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More from... How One Pharmacy Is Creating a Local Niche Using Its Point of Sale

Brothers and pharmacists Mike and James Rossi run Phred’s Drug in Cranston, R.I. The store is 18,500 square feet, with 3,500 square feet strictly designated to the pharmacy, a 1,500-square-foot area to service group homes, and the remainder given over to a broad retail business that ranges from Italian specialty groceries to wine and spirits, to a department for paying utility bills. Six full-time drivers provide delivery services throughout the state, and the business employs around 50 people, including nine full-time pharmacists and 12 pharmacy technicians. Read the interview with Retail Management Solutions VP of Sales and Marketing Mike Gross, and scroll down for more of Mike Rossi's tips on how to create your niche with the help of a point-of-sale system.

Doing Your Homework

Mike Rossi’s three steps for buying a new POS system: “When I decided I wanted to go over to a new point-of-sale system, I started the process with doing homework, and I did a lot of reading. I learned that I wanted to look for a company:

  1. That was going to be around for awhile, because when you change point-of-sale systems, that's not a process that you want to go through often. You want to know whoever you’re going with is going to be around for awhile.

  2. That was going to be innovative and change with the times.

  3. That was dedicated to servicing independent pharmacies as a main priority.”

Rollout and Training

Mike Rossi on expectations to set for installation, rollout, and training: “I remember this phase well, because I was very hesitant about the whole process. It’s a big undertaking. It’s almost like you’re driving down the street in a car, and you want to change the wheel on the car while it’s moving. So the steps in this phase have to be executed right, and Retail Management Solutions was dead on with everything. I especially want to highlight the on-site help for the first few days. I was the most nervous about our accounts receivable, because I had house accounts on the old POS system that I needed to convert over to the new system without anything going wrong — because then I wouldn’t know who owes me what, and it would be a mess. But with RMS’ support that went very smoothly.

The other thing I was worried about was all my min/max settings for reordering and the reorder numbers for the front-store merchandise. If something goes wrong there that could be quite painful. But everything got transferred over very smoothly again.
And even after RMS was there on-site — for the following weeks and months — I would make calls to either the main support line or to the cell phone number of person who was on-site with us for installation and those first few days. They’d help me or explain to me if I had a problem or if I had a question. They were very, very helpful, I’ve got to tell you.”

AR/Charge Accounts

Mike Rossi on managing accounts receivable and charge accounts: “We have around 350 house charge accounts, and that’s a lot of data to track that’s critical to cash flow. Prescription co-pays get run out of the house account, as well as items in the front store. We have the flexibility to set customers up to pay on their preferred date during the month. This could be the 15th for some, and others pay on the 30th.
Two other big things for me are the ability to make changes to house accounts after the period closes and to close out house accounts without having to physically be in the store.”

Loyalty Program

Mike Rossi on what makes a loyalty program work: “We created a loyalty program for the pharmacy, which ties into our advertising. It’s a rewards system where they save up the points and they get money off future purchases. It also allows us to track what people are buying and how frequently they’re coming into the store. One important thing you need in a system running your loyalty program is easy reporting to see how much money you have outstanding in unredeemed rewards at any given time. RMS does this really well. It’s really important at the end of the year or whenever you do inventory. You need to be able to look at the balance sheet and say, ‘Well, there’s still X dollars out there that I owe to people as rewards.’

When it comes to tying this into our advertising, when we run our sales we send out mail and email and advertise on Facebook. We’re able to tie that to our loyalty program and get a good look at how people are responding to these sale promotions.

We can set different levels in the loyalty program. So if we have someone who is a really good customer, we can put them in, say, a gold bracket, where we can give them extra points for every dollar they spend.

We know who our best customers are because we’re able to connect the loyalty program and our sales history reporting in Retail Management Solutions. What we have then is a customer file in the POS, something we didn’t have in the old system, and that’s where I can pull up a customer and I can see how much money they’re spending with us. That’s really valuable information, and it helps us really take care of our customers.”

The Little Things Matter

Mike Rossi on why little things matter for getting the most from your POS: “I mentioned how we really increased our checkout speed by moving to RMS. One big part of that, which you might not realize, was that if you have old printers, they’re slow and they make a lot of noise. Our old ones had ink ribbons and they’d get jammed. Now we have thermal printers, and believe it or not, you don’t know how much faster and quieter they are until you have them. So going to the thermal printers with RMS was big.

Then you want to look at how your POS should be making your life easier. For us, it’s easier to generate quarters with RMS. It’s easier to balance from shift to shift when there’s staff switchover. And it’s also better for preventing theft. You know, I was against the whole fingerprinting aspect of the system before I saw it in action. But now I totally understand why you do it, and it’s a great feature to make sure you know who’s responsible for transactions and who’s been on the register at any given time.

Then it’s gotten much easier for us to create batches for items that, for example, we want to run sales on for a period of time.

RMS also makes it really easy for us to export and import data using a common tool like Excel, which sounds basic, but I can tell you we couldn’t do it before. 

There’s a flexibility in the RMS system too, so we can use it to make specific parts of our business much easier. We can customize it around our business and set specific parameters that we need. For example, because we sell alcohol, the registers give us the ability to cut off liquor sales at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays, which we are required to do by law in Rhode Island. That was always a big pain before, because we would just have to kind of eyeball the watch, and people would start complaining and hassling our staff if they just missed the cutoff. Now it’s simple for our staff to say, ‘The system just doesn’t allow that sale at this time.’ Another regulation it’s helping us with is Sudafed sales tracking. We just scan the driver’s license. That takes a ton of time, saving time from having to punch that in manually.”

Sound Advice

Mike Rossi on the big picture when it comes to pharmacy POS: “You’ve got to look at the big picture. Look down the line to the end of the year and beyond. Don’t worry about the transition from your old point-of-sale system to a new one that’s going to be better. Sure, there are going to be little speed bumps here and there, but for us Retail Management Solutions had the tools in place and it all came out smooth on the other end.

I just feel like pharmacy owners, they get hung up on anything that could possibly slow their business down. But what they don’t realize is, that by not switching over, they’re doing themselves a big disservice in the long run. Get the new system in now, and it pays off down the line.” CT

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