lightspeed Lightspeed Update I've been using this software now on and off since about January (2012), with a full licence since February, This is my second post about lightspeed, if you want to read the first (which includes a couple of updates at the bottom) you can find it HERE. I've been testing this software over the past couple of months, poking around with various options, tinkering around to generally see what kind of things the software can, and can't do. Recently I got to the point with it where I felt that I needed some "real world" testing, as much as I like to think that I'm covering all bases, I will have forgotten something, or simply letting other people who aren't as familiar with the system use it will bring to light things I might have either overlooked or taken for granted. Also, I'll start to see things from real user feedback which they want/need which I might not have thought about at all. So. How best to proceed? Well, luckily in the warehouse (where I work) I have a vast array of products at my disposal, as it turns out, a fair number of these products were discontinued lines that aren't going to be restocked, and there were plans to open a mini shop in our reception area to sell these off. Perfect! A nice controlled environment where I can have real products being sold to real customers, but in a nice controlled environment where I can monitor the sales, as well as the people using the till! I hit a little snag when I realised that the test setup that I was using  was based on a huge desk, and the mini shop doesn't have much room, so, off to Ikea I went, and came back with a lovely little cabinet called "Mikie", its supposed to be some kind of bedside cabinet, but it works perfectly well as a mini counter for my till!
Mikie the counter

Mikie the counter

My till setup is exactly how I listed it in my other blog post, but I'll relist here for new readers.
  • Base unit:2011 Mac Mini (upgraded RAM to 8Gb)
  • Monitor: 22″ Iiyama Prolite 2250mts Touchscreen (with Apple Mac driver)
  • Keyboard:Apple wired Keyboard (with numeric keypad) – connected via USB
  • Mouse: Apple wired mouse – connected via USB
  • Receipt printer: Star Micronics TSP143 USB printer
  • Barcode Scanner: MS9520 Voyager Scanner – connected via USB
  • Cash Drawer: KAMI Cash Drawer – Black – Economy Range 24 Volt RJ11
  • Optical drive: External DVD-RW usually not plugged in.
  • Office printer: just our standard wireless printer, available over the network
  • USB: USB hub for extra connectivity.
  • Label Printer: Dymo labelwriter 450 turbo
The mini mac was upgraded from having 2Gb of RAM to 8Gb, I bought the RAM from ebuyer (UK computer components specialists) online for £40, saving me £160 off what apple would have charged me to do the same upgrade. You can see how I did it HERE. Mikie fits the bill perfectly, and houses everything nice and neatly that I need to run the till. I haven't fixed anything into place, but I tried to make it as neat and compact as possible, as when I have the proper live system at the shop, space will be at a premium. This whole unit fits into a tiny space, with proper cable management this would have an absolutly tiny footprint in a proper counter. I'm really happy with the way it all goes together. So we moved the discontinued stuff out of the warehouse and into the reception area so people can view/buy it, and I wheeled Mikie into the corner (not exactly where I would put the till in a live shop, but it's just a testing environment!) The next stage was to get these items actually onto the system. Pretty much all of the items from our website were pulled out of the database, put onto a spreadsheet, then we fixed the data so that Lightspeed would accept it (taking line breaks and HTML out of product descriptions that we sometimes use for formatting), then imported the data directly into lightspeed, this worked pretty much first time, so all of the items were actually there already from my previous testing, the only thing to do was amend was the stock levels. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first, and the way I would probably do it for a large set of products would be to amend this data via a spreadsheet, then import as a csv or the like using lightspeed's import/update tools. That's the quickest way to get all of the stock levels updated at once. As I am looking to gain more experience of actually using the software, and I needed to change some prices at the same time, I decided that I wanted to do the stock adjustments by hand. There are two ways I have found to do this, The first, being the longest way, but very helpful if you have "other" things to do with a product. While in the Browser, search for your product in the easiest you can search for it (lightspeed gives you many options here), then click on the product to open it's product properties box. Once in the items properties box click the inventory tab from along the top. This box shows you all the options to do with stock levels of a particular product, it also shows you when you've sold an item as well as when it was received. To make manual adjustments, click the "Adjust" button at the bottom left of the dialog box. This gives you the above popup, to simply add stock, click