By Carolee Anita Boyles
A good point-of-sale (POS) system can serve as the backbone of a retail business. If implemented well, it will make your operation more efficient by tracking inventory, creating invoices and even managing your bound book.
Will Reynolds, one of the owners of Leadfeather Guns & Archery in Winter Haven, Fla., shared the POS system he uses in the store is Merchant Magic from Cervelle Software.
“It’s tailored to the firearms industry,” he relayed. “We have a range in our store, and our POS system does countless things for us both in the store and on the range.”
One of the things Merchant Magic does is manage the bound book.
“The system automatically writes everything electronically,” Reynolds confirmed. “When we check guns in and check guns out, it’s very efficient. If the Florida Department of Law Enforcement calls and wants to do a gun trace we can take the serial number, type it in and the system gives us every bit of the information we need without having to dig through any files.”
“We have a range in our store, and our
POS system does countless things for us
both in the store and on the range.”
Will Reynolds Owner, Leadfeather Guns & Archery, Winter Haven, Fla.
Likewise, the process is just as efficient for ATF audits.
“We can put everything they need on a thumb drive and give it to them,” Reynolds said.
The Merchant Magic system also has features to streamline range management.
“You can do gun rentals with it,” Reynolds noted. “It can also calculate range rental fees. For instance, if a large party comes in you can sell them different items and rent them different firearms. They can either pay right then or they can go on the range and shoot and keep a tab open. They can fill up an account while they’re here and then come out and buy another target or a box of ammunition. Or they can try another gun.”
The point-of-sale system keeps track of everything the customer does, and when they are finished shooting, a Leadfeather team member closes out the sale.
“Merchant Magic is really tailored to the firearms industry and the gun range,” he stated. “It also creates excellent and complete reports.”
Reynolds said the store didn’t “grow into” their point-of-sale system; they’ve been with Merchant Magic since the store’s beginning.
“When we opened eight years ago, we found these guys through a distributor we use,” he shared. “Then we saw them at the AcuSport show and that’s how we hooked up with them. The fact they’re only 50 minutes away from us in Orlando makes them a really good fit.”
Leadfeather pays Cervelle Software $350 a year for customer support, which Reynolds claims is well worth the price.
“When we call them they always answer the phone, log into our system and fix the problem. It’s very simple,” Reynolds added.
The system also processes credit cards efficiently.
“The way it’s set up prevents you from making mistakes,” he confirmed. “A lot of systems will ring up the transaction, but then you have to input the amount of the transaction into the keypad. This system automatically does it. You can’t overcharge or undercharge anyone, and the sale won’t close out until they’re fully charged. It’s a good system.”
The only downside to Merchant Magic — which may apply to your business — is it doesn’t support multiple stores.
“They just haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Reynolds said. “We were thinking about opening another store, but it doesn’t integrate between multiple stores. It’s coming, though. They’re constantly updating.”
When it comes to tweaking the software to resolve unexpected needs in the store, Reynolds gives the company a “7 out of 10” rating.
“There are a couple things we’ve requested, and they’ve worked on them,” he said. “They haven’t resolved those things as fast as we’d like, but that’s the way it is. We always want something faster than we can get it. They always eventually get it done.”
Learning From Faulty Systems
In Alexander City, Ala., Woody Baird and his wife Kim have owned The Sure Shot for more than 20 years. He has seen point-of-sale systems come and go, and he’s used one he refers to as “a POS.” The one in use at his store now, he says, makes it more efficient.
“We’ve had a point-of-sale system since the second year we were in business,” he recalled. “We realized what one would do for us. The first one we used was horrible. Every time there was an update the system would shut down within 24 hours. We couldn’t get the tech support people on the phone, and here we are in a retail store and we can’t do anything because the computer is shut down. It wasn’t good for inventory control, and they promised a bound book but then didn’t get it off the ground.”
Baird realized very quickly he needed another solution. His wife was in IT, so she started looking around and found a company called ProphetLine.
“If you’re on the computer you can go into your
distributor’s website and see if they have something
right then — and have it shipped to your store or even
the customer directly in some cases.”
Woody Baird, Owner, The Sure Shot, Alexander City, Ala.
“It’s not specific to the firearms industry,” Baird said, “but my wife was able to do a demo online, and it had what we needed. We’ve been with them for more than 15 years and it has worked great for us.”
For those stores looking to add or change providers, one important consideration is technical support. ProphetLine’s support was a significant factor in the Bairds’ decision to make the switch.
“If you have a problem, you can get someone on the phone right then,” Baird said. “It doesn’t have a bound book, but the way the categories are set up works for us. It has good inventory control, and we can create reports to show what we’ve sold, what the profit margin was on those items and the time of year we sold them; they’re really good reports.”
The system is also very intuitive.
“It’s easy to learn, and it’s easy to teach new employees,” Baird stated. “We’ve been very satisfied with it.”
The ProphetLine system helps Baird maximize value and efficiency by managing inventory.
“We can put in the catalog number and the item pops up,” he said. “It tells us how many we have, or if we don’t have any. It also shows how many we’ve sold, so we know whether we need to continue to stock the product or go with something else.”
Know What You Know
Baird knows of gun-shop owners located fairly close to him who still resist using a point-of-sale system — even now in 2020.
“Some of the road reps come in and tell me some retailers say they don’t need a computer,” he shared. “I don’t know how they do it today. If you’re on the computer you can go into your distributor’s website and see if they have something right then — and have it shipped to your store or even the customer directly in some cases.”
Kim Baird agreed.
“Our point-of-sale system lets us see our sales history, and what’s selling well and not selling well,” she said. “It gives us insight into what we’re doing. Gun shops that aren’t using these systems don’t know what they don’t know.”
Finding The Right System For You
When choosing a point-of-sale system, it’s important to find one that will work for you. As Woody and Kim Baird learned, a bad system can be worse than no system at all.
“You need to do your research,” Kim said. “If you don’t, you can end up paying a lot of money for something that doesn’t work.”
The Bairds recommend the first thing to do is take the system for a “test drive” — many have demo capabilities on their websites.
“Test it out and see how it’s going to fit your business,” Kim advised. “We were about to go with QuickBooks Point of Sale, and then I found an article about the system we have now, and ended up testing it out and deciding I liked it better. I also liked the local support I can get for it. Today, if I were looking for another system, I’d want one that integrates acquisition and disposition books.”
One place to look at systems is industry events like SHOT Show.
“Going to SHOT is a great thing because you can get a good idea of what’s out there,” Kim said. “All the major players are there.”
Customer service is the most important thing to Will Reynolds.
“There’s no perfect system,” he noted. “Even the one we have, which I love, has issues constantly. A system is only as good as the guys who are on the backside working at fixing problems. One of the reasons I’ve stayed with Cervelle is their customer service.”
Contacting references is also a good idea.
“Call and ask for retailer references, and talk to several different people,” Reynolds added.
What tips would you recommend for fellow dealers? Let the SI team know: firstname.lastname@example.org.