Mistake Number One: Buying Generic, Off-the-Shelf Software
Off-the-shelf generic systems can be purchased for as little as fifty pounds but may run as high as several thousand pounds. Inexpensive software tempts budget-conscious storeowners for obvious reasons--low initial cost! Also, if you happen to be looking for office help you may find many job applicants have already used one or more generic programs. Add to this the fact that many CPA's are familiar with generic software and the temptation is just too great for some retailers to resist. Unfortunately, many furniture, carpet and/or bed retailers take the generic route only to find it leading to frustration, extra errors, lost time and added cost. Generics are fine for many operations, but they cannot handle even a small fraction of the special features required by home furnishings retailer. You can try to plug holes by purchasing additional programs or modules, but the result is usually added hours to learn and use the extra software, added labor costs to double-enter the data, added frustration ferreting out data-entry errors, and the store-crippling costs that come from trying to manage with inadequate and/or inaccurate data. The one thing you will gain through the purchase of a generic package is an appreciation of the special benefits offered by furniture-specific software.
In addition to many lesser shortcomings, generic software has two major, fundamental flaws: 1) you cannot adequately describe the furniture pieces and 2) you cannot adequately track merchandise through the entire process of ordering the item, receiving the vendor's acknowledgement of your order, receiving the item, scheduling delivery for the customer, delivering the item, and handling any of the customer's service needs. The ability to adequately describe your merchandise is essential for looking up an item to see of it's in stock, where it's located, when it will be arriving, how well it's been selling, how many you should keep in stock, how long it's been taking to arrive (lead time), and what kind of GMROI (Gross Margin Return on Investment) it's been producing. The ability to adequately track merchandise from start to finish is essential not only for accurate accounting, but also for "must-have" management & marketing reports.
Many generic programs cannot perform accounting for multiple-store operations. Often there is no way to distinguish between a sale that is written and a sale that delivered--thus you are forced to enter a sale only after it has been delivered. Usually there is no way to write a purchase order, receive and invoice for part of the ordered items, match up the costs on the purchase order with the costs on the invoice's, and have the purchase order automatically create the A/P invoice. You end up either duplicating your data entry (which doubles your chances of creating data-entry errors) or not doing the data entry at all until everything is finalized (which eliminates your chances of knowing where you stand at any given moment). Generic software simply cannot handle special orders for upholstery, where a particular sofa might be sold hundreds of time per year but yet no two of the sofas are exactly alike. A true, full-featured furniture-specific software program will allow you to describe each item's manufacturer, department, type, size, shape, grade, pattern, fabric and finish. You need the option of assigning many different fabrics or finishes to a single SKU. And you should be able to identify each piece by the manufacturer's model number, the computer-assigned product number, or your own, private, in-house alternate code. Finally, a furniture-specific software company will have training personnel and telephone/Internet support engineers who actually know the furniture business. You won't have to explain every detail of what you're doing and why to someone who has talked to hardware stores, apparel stores, lumber yards, bakeries, gas stations, attorney's offices and architects--but never a furniture store.
The bottom line is this: the more you look at generic software, the more you will realize the benefits of true, full-featured, furniture,carpet or bed-specific software.