Regional Hospices throughout the UK have turned to retail in helping them raise valuable funds to help maintain their critical services for their local communities. Many hospices now have a charity shop(s) on their local high street(s), as they strive to offer the best palliative care to their patients and with it a good quality of life, in spite of their illnesses.

The main focus for all hospices is caring for their patients. With that comes the management of their confidential medical records and all that goes with running a medical establishment. In addition to that more and more hospices are installing electronic point of sale systems (EPoS systems) to manage their retail operations. Traditional EPoS systems are deployed locally and retailers are also required to invest and manage additional back office servers. So now many hospices are grappling with managing medical and retail servers or potentially having to combine them. The key benefit of cloud based EPoS systems and cloud computing for hospices is that the applications and software are hosted for hospices in the ‘cloud’, allowing them to focus on delivering their critical services to their patients.

Another key benefit for cloud based systems in the Hospice sector is that with resources often stretched cloud based systems minimise management required of the system, helping to alleviate the management burden. Dove House Hospice chose to deploy a web based EPoS system,” explains Dove House’s IT manager Andy Dinsdale. “Because the system is web based the data is not on our servers, but held off site, bringing peace of mind, as we are no longer holding any sensitive data so there is no security risk at Dove House. Again, as it is web based there is no software on the till, so if there is a problem with the till hardware I can just swap a spare machine over. Five minutes in the shop and they are up and running again. There is no data to have to reinstall, no polling of sales done that day, it makes management of the system so much easier.”

Any EPoS system chosen needs to match the hospice’s medium and long term retail strategy and once deployed it is vital that the hospice looks to maximise its investment. One of the main benefits of EPoS systems is the business intelligence it creates, this allows charity’s much more control of their retail estate.  For example Dove House Hospice has 31 stores across Hull, Beverley and East Yorkshire, all in very different areas with different types of customers. Marisa Coleman, Retail Division Manager at Dove House Hospice explains how they used the business intelligence to change the way they approach charity retailing. “Through the reports generated in our EPoS system we are now removing departments from shops, as they (the individual charity shops) now cater for their customers needs. So we are looking at sales in a mainstream retail way. We used to churn out the charity shops, in that 40% of the shop floor was ladies wear, 20% menswear and so on.  There are some shops that do really well with children’s wear and nursery goods and others it just doesn’t sell whatever price you put it at, so we remove that department. So now we are looking at maximising the sales per foot in each shop.”

Charity retailers should look to high street retailers to see how they can optimise their business and how they can fully use their EPoS system. Some charities now have ecommerce sites and they can link their EPoS system to their ecommerce arm of the business, this helps manage stock centrally and allows each sales channel to recognise donors and customers both in store and online. Others are now beginning to issue donor cards to supporters of their charity shops. This helps create loyalty, and depending on how their system is set up, the cards can automate the gift aid reclamation process for the charity. Currently gift aid is one of the main talking points in charity retailing. It is a huge opportunity for all charity retailers, it potentially means whatever a product is sold for in store they can claim a further 25% of its resale value from HMRC. The challenge for charity retailers is optimising what they reclaim through gift aid and charity EPoS systems are critical in this process.

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