ZIFFPAGE TITLEEmbedding Scanners

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2004-07-01 Email 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 5 - Embedding Scanners

  • Cashier training begins

  • Satellite network tested

  • Thunderblast stain remover, at last

    With the satellite network in place, Hallstrom begins training Jersey Shore's assistant manager and prospective cashiers in how to work the IBM registers. Flatbed scanners from Symbol Technologies are encased in the counters to read product bar codes. The scanners feed data to the registers.

    Prices scan well, but not everything is right. Checkout receipts say the store is in Tennessee, not Pennsylvania. The lines for phone number and manager's name contain generic placeholders. That happens sometimes because the registers come preloaded with sales software but not with the identification of the individual store.

    That will be fixed by grand opening the following Saturday, Hallstrom says.

    One key lesson in register work is to scan each item separately, no matter if the customer is buying several of the same. Otherwise Dollar General's automatic replenishment program will have the distribution center ship the wrong merchandise.

    For example, a clerk sees 10 bottles of Suave shampoo on the counter and punches in "10 @" while scanning one bottle, Hallstrom explains. But five of them might be Suave Fresh Mountain Strawberry and the other five Suave Milk & Honey. "That would mess up inventory," she says. "Every unit that goes out, we have to get back in." In the "10 @" scenario, the store's next delivery would include 10 bottles of Suave shampoo, but five of them would be the wrong scent.

    Meanwhile, a second truck brings another 3,500 to 4,500 cartons of core merchandise such as snacks, candy, paper goods and fast sellers such as Thunderblast stain remover ($2 per bottle).

    Jersey Shore is Koehn's 12th opening this year. As at the previous 11, he orchestrates stocking by following a map created by a computer-aided design technician in Goodlettsville a month earlier. The key design point is the store's square footage. Headquarters wants paper towels, cleansers, potting soil, soups and 4,245 other core items in each store, and getting all those in is enough of a puzzle.

    But the layout specialist also includes space for non-core merchandise that, according to daily and monthly operating reports, is selling well at stores nearby. It might be plastic lawn chairs or Chinese knockoffs of popular Bratz dolls. Dollar General warehouses carry 20,000 products at any one time.

    Headquarters allows two basic layouts. Older Dollar General stores sport the traditional plan, where most shelving cuts horizontally across the store in two groups, one on the left side and one along the right. In a "midway" between the groups sit stacks of "red hot buys" and seasonal merchandise—holiday wreaths in winter, kiddie pools in summer.

    New stores are designed front to back. Shelves run vertically, giving cashiers up front a view down each aisle (the better to catch shoplifters). The midway for special merchandise becomes the wide horizontal path between where the shelving ends and the row of checkout lanes begins.

    In Whitesboro, Longway displays 19-inch Brocsonic color televisions in the midway. The $50 sets are this year's grand opening special purchase. Each new store gets 50 units of whatever the special is. Last year it was a $35 microwave oven.

    Rambus bought two, one for a gift and one for himself. A $35 microwave? "It's a good microwave," he insists. "I use it all the time."

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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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