POS System Boosts Wine Sales, Spirits

By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2005-03-28

POS System Boosts Wine Sales, Spirits

Improving with age like a fine Cabernet or Merlot, wine merchant Sherry-Lehmann Inc. stays one step ahead of growing customer online and in-store demand largely by ensuring that its data backup technology can withstand the rigors of the end-of-year holiday-buying whirlwind.

Since 1934, Sherry-Lehmann has served generations of customers from its Madison Avenue storefront in New York.

It has built its reputation on quick delivery times and on making the wine purchase as far-reaching and flawless as possible. Naturally, the wine retailer designed its IT systems with the same type of bulletproof mentality in terms of storing, accessing and archiving data.

"My peace of mind is built on the fact that every day Im notified that my backup was successful—its part of what lets me sleep every night," said Shyda Gilmer, managing director at Sherry-Lehmann. "If its not, I know what percentage was successful and whats being done about it. That allows me to focus on being a great wine merchant and selling wine."

To help the entire management team sleep better at night, the company sought to unify and manage clientele data, along with streams of transactions involving 7,000 retail items sent across the companys Web site; retail-store floor; upstairs central office; and 65,000-square-foot Brooklyn, N.Y., warehouse, where inventory is packed and shipped.

To accomplish the task, Gilmer said Sherry-Lehmann set out to construct a POS (point of sale) system capable of dealing with the companys hardest task—handling the approximately 36 percent of its overall yearly business that occurs during the hectic six-week holiday-season stretch.

"Our store is absolutely flooded, and we dont have time to catch up. We value every one of those days," said Gilmer. "During that crunch time of the holiday season, our Web site, our phone banks [and] the store are all going at full speed with data thats constantly backed up and reused."

In fact, Sherry-Lehmann hires 100 more employees during the six-week holiday window to address massive in-store customer demand for wine purchases.

As a mark of its recent success, over a three-year span, Sherry-Lehmann has seen its profits rise from $30 million to more than $45 million last year. Sales from the companys Web site, introduced in early 2002, account for 25 percent of its revenues. System flexibility and the ability to safely copy and lock away data proved crucial for the wine company to sustain growth well into the 21st century.

Said Gilmer: "We had to devise an IT infrastructure that needed to be built for those six weeks, even though you would use it 365 days a year. ... It had to be something to allow us to be constantly upgraded and reach for new business without having any loss of business and enough redundancy and backups in place to have no downtime for more than one day."

Next page: Keeping sales brisk with a POS system.

Keeping Sales Brisk With

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Sherry-Lehmanns POS architecture, which runs on a Microsoft Corp. SQL Server 2000 and 2003 database backbone, has been in place for nearly two years. The system was constructed with close assistance from The Lloyd Group Inc., a systems integrator and professional services provider that handles all the wine retailers on-site help desk, patching, remote support, backup and monitoring operations, said Yuval Meron, operational accounts manager for The Lloyd Group, also based in New York.

Other servers in deployment for the retail vendor running SQL Server include one that features all inventory stored in the Brooklyn warehouse and one running Microsoft Great Plains software for accounting and financial duties.

Sherry-Lehmanns POS interfaces directly with shipping and delivery applications from FedEx Corp. and DHL Express. But the key component enabling Sherry-Lehmanns comfort level with bolstered data-integrity assurance is Veritas Software Corp.s Backup Exec product.

"For Sherry-Lehmann, that was all very crucial stuff. Even before they put in their POS, they were using [Microsofts] Exchange, and they needed to back up their e-mail boxes—that was critical to them," said Meron. In addition, The Lloyd Group centralized backup management for the wine merchant by reducing the number of servers with separate tape drives running Backup Exec to a single tape drive instance of the software.

The Lloyd Group is examining a variety of projects to help prepare the wine merchant for disaster recovery based on an off-site set of servers ticketed to deploy Veritas replication software technology.

According to Meron, Sherry-Lehmanns willingness to enable its backup system and data management capabilities to serve all its customers with the same focused effort level is the perfect tonic to keep sales brisk within the fast-paced sales arena.

"Their business grows so much, and theyve adapted to technologies very quickly, and I think theyve benefited greatly from it," said Meron. "With the Internet and doing their orders online, I cant imagine what they did before that, considering how much business they do."

Sherry-Lehmanns 7,000-item wine inventory originates in many countries around the world. The bottles are sent to the wine vendor in a host of packages—from solid wood to cases to pallets—and are often shipped to a customer less than an hour after a sale.

From a database standpoint, Gilmer said that Sherry-Lehmann is learning how to better gather and protect customer data. That, in turn, will allow the wine merchant to use that data in everything from purchase strategies and inventory screen improvements to better preparing its 125-page catalog, which is distributed five times per year.

"We deliver the same day in New York, so its not a surprise to get an order on our Web site at 11 a.m. for a case of champagne for a 5 p.m. party in downtown Manhattan," said Gilmer. "Our customers are built on expectation, and theres experience built on the fact they know were going to get it there. You cant be busy worrying about backups or data protection."

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