we can get.

On the Purchasing Actions screen, the top two lines show items waiting to be special ordered from suppliers.

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