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PMC Ensures Jollyes Makes the Right EPOS Decision


Recognised as the one of the UK's leading pet food suppliers, Jollyes carries a wide range of products for pets from cats and dogs, to rabbits, wild and caged birds, pigeons, poultry, horses and fish. From it's founding in 1935 as merchants of hay, straw and horse feeds, Jollyes has grown to 39 retail stores nationwide, including 11 in Northern Ireland.

The company's growth in the last 10 years has been impressive and during 2007, Jollyes decided to replace it's existing EPOS, which no longer met the demands of it's business. The system could not provide the necessary management information or scale in line with the company's growth.

Rob McIntyre, managing director, Jollyes, states: "The system was fine in the early years, but we outgrew it's capacity. Also some of our methods, such as selling product loose weigh, and running a 'pick and mix' process, play havoc with many standard stock control systems. Most EPOS systems cannot cope with how we take various products, mix them and allow customers to serve themselves."

"We needed to replace our in-house database and the existing EPOS. We had to 'bounce' data backward and forwards. One package gave us pricing information and product management while another provided sales reporting. To find product information, costs and quantities we had to search two systems."

After an extensive market search, Jollyes found two packages that potentially met their needs. However, without recent detailed EPOS knowledge they were concerned about the validity of any decision.

McIntyre continues "We had not made an EPOS investment for well over 10 years, so we had no clear and concise system specification. That was a crucial weakness. Although we had shortlisted two suppliers we based our decision on what we thought we needed, rather than an accurate definition. To avoid making an expensive mistake, we decided to seek professional help."

Jollyes approached retail systems experts PMC, who worked with them to understand their day-to-day business processes and what Jollyes wanted to achieve. PMC prepared a scoping document that enabled Jollyes to clearly specify their needs.

"PMC looked at our needs 'top to bottom' to identify what we wanted out of the system centrally and at store level, such as information, controls and functionality," states McIntyre. "That approach is important. Talk to the people at head office and at the sharp end to find out exactly what's happening."

Jollyes accepted that with their demands there would be some development work to any system they selected. However, previous development experience made them wary. McIntyre comments: "Development can be costly and time-consuming. Often it goes way off timescale, target and budget. And in the end you get something that's not what you had in mind. Then you spend years trying to make it do what you wanted.

Apart from being unproductive and not moving anything forward, it doesn't do wonders for relationships. Suppliers insist they've delivered what you asked for and you get a bill for work you're not happy with. That leads to falling out with people. And you're still where you were the year before."

"Every time we tried to work with our existing system we fell at the first hurdle. We tried to run a 'live' stock control, and the trial was aborted . The functionality either wasn't there or didn't work. Everything was supposed to 'work out of the box' but it didn't. It becomes frustrating and you lose all confidence. PMC helped us find a solution."

Jollyes' business has developed hugely over the past ten years. The growing organization now has a thirst for sales and management information they never had before. Ten years ago Jollyes had 9 stores. The approach was hands-on in every store, with everything done manually. Now with 39, soon to be 40 stores, that approach had to change.

To identify the relative merits of each system, PMC prepared an Invitation to Tender (ITT) for both shortlisted suppliers. Each supplier completed the ITT and sent it back to PMC. With Jollyes, PMC went through both documents to point out the plus and minus points, and provide Jollyes with a 'checklist' to evaluate the short listed systems.

McIntyre explains: "PMC put the structure in place for us to have detailed meetings with the suppliers. The ITT identified what each package could do and what we needed to develop. We could then ask the suppliers how they would go about it, plus the time and cost involved. The ITT focused our minds to tackle those meetings in an organised fashion and enabled us to select the Dynamic Retail System (DRS) from Senso Business Solutions."

"The value for money from PMC was obvious in the meeting with the rival company. It became clear their system did not match the way we work and certain functionality was missing. We were not happy with their development proposals or how they intended to work around them. Without the ITT we would not have gone into enough detail. We could have made the investment, metaphorically got a system back to our offices, and then found over months trying to implement it that it didn't do what we needed."

"What impressed me was PMC gave us the tools to work out where the pitfalls were and the questions to ask before we committed ourselves. They enabled us to make a better educated decision based on functionality rather than bells and whistles."

Jollyes started the project in mid 2007, and made the selection decision before the year end. Although they selected the 'best fit' system, Jollyes still need to do some development and internal work, such as converting their internal data pool. However the project is on track to launch in May 2008.

McIntyre closes: "We intend to adopt the system centrally during late April early May 2008. Then we'll go for a pilot store towards the end of May. We'll start with head office and one shop to iron out any issues before we roll out across the entire estate."