College Retailer Says “RAH-RAH-RAH” to Sleek Custom POS Imagers

Fans of the Oregon State Beavers know that, when the score is close, a few yards on the gridiron can become very valuable real estate, indeed. But on game days, some of the most valuable retail real estate in Oregon is actually just across the street from Reser Stadium – in the OSU Beaver Store.

Beaver games can bring as many as 45,000 fans to the stadium and many of them will make their way to the Beaver Store to buy licensed gear and apparel. During the four-hour game rush, the store typically processes between 3,000 – 4,000 transactions at its 22 cash registers.

“Generally, our customers are in good humor on game days, but moving efficiently is the key to keeping them that way,” says Torsten Pihl, I.S. Coordinator for the Beaver Store. “They line up out the doors, running a gauntlet of crowd control stanchions and registers. If we can save even just a few seconds on each transaction, we can maximize sales while the crowds are here, while keeping our fans and alumni happy.” So as they have many times before, the Beaver Store called on Zebra.


Improve transaction speed to manage rush periods more effectively

The Oregon State University (OSU) Beaver Store has a long history, opening as a co‑op 100 years ago in 1914. Today, the Corvallis campus is home to their modern 50,000 square foot retail store and a textbook warehouse facility. Two additional retail stores are located in Keizer Station and Portland, and there’s also a Beaver Store online.

A college store is a unique kind of retail operation. As Pihl puts it, “It’s a department store that happens to sell textbooks. About 50% of our sales are textbooks, but they take up only about 25% of our main store’s square footage. The majority of our display area is devoted to licensed apparel and souvenirs, school supplies, and computer hardware and supplies.”

But what really sets the Beaver Store retail experience apart is not the product offering – it’s the rush. At the start of each quarter, nearly 30,000 students return to campus to prepare for classes. All of them need textbooks and supplies. Store employees, who are mostly students themselves, staff every available POS lane to manage the steady crowds, transacting daily sales that often approach $1 million. And the peak volumes don’t end once classes start.

When the fighting OSU Beavers play at home during football season, the population of Corvallis can nearly double. Thousands of fans jam the Beaver Store across the street from the stadium, stocking up on Beavers jerseys, t-shirts, hats and other booster gear from manufacturers including Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Jansport. “Many of the point-of-sale stations run non-stop on game days – we could have tens of thousands of transactions across our locations on those Saturdays,” said Pihl.

The wildly variable traffic places heavy demands on the stores’ systems, incenting management to keep their hardware and software as up-to-date as possible. Back in 1998, the stores partnered with the Nebraska Book Company to upgrade from cash registers to a computer-based point-of-sale (POS) and inventory system. In 2010, they added Zebra DS9808 hybrid presentation imagers and Zebra LS4278 cordless barcode scanners to an existing collection of Zebra scanners.

Since then, they had been gradually upgrading their Windows POS hardware, which had the side effect of making their oldest PS/2-based scanners obsolete. So the Beaver Store was very interested in learning what the next generation of Zebra scanners had to offer.


Delight customers by coupling dramatic design with speed, accuracy and performance

Zebra was ready with an ideal solution for the OSU Beaver Store – the stylish DS4800 Series of innovative barcode scanners. The DS4800 Series looks as fast as it works. Sleek, lightweight and ergonomic, its capacitive touch trigger makes it comfortable to use for hours at a stretch, a big benefit when 100 or more customers are waiting to check out.

Zebra offered to set up a trial with the DS4800 Series scanners. Randy Zentmire, Chief Financial Officer for the OSU Beaver Store, points out, “Zebra even customized the trial units for us, adding the OSU mascot and colors to the bezel.”

The new devices were quickly configured using Zebra’s exclusive utility, 123Scan2. The utility sports a simple graphical user interface (GUI) and a patented wizard tool to streamline the setup process. It can update scanner firmware and parameters, stage large numbers of devices, display barcode data and images, and generate reports.

“We have years of experience using Zebra scanners, so we knew we could expect easy integration,” says Steve Eckrich, President and CEO of the OSU Beaver Store. “The DS4800 was truly plug-and-play. All our existing programming barcodes just worked with the new scanners.”

Test and prove performance capability

The DS4800 Series scanners were put to work immediately in customer service, the technology department, and the six registers of the main checkout area that are dedicated to returns. They were an instant hit with staff.

“Our people tell us that this is a scanner that’s not only very fast and easy to use, it’s fun to use,” reports Pihl. “The cashiers really like them, especially the lightness and the cool factor. Smiling cashiers – that’s always a happy thing.”

Somewhat surprising, though, was the reaction of customers to the new scanners. “Can you imagine, customers noticing and commenting – about a scanner? ” asks Pihl. “But they really do, they talk about it. They are just very impressed to see this super state-of-the-art, very high-tech, very sophisticated looking device, carrying our colors and our branding, in use in our store. It makes them think we really have it together. And that’s how you want your customers to think of you.”


Fast, accurate scans … and happy customers

In real-world operations, the DS4800 Series met all of the Beaver Store’s expectations. It proved to be fast, accurate and easy to integrate with the existing POS system.

Pihl even found a few special applications for the device. “Being able to read barcodes off a screen means we can take digital photos of codes with a phone or tablet, then scan the screen to update inventory or capture rebate information rather than haul merchandise around,” he reports. “That’s a big time and labor saver.” While the store isn’t yet using the screen reading capability in customer-facing applications, that may be part of future plans.

What is definitely part of future plans is more DS4800 Series scanners. “We can’t wait to get our hands on more of them,” says Pihl. “And since you can program them to play custom tones, I might even see us using a few bars of the Beaver’s fight song. That would be fun to hear around here on a game day!”

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