Kym Houden says this and earlier wins, including
Sydney Turf Club’s two metropolitan racetracks, will take annual sales this
financial year to more than $7 million. After three decades of selling other
companies’ systems to big retailers such as Harvey Norman and Coles Myer,
Houden knew the greatest strength of the POS industry - its longevity - was
also its Achilles heel. Shopkeepers the world over have come to rely on standard POS
systems to handle billions of transactions a day. Ironically, this success has
made the industry’s top names vulnerable by hampering their move from
proprietary networks to the internet. “Companies like IBM and InfoGenesis have
a legacy of old systems, which they find difficult to just shut off and start
something new,” Houden says.
His son had no such qualms about upending what he
found after joining Task Retail straight from school in 2001. Within three
years “he became very frustrated supporting proprietary legacy systems which
were not addressing client’s requirements, and decided he could do better”, his
father says. Daniel Houden had no formal training or experience in computer
programming, yet he developed a system to flick the details of millions of
customer transactions across the internet in a matter of seconds. Its appeal to
franchisors such as Retail Food - which waited weeks for store owners to upload
store information over dial-up modems - was obvious. But by bringing in
partners such as Microsoft and NCR, the Houdens ensured they would get far
enough in the door to show off their systems.
As well as increasing the accountability of
franchisees to head office, the xchangexec system supports orders by means of SMS and can present
two-for-one and other offers to customer based on what they are already buying
or, in the case of loyalty card holders, what they bought previously.
Through its arrangement with Retail Food and
another deal with the Foodco Group, owner of Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue
chains, Task Retail is entering China and other Asian markets. Houden is eyeing
markets further afield, having just returned from three weeks in Los Angeles
and New York. “In Australia we talk about a large chain being 1050 stores.
[United States Chain] Dunkin’ Donuts has 16,000,” he says.
Still, Houden knows well-resourced competition will not
stand still. But he is betting Task Retail can be nimbler. “We have got a three
to four-year jump on those guys,” he says. “Some of the software out there is
still in DOS (the Microsoft precursor to its Windows operating system). There
is a lot of development time in there [for rivals].
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