28 October 2002 – With the CBI reporting a weakened sales growth for September, compared to figures from the first half of 2002, UK retailers need to use every method available to maximise their till returns. But, according to Robin Koffler, Managing Director – Commercial at power solutions expert Advance Galatrek, an alarming number of retailers are failing to take proper precautions against the consequences of power failure. And to make matters worse, there is widespread ignorance in the sector as to the true cost of a power outage.
Koffler argues that many medium sized retailers, as well as individual shops that comprise larger chains, are unaware of the real difficulties that power quality issues can bring. ‘We’re not just talking about the occasional mains hiccup here,’ says Koffler. ‘Although even the briefest interruption in the mains supply can shut down tills and cause chaos at the checkout, it is back office systems that are most at risk. And, when there is a power problem, it is the back office where the greatest remedial cost lies.’
‘Imagine the wider implications of a power cut. Not only are tills and checkouts inoperable, but also stock control systems no longer function. That means that there is no way of checking with the warehouse about what’s in stock, or automatically updating stocking levels once a line is sold. And as for automatic re-ordering facilities, you may as well forget it while the power is down,’ states Koffler. ‘What’s more, a power outage will frequently corrupt data on its way to the back office servers, so that you will be left with false information that only a manual stock take can rectify,’ he adds.
‘And these issues are compounded by the longer-term hardware problems caused by power fluctuations. In fact, in many cases, it is only after a sustained series of power surges, sags and outages that we begin to experience the real damage that poor power quality can bring, especially in dramatically reducing the lifespan of critical computing, comms and IT components.
Indeed, the retail sector is often more at risk from poor mains power quality, than from actual power interruptions,’ he cautions. ‘However, I don’t want to imply that the checkout should be passed over for power protection – far from it. For virtually every retailer, the till is literally a conveyor belt for cash, and if the checkout goes down, it takes time – and money – for the system to recover. And, after all, where’s the profit in a till that’s lying idle because of an external power problem?’
What is needed, according to Koffler, is for retailers to take the issue of power quality much more seriously. ‘They should look at power protection as a necessity – like insurance – rather than as something that merely affects others,’ he states.
My advice is save money by investing in reliable UPS, generators and lightning & spike protection devices to help protect critical equipment and data, and to maintain business continuity. If they are concerned about initial expenditure and the need for future proofing, there are now scalable products on the market that will allow for subsequent expansion, without storing up legacy problems. Every retailer owes it to their shareholders to maximise profit, and how can they do that when their tills aren’t functioning,’ he concludes.