Task Retail has developed a computer system that handles everything from stock ordering and control to shop point-of-sale (POS) terminals.
The system is particularly attractive for businesses with multiple locations, as it provides real-time reports on sales and stock.
Promotional coupons and loyalty programs can be offered and retail prices dynamically altered to meet changes in customer demand.
The company's Australian client list includes the Foodco Group, which operates a range of retail brands including Muffin Break, Jamaica Blue and Dreamy Donuts. Task Retail also recently signed a deal with NSW-based Mounties Group of clubs to install a POS and loyalty card system.
The company says this domestic success positions it well for a planned expansion into the US.
Working with a number of technology partners including Microsoft, NCR and Dell, Task Retail has its eyes firmly on the massive franchise chains that operate in one of the largest economies on the planet.
Task Retail Managing Director Kym Houden says it's important for small companies to balance their desire for expansion with the risks that come from growing too quickly.
"Many firms think about expanding internationally but a much smaller number actually succeed," he says. "It's about knowing your target market and making sure you can deliver exactly what it needs."
Houden says the economic downturn is having little effect on business. Indeed, he says, it may actually lead to an increase in sales.
"When things are tough, that is the time companies need to be getting their internal systems up to scratch. That way they can derive more efficiency from their operations."
Task Retail's technology was developed by Houden's son Daniel. After years of helping his father to sell proprietary POS equipment, Daniel realised he could develop his own flexible system, which would deliver better service to businesses.
A self-confessed computer novice when he set out, Daniel worked with standard software from vendors such as Microsoft to create the company's core product, called xchangexec.
xchangexec ties together everything from counter terminals to portable electronic devices used by waiters. In the kitchen, orders are displayed on touchscreens with activity reports accessible by store managers.
It also allows senior company managers to receive automatically generated reports via SMS to their mobile phone. In some locations, customers can lodge orders with stores via their mobile device before walking in to collect them.
"The key was approaching the challenges of POS from a completely different perspective," he says. "The result is a system that can be tailored to the specific needs of an operation."
The company has removed much of the complexity of retail computing by hosting the back-end computer systems at a large data centre in Sydney.
According to Houden, this centralisation ensures customer data remains secure while also allowing data from multiple locations to be easily aggregated for reports.
"A manager in Australia can instantly see exactly what is happening at their retail outlets around the country or the world in real time," he says.
"This allows them to quickly respond to issues and tweak operations to improve sales."
The company's US expansion plans involve regular travel by Houden and his team, talking to prospective distribution partners and customers.
Late last year the company won the 2008 Dell Small Business Excellence Award. Part of the award was a sponsored trip to the US and strategy meetings with company staff including founder Michael Dell.
"This gave us some interesting new perspectives and some pointers on what we need to do to succeed in the US," says Houden.
"Dell is a company that has gone through huge expansion and you can learn a lot from that."
Houden is under no illusions that succeeding in the US market will be easy -- especially when competitors include the likes of computing giant IBM."We know we've got a product that works and delivers true value to customers," he says. "If we can build relationships with technology partners and get some runs on the board, things could be very interesting for us during the next 12 months."
February 27, 2009
Article: Ian Grayson
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