In addition to my technology work, I am an owner and operator of a food business, Lucienne’s Fine Foods. Lucienne’s currently sells primarily through other retailers, and through web sales. It is now starting retail sales. This presents a challenge to incorporate the retail counter sales into our transaction system, which has previously been designed primarily for web sales.
Lucienne’s web store is based on an integrated e-commerce system from Volusion. The Volusion system provides the full back-end order and payment system. It also provides a page for “Point of Sale”.
This feature is intended to be used by merchants who operate both an online store as well as a traditional, brick-and-mortar retail establishment. Customers can go to the merchant’s store online and place an order, or simply walk in and purchase products in person.
Retail vs. On-line products
At Lucienne’s, the point of sale operation required that several products be added that are not available at the on-line store. Cups of coffee don’t ship very well. With Volusion, I added an additional product category called “Retail Products” which are not displayed on the web site. This is done by checking the “hidden” box in the category’s “Basic Category Info” field.
Now products are added that are included in the “Retail Products” are somewhat available, but the operator has no direct method to find them on the POS page. Volusion does provide a secondary method for product selection on the POS screen, using UPC labels.
Using the UPC Code Field
To allow use of UPC codes, one simply adds a numeric code to the UPC Code field on the Product entry, in the Vendor Information section. Now the operator can simply type in the UPC code on the POS screen to select the product.
Of course, typing 12 digit numeric fields is not as easy as you might like. Certainly not as easy as I might like. The better method is to use a bar code scanner to read in the bar code directly. This leads to the next challenge; printing the bar code.
Bar Code Generation
The Volusion Product page has a link to “Generate Barcode” next to the UPC Code field. This brings up a window that will display a barcode from a numeric entry. Unfortunately, the displayed barcode is an amalgam of images for the thick and thin white and black bars. The image cannot be saved as a single image. A snapshot from the window will likely yield a fuzzy image that is not readable. Which leads me to wonder what the value of this tool is.
The Volusion information for the UP Code indicates:
Enter a numeric value into this field to assign a UPC or I25 code to a product in your Volusion store.
Note that UPC codes configured for your Volusion store’s products must have 13 digits. For UPC codes with less than 13 digits, precede the UPC number with one or more zeros until your UPC code meets the 13 digit requirement.
I25 codes must contain an even number of digits.
To generate a scanable bar code for a product’s UPC or I25 code, click on the Generate Barcode next to this field, enter your UPC or I25 code and click the available Generate button.
However, in reality there appears to be no checking on the data entered. I have tried using alpha characters and this field and the Volusion system accepted the data. This could allow simpler manual entry in the POS page. A downside to using alpha coding is that the bar code scanner might not be able to read it. In my case, the Code 39 ASCII barcode format is not readable. This leads me to a choice of easier manual entry, or ability to scan. I have chosen use of a scanner.
Generating Scannable Barcodes
As mentioned above, the Volusion Barcode Generator is no help in creating an actual scannable barcode. I was able to find several free on-line barcode generators:
There are others as well.
Printing a UPC Scan Sheet
Once the UPC Code entries have been created in the Volusion system and the barcodes have been generated, a Scan Sheet may be created to ease the data entry. Using Microsoft Word, I used a simple table to list the various products that we sell over the counter. One column of the table contains the product description and another column contains the barcode image. The sales person now can use the POS screen to create a shopping cart by scanning the appropriate entries.
To allow flexibility, I added a “Misc Sale” product definition, which has a price of $0.01. If any sales are made which do not directly correspond to a defined product, then the Misc Sale entry is chosen, and the sales person can enter the price manually. POS allows the operator to override the price on any items.