We catch up with the Sales and Marketing Director of UK Point of Sale. The buzz of excitement at the head office of UK Point of Sale is inspiring. As a leading manufacturer and supplier of point of sale display products in the U.K., the company is about to embark upon the latest stage in the evolution of the business. A new catalogue, by far the company’s most extensive ever, is soon to be launched, packed full of innovative products and new ideas on how to display POS to your customers. As part of an integrated plan, the company’s extended web site ‘opens for business’ at the same time and to cap it all, the first UK Point of Sale product showroom, here at their Manchester centre, is in the final phase of construction.
Already acknowledged as a leading manufacturer of innovative point of sale merchandise, these exciting new developments are sure to widen the distance between UK Point of Sale and the chasing pack.
As Sales and Marketing Director, Debra is the public face of the company. M.D. Jason Leslie handles operations in the custom-designed factory and warehouse. Bill Leslie, the founder of the business, is still very much involved.
The sheer size of the UK Point of Sale range is staggering and offers solutions to almost any display conundrum. There are sign, print and menu holders; pavement signs and snap frames; leaflet dispensers, cable displays; shelf talkers, bottle neckers; PVC poster holders and pallet cardholders, to name but a few. Everywhere there’s evidence of the company’s expertise in the field of bespoke acrylics and PVC: menu holders, shoe displayers and flexible PVC wallets. Having invested in state-of-the-art machinery for laser-cutting, heating and bending PVC and acrylics, the only thing that limits the company’s production potential is imagination. Evidently, anything is possible.
Surrounded by the paraphernalia of modern retailing, it’s stunning to realise that, fifty years ago, point-of-sale products hardly existed. Don’t get me wrong; POS has been around for as long as humans have had wares to sell. Street hawkers and vendors have always relied upon the effective display of their products to gain sales, but organised, targeted advertising as we know it didn’t surface until 1843, when the first ad agency opened for business in the US.
In 1877, the industry moved up a gear when a firm called Carlton & Smith was bought out and the buyer re-branded the company with his own name – James Walter Thompson. Then, in 1893, a shrewd businessman called Asa Briggs Chandler decided to register his new brand as a trade mark: Coca Cola.
So, as the twentieth century dawned, people (they were not yet labelled ‘consumers’) were ready to be influenced by branding and advertising was commonplace. Still, point of sale as we know it had hardly developed. Most POS was used to establish brand identity – witness the barber’s candy-striped pole- but in store, there was very little to inspire purchasers.
The reason? Mother ‘necessity’ hadn’t arrived, so there was no need of invention. Before World War Two, POS products were more concerned with the efficient storage of products than with imbuing those products with that certain je ne sais quoi that, these days, influences us to spend money. There was less disposable income and little scope for discretionary purchases. By and large, folks bought what they needed.
It was only when rationing finished and we entered the post-war era that POS began to emerge as the force we recognise today. The first mover in the retail revolution was F.W. Woolworth. They dispensed with the tradition of the assistant behind the counter. Instead, they invited customers to roam unattended through spacious stores in which products were presented so that they could be touched as well as seen.
And so the quest to stimulate the customers’ senses, to grab their attention and, ultimately, to persuade them to buy, began in earnest. Having re-set the bar, Woolworth’s and their imitators began to develop this new science. Arguably for the first time, there was genuine competition to earn the shopper’s everyday custom. Stores became still more spacious and comfortable for customers, special offers appeared and so did product promotions. For the first time, the statistic of yield-per-square-foot was scrutinised and targeted for improvement.
Elsewhere, technology was advancing apace. New developments in printing, for example, meant that a wider range of materials could be screen-printed. Pictures were incorporated and the era of POS displays that were at once eye-catching, persuasive and capable of mass production had arrived.
Counter top units were in demand. Their thoughtful use made counters simultaneously more attractive and more capacious. Close behind them came floor standing display units to optimise the use of retail space.
Three streams joining together – increasing affluence, keener competition and innovative technology – created a white-water river of retail change that cut a gorge through retail complacency and swept retailing swiftly and inexorably towards the consumer society we inhabit today.
No wonder UK Point of Sale has seen tremendous growth since its foundation in 1989.
During our meeting Debra explains her views: “I believe retailers need to secure the maximum share of consumer spending at all times and they cannot afford to sit back and wait for customers to come to them. They’ve become more creative, they explore every opportunity to generate sales and POS is a critical part of the process of pulling in customers and encouraging them to buy.”
So, is it about attention to detail? “Absolutely,” she says. “We advise our customers to make navigation around a store as simple and as straightforward as possible, ensuring that customers have easy access to products, prices and promotions. Providing relevant products together with the relevant product information is a winning combination.
“Good POS should begin where packaging ends, creating a synergy between product and environment, integrating in-store messages with marketing campaigns and promotions. That’s what constantly stretches our ingenuity: ‘what can we provide our customers that will generate more sales for them?’. That’s part of our philosophy. Working as we do in all sectors of retailing – shops, restaurants, leisure outlets – we have a unique insight into what works in different sectors and our customers find that hands-on experience invaluable.”
In May 2007, at the Convenience Retail Exhibition Show, UK Point of Sale launched a technical consultancy service, ‘Rapid’, that is aimed at all retailers, including small franchises, convenience stores, large food chains, cafes and sandwich bars. The Rapid team is tasked with taking a fresh look at a business and to ‘come up with creative ideas that boost productivity’.
It’s this expertise that helped to grow the business, coupled with the vast range of products that are available on a ‘next-day’ basis, thanks to the large stocks that UK Point of Sale carries.
The epitome of the modern POS company, UK Point of Sale is a one-stop-shop where customers can obtain both the products and the knowledge they need: and it’s that same knowledge that inspires product innovation, bringing us back full-circle.
The company identified the increasing importance of retail space and it responded to the trend by offering a collapsible dump-bin. “Everyone loves a bargain” Debra says, “and we can’t resist those impulse buys, even if we’re just about to go to the check-out. The dump-bins are ideal for targeting customers with products they may well have forgotten. The fact that they’re collapsible is a major boon in situations where space is at a premium. They can be stored away and brought out when there’s an opportunity. We’ve spent a lot of time recently researching the market and identifying areas for improvement and opportunities. As a result our new catalogue will contain over 500 carefully selected new products, taking us to a portfolio of over 3,000 products.”
There are numerous other examples: pavement signs that can bring a third dimension to the High Street by getting the attention of passers by; modern cable systems that bring images to life and use window and wall space in a very efficient manner; stylish menu holders that make restaurant and bar ordering more inviting; poster frames that add elegance and impact; literature dispensers with multiple uses to highlight important information. The list goes on…
Clearly, UK Point of Sale is an innovative company that harnesses technology to create impactful products that lead the way in maximising impact and building sales.
UK Point of Sale Group Ltd
Tel: 0161 431 4400
Fax: 0161 431 4411