Many skill sets are required to run an on-farm market, but probably the most valuable is analyzing how to make the various components work towards profit. What are some of the common pain points? Refreshing inventory from several local vendors? Managing staff hours? Identifying, in real time, what produce items are driving revenue?
All of these questions are normal for the hundreds of on-farm retailers across the country. The horticultural sector came to the attention of Pineapple Bytes, a software reseller for National Cash Register (NCR) about three years ago when it started in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. With a few growers as clients, the company invested in a booth at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in February 2018.
“I know we can add value,” says Drew Davis, senior account executive, Pineapple Bytes. “This is software for small business operators who see value in automation. The data can help make better staffing decisions and identify what’s driving revenue.”
The company is a reseller of the program CounterPoint which is point-of-sale (POS) management software. Transactions are linked to customer profiles, loyalty programs and gift cards. It’s also a system for vendors and accounts receivables, a linked function that can save duplication on the accounting end.
Long-time Ontario client Heeman’s strawberries has used the software for several years with success.
“We’re impressed with the fact that everything is visible on the screen or within two taps,” says Will Heeman, chief daymaker. With responsibility for sales and marketing, he helps oversee a retail greenhouse, garden centre and strawberry operation near Thorndale, Ontario.
A touch screen displays top-selling items for fast transactions with category tabs making other items only one tap away. The software is indispensable during the high-traffic garden centre season in May.
“We’re still happy with Pineapple Bytes and the service agreement for $1,400 per year,” says Heeman. “The service has been very, very good.”
With experience in traceability programs, Heeman shares a key learning. When buying software, beware customized programs built by mom-and-pop shops. If the technical person becomes unavailable or the business ceases to exist, you’re out of luck for support.
“I don’t want a software program that’s unique,” explains Heeman. “I want to be one of thousands who have trialed and tested the product so that all the questions have been asked before.”
“When installing a point-of-sale software program, think small and simple at the start,” he continues. “Don’t try to build something all-encompassing and super detailed right away -- you’ll only bury yourself in data. If you assign a barcode to a particular flavour of jam, you will have to maintain it forever.”
At the Heeman’s operation, six permanent touch screen units are deployed. Each unit also has a display to allow customers to follow the transaction. This feature gives the customer transparency and makes the clerk accountable.
Next year’s step is to equip cashiers with iPads outfitted with CP Mobile. For $15 per month, these iPads act as portable checkouts. If the customer line is getting too long, a cashier can start processing orders on the floor.
Heeman quips: “My grandfather used to say: never make a customer wait to give you their money.”