ZIFFPAGE TITLEGoodlettsville to Go

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2004-07-01 Print this article Print

Dollar General opens two new stores every day. The secret isn't Miracle-Gro. Instead, there's a well-honed choreography of human muscle and precision logistics that sets up each new outlet in little more than a week. We take you inside what Dollar General

Day 4 - Goodlettsville to Go

  • Satellite dish installed

  • Point-of-sale software tested

  • Pricing files downloaded

    As Jersey Shore workers unpack and stock $8 girls' dresses and Good Tuff freezer bags ($2 for a box of 45), a Spacenet installer arrives to set up the satellite link.

    Pulling a ladder off his truck, the installer zips up to the roof of the store and mounts a 2.5-foot antenna and a dish that looks like one used at home for satellite television. The indoor equipment is a satellite modem the size of a large dictionary and cables to connect to each IBM register.

    "We connect, make sure our hub in Washington, D.C., sees this dish, it lights up," says Randy Anders, the senior account manager at Spacenet who closed the 10-year, $40-million deal with Dollar General in 2001. The IBM registers are connected to the network, and the store's coordinates are added to Spacenet's pre-established connection with Goodlettsville. The work takes three to four hours.

    When the contract was signed, Dollar General had 5,000 stores. But it did the deal for 7,500 stores. "They knew their growth," Anders says.

    Once the satellite network is humming, headquarters can start to send pricing files and product codes to the registers. Spacenet tests each piece of the Triversity point-of-sale applications, such as nightly polling and authorization of payments by bank and welfare debit cards. Also flung over the satellite are weekly payroll hours, uploaded from the registers.

    In Whitesboro, Spacenet doesn't come until Day 5 because of other commitments. Dollar General allows the vendor a two-day window after the IBM delivery.

    Dollar General chose satellite communications after balky dial-up connections and spotty broadband coverage in small towns prevented 5% to 8% of its stores from connecting to headquarters each night for mandatory sales reporting, Anders says.

    The discounter also wants to avoid mixing communications technology, says Bruce Ash, vice president of information and administrative services. "If you have three or four different networks, it takes people with all those skills to manage them," Ash says. "It's been a philosophy here: Do things as simply as possible."

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    Senior Writer
    Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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