Case Study: British Red Cross
British Red Cross (BRC) is one of the world’s longest-established and best-known humanitarian organisations. It is part of a global network – the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement – that helps communities and individuals in crisis.
The organisation is volunteer-led and depends heavily upon the kindness of others. To support its benevolent programmes, BRC needs to raise funds through campaigns and appeals. These take place in tandem with the day-to-day operations of its nationwide retail shop network where both donated and bought-in goods are sold. BRC has 323 shops across the UK, from the Channel Islands to the Outer Hebrides.
Before engaging with Cybertill, BRC relied upon simplistic equipment: a telephone and fax in each shop, plus a TEC electronic till. As Mike Picken, Retail EPoS Manager at BRC, describes: “It was very challenging to get any accurate management information from the shops that we could aggregate into a full trading picture. It was clear we would struggle to grow the business without concrete information on where we were and what needed changing.”
Another downside of BRC’s lack of technology was the operational isolation of the shops, both from each other and from the BRC head office with its systems infrastructure and data. “Shops had no access to our website or intranet, and no means of quickly accessing information about our appeals.”
A thorough retail review was undertaken with the premise to help BRC take advantage of new fiscal opportunities, such as the reclaiming of Gift Aid on donations. “Everything in our review pointed to the need for a new EPoS system,” observes Mike.
Following an exhaustive tender process Cybertill was the preferred supplier. The main reasons for selecting Cybertill were its specialism as a provider of retail systems, the cost and licensing model that if offered, and the fact that the system would furnish BRC with live information on its business performance.
Cybertill Addresses the Issues and Delivers Benefits
Today, the vast majority of the shops are using a Cybertill system that addresses the original issues BRC was facing in its shops and at head office. “We were able to get rid of most of the paperwork at shop level. All the basic information we need is now derived from the Cybertill system and it provides reports to drive the business forward.
” BRC is enjoying many benefits from Cybertill. “Gone are the days of isolation. The link between shops and head office is now excellent. That means we can launch an appeal within hours, not days, and be confident that every shop is aware of precisely what’s going on.”
Information is transmitted in a number of ways. BRC head office makes use of Cybertill’s internal messaging functions to contact all the shops on a range of subjects including updating them all instantly on promotions. And it is not only staff communication that has been revolutionised by the Cybertill system. By printing information on shop receipts, BRC can update customers on promotions and alert them to appeals. The shops themselves also benefit from rich information resources available in ‘The Red Room’, BRC’s full-function intranet.
“We always wanted this,” confirms Mike. In addition to information on appeals and campaigns, shop staff can access details of vacancies. The Cybertill ‘managed service’ model means that BRC does not need to have a systems infrastructure in each shop, which it finds beneficial. “This seems to work fine for us. We produce a phenomenal amount of data and we’re now upgrading our 3rd party software to cope with all the data coming off the central server.”
Getting to Grips with EPoS
In common with all charities, BRC relies heavily on volunteer staff. Charity shop work tends to attract the older generation, few of whom are computer literate.
“The transition from the TEC till to the Cybertill EPoS system was quite a jump for many of our shop staff. But, with good training, we got it right for our shop managers, our field staff and our volunteers. The initial resistance soon melted away and, now that staff are familiar with the system, they find it absolutely fine to use.”
Gift Aid Processing
Gift Aid is a critical part of the charity’s revenue generation and Mike Picken pays tribute to the functionality that Cybertill provides.
“There are manual Gift Aid systems available, but by using one integrated within our till system, we have a much simpler way of managing this, and one which is demonstrably growing the business.”
Cybertill is used in over 300 BRC charity shops and BRC is now in the process of completing its rollout of Gift Aid functionality for donated goods. Whilst it is commonplace for charities to reclaim Gift Aid on monetary donations, few are able to process donated goods in such a way as to claim tax back on shop sales and BRC estimate this alone will raise an additional £500,000 each year.
Improved Stock Management
One of the pillars of Cybertill is stock management. Until implementing the system, BRC had no effective means of moving around its stock of bought-in goods. “We had no way of seeing who needed what. Now we can see where the stock is, what’s selling and what isn’t. We have the facilities to easily transfer goods from one shop to another, and to order new stock from the warehouse.”
“We can now also do proper stock-takes. For the first time, we have accurate, real-time data on our stockholding. We know what we have, what its value is and we can assess shrinkage,” Mike continues. Using system-generated intelligence, the team can identify good and poor sellers, and either get them out of the business or introduce price reductions.
Increased Sales and Optimised Stockholding
Reduced stockholding is another benefit. “Before, we just sent out set quantities to each British Red Cross shop. Now the shops can order smaller amounts and then reorder as and when needed.”
The installation of Cybertill has also had positive cost implications. “This is particularly the case for bought-in goods,” says Mike. “Our sales would not have increased as they have and stockholding would have remained high with more money tied up without Cybertill to guide us.”
Business Expansion and System Scalability
Future expansion is planned, so it was important for BRC to select a scalable solution such as Cybertill that could keep pace with its growth.
“We’re reviewing how we want to grow the business and we’ll be working closely with Cybertill to see how the system can best help us achieve this.” The intelligence generated from EPoS reports is being used to effect changes within the shops, such as modifying their look or layout, or adjusting product pricing.
BRC view the rollout of EPoS and use of EPoS as a very positive business development, and one that has helped both the volunteer population and BRC staff. “Our EPoS system is so well regarded that it has been submitted for one of our coveted in-house Excellence Awards,” concludes Mike Picken.