The National Ice Centre skates ahead with new POS solution from Toshiba in partnership with Medoc

The National Ice Centre (NIC) has implemented a new EPOS solution from Toshiba in partnership with Medoc to improve its business management systems and customer service.

A venue unique to the UK, the 43m National Ice Centre, was the UKs first twin ice pad facility and the centre of excellence for all ice sports in the UK. The NIC comprises of two Olympic size ice rinks, one of which transforms into Nottingham Arena to become a superb entertainment venue hosting a number of live music shows and sporting events for a capacity of 10,000.

With a diverse range of business activities including ticketing and booking desk, retail outlet, dance studio, a variety of conference rooms, and 12 bars within the facility each operating from a stand alone cash register, the process of collating and reporting the sales data on a daily, weekly and monthly basis was a time consuming manual process.  When Rob Williams, previously of the Dixons Stores Group, was appointed as IT Manager, he explored the possibilities of introducing a networked solution linked to a back office system to manage the whole centre, whilst improving customer service.

The Solution
The NIC selected Medocs TSM Crystal software on Toshiba ST-70s touch screen tills.   Although several suppliers were evaluated, Medoc was chosen due to the companys vision and ability to supply a single solution for the whole centre, including the retail, ticketing and hospitality areas, and its flexible approach to developing a customised solution to meet the NICs varied and unique business needs.

Medoc recommended Toshiba ST-70 touch screen tills due to their high quality robust manufacture and compact design. Medocs extensive experience of Toshiba tills, consistently demonstrating proven reliability and resulting in a low total cost of ownership, gave them complete confidence in recommending the Toshiba hardware.

Speaking of the decision to appoint Medoc, Rob Williams, IT Manager, National Ice Centre said, We had confidence in Medocs ability to deliver a complete networked solution covering the retail, hospitality and ticketing requirements. Other suppliers I had discussed our requirements with, had software suited to either retail or hospitality environments. Medocs tailored approach, overall vision and ticketing experience ensured that we could have the functionality needed in all areas, with the potential to develop enhancements, like on-line booking, in the future.  Their partnership with Toshiba for the POS hardware was also an additional hook, I knew I could be assured of a quality and stable platform, from a world renowned manufacturer

The process
In consultation with the NIC, Medoc took a staggered approach, first installing three Toshiba ST-70 tills with basic functionality in its main skating caf, Ice Breakers. This was followed by an additional ST-70 Toshiba till which was launched into the retail outlet, providing a full stock control, EFT and an on-line solution.

Rob commented on the initial pilot, The pilot in Icebreakers, provided me with the assurance that Medocs software had the capabilities to meet the more rigorous requirements of the retail outlet.  We have a very unique range of stock, with many different variables and combinations, for example, a skate is available in different foot sizes and widths, ankle sizes, heights, a variety of blades and also different colours there are hundreds of different permutations.  The Medoc and Toshiba solution enables us to cope with the large quantity of stock, and diversity of combinations, with easy to use touch-screen menu options to guide staff quickly and easily through transactions.

The next phase of the roll-out involved launching the Medoc / Toshiba solution in the public skating ticketing admissions area, which with over 5000 ice skating customers visiting the center at weekends, was the largest volume area, demanding an extremely fast and efficient EPOS system.

Prior to the installation of the ST-70 tills, the National Ice Centre had relied on stand alone tills  which were not networked to the box office system, requiring separate reads from each till which were then compiled onto spreadsheets. 

With one networked solution, the NIC can now manage all its business activities, including admissions and stock from one back office system. The Medoc / Toshiba solution has given the NIC complete control of all the varying stock items - skating boots with many different variables such as blades, sizes, ankle heights and lengths; hockey sticks with individual styles, lengths, twists and one-off figure skating dresses mean that hundreds of different stock permutations are now automated and reported on centrally, resulting in far greater accuracy and efficiency.

The benefits
With an on-line store provided on top of the EPOS installations, another challenge for Medoc was to provide a seamless link between the stock in the retail outlet and the e-store. A single networked back office stock system ensures that stock is automatically updated, giving 100% accuracy at all times.

Price Look Ups (PLUs) can now be added to the system remotely from the back-office, removing the need for manual programming at the till previously a time consuming and laborious process, requiring access to each individual till for updates.

Real time reporting makes it far quicker and easier to manage the centre, giving complete visibility of management information. The recent TV programme Dancing on Ice, has sparked increased interest by the public in ice skating that has improved the footfall on the public skating sessions by almost 50%. The real-time aspect of the EPOS solution allows the centre to carefully monitor numbers, ensuring they do not exceed the maximum capacity of the rinks.  This increased demand has also resulted in a further till being installed in the box office in February 2006.

A big advantage of the Medoc / Toshiba solution, demonstrating the flexibility of the system, is the ability to run any till in offline mode. For example, at weekends when the demand for ice skating is highest, the NIC can turn a shop till into a public skating till by quickly re-configuring to a front of house scenario, giving maximum flexibility and avoiding customer queues. It is then a simple matter to connect the till back to the network and download the information onto the system for automatic update. Commenting on this aspect Rob Williams, said, Demand for ice skating sessions has increased massively following the recent Dancing on Ice, TV series. The stand alone till facility gives us the potential to have a till anywhere within the NIC, allowing us to reduce queues at peak periods, providing a strategy to deal with such situations

With intuitive touch screen menu options, the Toshiba ST-70 tills are extremely fast and easy for staff to use, making staff training much quicker. The small footprint and compact design ensures that the touch screen tills will fit into the smallest of spaces.

Having already experienced immense cost and time savings from the Medoc / Toshiba system, The National Ice Centre is keen to progress the roll-out as quickly as possible. Rob Williams had planned a staggered approach to the roll-out of the EPOS solution to the hospitality side of the business, but the Toshiba and Medoc system has exceeded the expectation in terms of improved efficiency so much, that it is now highlighting how time consuming collating sales and stock information is from the other 11 standalone hospitality terminals.  Medoc are currently developing a customised hospitality solution to incorporate current caterers special features, to give real time information on hospitality sales, once added to the existing system.

The future
With the flexibility of the Medoc / Toshiba solution, the NIC has the ability to develop new ideas and opportunities on their future-proofed solution.  One planned initiative is a cashless swipe system for customers of the Ice Centre, which could be used in both the hospitality and retail areas, allowing children for example, to purchase an amount on a swipe card to be used to buy refreshments or goods, avoiding the need to carry cash.

With the focus on enhancing the public experience, the National Ice Centre will also be looking to use the POS system for advance bookings. Rob Williams, IT Manager explains, One of our main aims is to continually enhance the customer experience, and we now have a some interesting ways to do this, such as using the POS for a Fast Pass for regular users, making the centre even more accessible and getting customers straight onto the ice, cutting down on queues.

Rob continues, At the moment our skate hire doesnt link into the EPOS and this is another area where we could use the Medoc / Toshiba EPOS solution to improve the customer experience, as well as our stock control on skates. Moving forward, we forsee offering our customers a facility to buy advance pre-paid tickets and gift vouchers. With Medocs experience of ticketing solutions, we would also like to go ticket-less, avoiding the need for printed tickets, resulting in a further reduction in costs and time, and giving our customers the ultimate service. The Medoc / Toshiba solution ensures that we have the functionality and reliability to develop all the planned enhancements with complete confidence.

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