the "Add Quantity" radio button, then add the required amount in the grey box, click save. Done! This option adds the stock, but doesn't leave you with any knowledge of where that stock came from, it simply is there to just force amendments into the database. In a live system I wouldn't want to use this very often, as I won't know where my stock is coming from. Using PO's is a much better option from an admin point of view as stock can be traced back to a PO (And user). There is a slightly easier way to do it than this,  but still gives the same result. Again in the browser,  Click tools, then from the drop down menu, click "Adjust Inventory", once you've clicked that, a popup will appear where you can type into the search box any products SKU, then you can click on the product, which opens up a dialog that's exactly the same as the one in the product properties box, same operation is used to amend stock levels there. Only this time you don't have access to any of the products other attributes. This is handy if you have a few items to change the stock levels for, or simply if you know that that is the only attribute you need to change. Now all the products are in stock, it's just a case of stickering them so the customer knows what the price is, and so the item can be scanned into the till. We have lots of challenges here. A large proportion of our stock lines (we stock around 7000 products), are from small companies, who don't have barcodes on their products, or, the products are not in packaging, or, the products are very very small like this one. Xmas tree This leads to problems when trying to get a product label that can be effectively  implemented across the entire store. There are two commonly used ways to show The price of an item on stock in a retail outlet. The first is to actually sticker the item. Physically stick a sticker onto the item which has the price on it. This is by far the best way to get the message across to your customer, if the item physically has the price on it, it's very easy for the customer find out how much the item costs, just by looking at it.  Reducing the amount of time spent correcting errors if a product is put in the wrong place, or the customer simply doesn't look at the price (or looks in the wrong place). Of course this option isn't always the best option for every situation.  Take the mini Christmas tree in the photo above, this item is around 3cm tall, there isn't enough space on it to attach a sticker. This item realistically can't be stickered. Even if we had special mini stickers printed, where would it go? the only logical place is to put it on the bottom, which would mean the customer has to pick up the item and look for the price.  Not really the best way forward. By the simple nature of sticking a sticker on the product you also cover up some of it's packaging. Packaging is usually designed to make the most of the space available, so by sticking something on it, odds are you are going to be covering something that could be important information to the customer. Stickering also costs money. For every sticker you stick on an item of stock, that sticker probably cost you something. It might only be a few pennies, but it still costs money. If the product changes price, that means restickering it, each sticker costs money, so if your stock changes price often, it could lead to consumables bills going through the roof. We also have to consider time, the mini christmas trees box currently has about 200 little Christmas trees in it, if each one of those had to be stickered individually, then it could take ages! and that's just one product! We have hundreds of items in store that are the same size as the Christmas tree, stickering each one would be totally impractical, cost a lot of money, and waste a lot of time. This leads us to our second way to present the price. On shelf stickering. This is where you stick one sticker on the shelf near the product.  This benefits us as it's quick and easy, we could have a box full of mini Christmas trees that holds all 200, with only one sticker on it, that shows the price, and if the price changes, we only change one sticker! great! This method is cheap, both in time and money, but it also has it's drawbacks. If you have many items on a shelf, then naturally this will lead to items and prices being close together, so customers could quite easily get confused with pricing if the items on the shelf dont perfectly match up with the stickers. This can limit the way you place items on shelves, meaning you don't get to use them to their fullest potential, and stock thats either untidy, or dumped in the wrong place can leave a customer (and sometimes staff) very confused. For our store, there isn't really an easy answer here as to which method is best to use, our stock varies in size massively, as well as varying in packaging quality. So for us, the best way to proceed is to use a combination of the two methods talked about above, also combining these with the Button mode of Lightspeed's POS system, we should be able to get all of our products effectively and efficiently stickered so that staff and customers have the easiest time in store. Some items from our suppliers come like this one:
cookie cutter

