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In-Time Watch Services: Automating processes and improving functionality

In the world of watch repairs, In-Time Watch Services proudly boasts that it is the UK’s No. 1 Watch Care Specialist, with a large, loyal customer base. Established in 1981, the company is one of the UK’s largest employers of watchmakers and watch technicians. Headquartered in Southport and formerly owned by the Minit Group, In-Time was the subject of a MBO in February 2007, funded by regional Venture Capital body, Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF) and by the executive team. In-Time has 58 retail outlets, mostly run as concessions within major department stores such as Debenhams, Beales, Beatties and House of Fraser. With outlets in major towns and cities throughout the UK, In-Time provides a truly nationwide service. Seven outlets are in the form of kiosks in busy shopping centres such as Manchester’s Arndale Centre and Golden Square, Warrington.

“Cybertill has helped Head Office to improve its service to branches, which also helps branch staff. Thanks to Cybertill, branch staff have more time to serve customers and focus on customer issues.”

Bob Allen, Finance Director, In-Time Watch Services

Each In-Time outlet offers a range of services that includes watch repairs, replacement watch straps, watch batteries and complete overhauls. Watch sales are also offered in some locations. Finance Director, Bob Allen, explains: “The plan of the business post MBO was to expand on all fronts, in a mix of department and food stores and shopping centre kiosks.”

However, the MBO coincided with the start of the recession and a time of uncertainty in the department store world, when a number of independents and sector leaders, especially those with Icelandic owners, had question marks over their stability. As a result, In-Time has taken a cautious approach to expansion with just seven new kiosks and two department store outlets opened post MBO. However, expansion is planned to accelerate as the economy recovers from the recession, with the focus on department stores as the tried-and-tested formula for success.

Continues Bob Allen: “Our relationship with Debenhams is extremely strong. In-Time customers are offered a free coffee whilst they wait for battery replacement. For Debenhams, this service more than pays for itself as these customers invariably purchase additional food and beverages plus other items as they browse around the store.”

The need for new technology

Historically, In-Time relied upon manual weekly sales declarations from its branches and monthly stock takes. These were physically entered into an in-house stock system to generate orders for replenishment. It became clear that, to fulfil its expansion plans,  In-Time needed a contemporary system that would automate processes and provide a richer range of functions and information.

Investing in an EPoS solution

In-Time looked at the EPoS solutions market. Its evaluation of Cybertill highlighted three positive elements. Cost was, not surprisingly, a key determinant for a young company and In-Time felt that Cybertill offered a lot of functionality for its budget. Observes Bob: “Any new system also had to cope with managing our stand-alone tills and with exporting data captured by Debenhams tills into our EPoS.”

Cybertill demonstrated that it was able to manage this export/import process and dovetail it seamlessly with transactions captured through In-Time’s own tills. A third, minor, but none the less influencing, factor was Cybertill’s mutual association with MSIF. In May 2008, Cybertill was installed company-wide. Stock management and data export A PLU (bar-code) file is maintained, which is also applied in Debenhams. All products are barcoded and laminated barcode sheets are provided to scan for services. Cybertill is used for stock checks (adjustments), transfers and replenishment, based upon individually-set stock levels per item, per branch. Of particular use are the data import and user-defined data export features that allow In-Time to control upload of Debenhams’ files, plus export a complete copy of all transactions to its own databases.

Data manipulation

Updated daily, these databases form the basis of all the company’s internal reporting. Cybertill reports are used to monitor sales activity and guide decisions about branch trading times. Other benefits include identification of incorrect swiping, review of refund activity and generation of detailed journal entries for branch-by-branch accounting purposes, including sales, cost of sales and stock valuation.

“Cybertill is responsive and straight-forward to use. We can demonstrate what we have achieved in terms of data manipulation in under 18 months.”

In-Time has set targets for increasing specific elements of its offer. Using Cybertill, it can monitor its performance against these elements and judge the success of its sales development programme. Better staff management means increased customer focus. The system also contributes to more efficient personnel management. In-Time use barcoded employee swipe cards for pay calculations and to monitor branch open/ close times. Stock management and availability has improved significantly as order frequency has been increased to fortnightly, with branch staff no longer needing to count and submit stock figures every month.

Sales uplift

Acquiring Cybertill has contributed to In-Time’s unbroken history of sales revenue growth since the MBO. In the last financial year, it generated a like-for-like, double-digit turnover uplift: quite an achievement in these recessionary times.

“As the economy begins to recover from the recession, In-Time expects to accelerate sales growth and expand its presence within department stores. Cybertill will fuel this expansion by providing up-to-date, reliable management information on which to base decision-making.”

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