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For First Stop Stores, Next Stop Is High-Tech

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- First Stop Convenience Stores implemented Tiva Software's Pricebook Connect(TM) in conjunction with Socket Communications Inc.'s barcode scanners to improve the speed and accuracy of order processing and information sharing for its chain of stores.

"With 30 locations throughout Ohio and Kentucky, First Stop is always looking for innovative ways to improve productivity and reduce overhead costs," said Chad Moore, chief information officer at First Stop Stores. "Our store operators were spending a lot of time performing manual tasks involved with ordering, receiving, pricing and tracking products, and we needed to streamline processes and improve the flow of information between wholesalers, stores and our corporate office. With this handheld system, we have automated our inventory management process and substantially improved and simplified store inventory data collection. The accurate barcode scanning greatly improves efficiency and has reduced the staff time required for price changes alone by over 20 hours per month in each store."

First Stop implemented Pricebook Connect running on an HP iPAQ mobile device with integrated Socket CF Scanners to streamline ordering, pricing, inventory and back office activities. The wireless system eliminates manual processes and enables real-time access to accurate information, allowing price updates to occur in hours rather than days or not at all. The solution enables store operators to print updated shelf tags immediately as pricing updates are approved. In addition, it provides First Stop with more control over pricing, ensuring that the scanned prices are the correct prices, which eliminates the possibility of variance or discounting at the register.

"Our system, running on a mobile device, performs many of the functions that used to be done on paper or with expensive and cumbersome back room systems," said Rory Wall Jr., president of Tiva Software. "This unified, handheld solution enables First Stop stores, even in very remote locations, to stay connected with secure access to real-time inventory, pricing, order information and shift data. The improved data flow and accuracy of scanned information keeps all locations in sync."

Sales and shift information are downloaded to handheld units for reconciliation and then sent to the Pricebook Connect Web portal for consolidated reporting, editing and integration with accounting systems. This automated system prevents errors associated with manual data entry. The ability to scan physical barcodes directly using store handhelds improves productivity and accuracy in ordering, receiving and managing physical inventory.

"Keeping an accurate inventory is one of the most important activities facing every store owner," said Peter Phillips, vice president of marketing at Socket Communications. "According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. retailers lose $224 billion annually due to excess inventory and $45 billion from not having sufficient inventory in stock. The use of wireless, portable scanners helps store owners amass vital inventory information, and provides an accurate view of inventory at any point in time."

The complete solution includes a secure Bluetooth wireless access point, software, a mobile device and a Socket barcode scanner. The cost is generally less than half of a typical back-office scanning solution, and about one-third of the cost of deployment of ruggedized scanning devices.
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