cookie cutter

This item is great, as it would usually be a pain to try and attach a sticker to it, but this item comes with a great label that also has an identifiable barcode. As this item is pretty awkward to store loose on a shelf, it'll be stored in a display box on a shelf, I can just sticker the box, so when the customer looks at it, they see the price, then when they bring it to the till, the staff still have a barcode which can be scanned, and the correct price will come up at the till point. Something that Also has a barcode, but I will be stickering separately anyway is our book collection.  It's just easier with books to have the price on them, as books generally have an RRP that's printed on the book somewhere, a price sticker will eliminate any confusion with customers if they see a price on the book and a different one on the shelf edge, here's an example of one of our books with a price label on it. Here's a close up of the sticker design that I will be using for most of our products. I am using a Dymo Labelwriter 450 Turbo to print stickers, as this sticker printer natively works with Lightspeed. Initially I loved it. I got it for a reasonable price (the going rate in fact, but compared to other equivalent machines it was a very good price). The software supplied with the printer was really easy to install, and works great on both my Mac's and my PC's. The printer itself was easily installed on both, and up and running in minutes. The speed, when printing through the OS is fantastic, it is well warranted to call it a "turbo" printer because it spits out stickers faster than you can say "shit it only came with half a roll!". Once you start printing in lightspeed however, the fun sharply ends. I don't know if I've just set it up incorrectly, or whether other people get the same results, but when printing stickers through lightspeed directly the printer goes very slowly. Creating stickers in lightspeed is pretty easy. But as easy as it is. It's a hundred times more frustrating. I haven't 100% settled on the exact size of label I'm going to use when we move into a live system, and I bought a selection of sizes to try out. At the moment my favourite has been the 57mm x 32mm size, it seems to suit everything I've thrown at it so far, but, Ideally I would have liked a little smaller. The design in the photo above has been designed so that it is actually for my ideal size of label, but im printing it on the 57x32 at present. That's why they look a little off centre. because, well, they are. To make this label is like I said, pretty easy,  Firstly, just get to the sticker printing dialog box, there are a few ways to get there, which I can show you some of below: The first and easiest way, grab a product (doesnt actually matter which one) and Command Click on it, this brings up a menu, at the bottom of the list is "Print label" (No prizes for guessing what that does!) There is also: Tools > Print Product Labels will take you to the same place. and! Open up the product dialogue box, click the cog, then select "Label Printing" All three of these take you to the same place. The label dialogue box will auto populate with the product you used if you came here via a product, it can be removed easy enough if you don't want that one, simply click in the "Qty" box (it defaults to 1), and change the number to the desired number you want printed. As you can see there is a search box just under the word "Products", search in here to add more products to this list and print more labels. What we are concerned with here though is the boxes along the bottom, as you can see the one next to "Print" is "Design", this is what we want now, by clicking this you should get this: This should give you a list of your custom labels, as you can see I've made a few, one of the downsides here is you kinda need to know what each one is, as there is no preview. I'm going to have to remove the unnessesary ones  when i make this system fully live, but for now I know what each one is. To make a new one, click, new (suprisingly!) It'll ask what paper size and printer you want to format for, remember to choose the right options here otherwise it won't let you progress. Then name your new label, if this is for a live system that your staff will use, I suggest you make it something pretty clear. I'm calling this one "Hello_world" as I'm only creating it for this demo. You'll now be presented with the creation tool. Here's where it gets interesting! by interesting I mean frustrating. Where it says "code" at the top, this is a drop down menu that can add pretty much any field in your database into the squared area (that's the size of the label if you haven't guessed). Simply pick something from the list, then click add, and it will add a box to the label, this can then be moved around where ever you like. When an individual box is highlighted, you can use the options on the right to change the size and font and such. Now, look at the above image. Lovely and neat isn't it? well, this isn't gonna work unfortunately. To see how this will print, you need to click the Preivew radio button, which will then let you see the real data, scroll through the slider and it'll scroll through everything in your database, no options at all for previewing specific items, if like me you have 6000+ items in your list, that preview scroller becomes more than a little annoying. Here's the preview of the sticker I'm using, to get everything to line up nice and neat it literally is a case of trial and error. the daft thing is, you cant even move things with the preview turned on, if something is out of place, you have to turn off the preview, then move it to where you think is best, then turn it back on to check. here's how this one looks with the preview turned off. Not exactly a total mess, but it isn't as neat, and as you can see the sizes of the boxes don't really correlate to the actual data displayed. This being said, the sticker creation tool shouldn't have to be used all that often. Once your store is set up, you probably won't use it very often.  So while it might be a pain, It's not an every day feature. So I won't lose (any more) sleep over it! Ready! Now I've actually got my stickers on my stock, and on my shelves, I'm pretty much ready to go! I put an advert on facebook, and got a poster printed to go up in the shop to advertise our clearance items at the warehouse, and saw a few people come down to have a look around. I've been up and running for about a week now. The warehouse isn't exactly on a highstreet, so I never expected to see many customers but we've had a few, most have come from seeing the facebook advert. Just enough to get some sales each day. We aren't making millions here, but it's been great to see the system actually getting used properly. So far the customer reaction has been great, at least half the people who have purchased something have actually made a comment about the till. To be quite honest, I never thought the public paid much attention to these types of things. Obviously I was wrong, and I have to say that I'm happy I was wrong! A few people even commented on how good it looks,  which is great. If the customers are liking the new till then that's a major bonus, when really it's there for our benefit (mainly). As I don't work seven days a week, it became obvious that me being the only till trained member of staff was a pretty silly Idea, so I chose a couple of people from the people who work in the warehouse to train up  so they can use it. Luckily, I have an Ex-Till supervisor working here, who used to work for one of the UK's largest retailers. She's the perfect candidate to train up, as was one of the other girls from the office, she's never used a till in her life. Both were given basic training on how to do basic sales and refunds. Both took to it like a duck to water. Within litterally 10 minutes, both my "test subjects" had live sales, with real customers, and without needing my help they managed to successfully, and confidently use the system. From login, sale to log out. Both loved it, and said it was really easy to use. After this, I've been really confident that when the system makes the move into the real shop that it's going to be well received. More updates when I have them!

3 Responses

  1. Ishak

    Thanks for this! Im a UK based retailer also thinking of implementing Lightspeed and this has really improved my understanding of the system.

    Reply

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