Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

September 12, 2007

More On That Diamond POS System, Including One Retailer’s Reaction

After reading Heidi MacDonald's report from the Retailers' Summit in Baltimore sponsored by Diamond and their presentation of the asserted to be affordable and appealing POS (Point of Sale) system to hundreds of retailers, I wondered after some of the numbers and details. Luckily, a few members of the retail community in attendance had already sent me information, including one who was willing to go on the record with details and commentary: Dustin Harbin from Heroes Aren't Hard to Find.

I was initially interested on how many attended. What I heard back was that it's hard to guess how many attended because of sporadic attendance. A couple of the retailers noted that many of the dealers put a lot of emphasis on getting the offered exclusives. This means a lot of staff and even wives are on hand to increase the ability of taking these home. So while it's not clear on how many accounts any number represents, the people who wrote in seemed to think it was in the mid to upper end of the three-figure estimate given at PWCW.

Information on the POS system being offered by Diamond was a lot easier to come buy and tended to be a lot more specific. Let me present them below in a series of sub-categories.



General Cost of the System

The major of those few writing in thought the cost of the system was manageable.

Dustin Harbin: "The cost of the system is actually extraordinarily affordable. Assuming you buy a completely brand new system (rather than piece, upfitting an existing computer terminal with scanner, cash drawer, etc.) it ranges from approximately $3300-$4500.

"Diamond seems to want to make it as easy as possible for retailers to buy it through them: the terms are 10 percent down, and then payments over 18 months at 0% interest.

"For an outlay of under $5000, I suspect most dealers with largish operations will immediately switch. We certainly are.

"Tech support, after a 90 day intro window, is $50/hour. You can get around this hourly charge by dropping $900/year on a support plan."

The Deluxe Hardware Package

Integrated Touch Screen PC, Cash Drawer, Receipt Printer, Handheld Scanner with Stand, Power Back-Up, Pole Display, Miscellaneous Supplies (Cable, Receipt Paper, etc.) and an External Read/Write DVD Drive. Storeowners save 5% off the price of buying each piece separately.

Basic Hardware Package

Identical to above, except instead of Integrated Touch Screen PC, it has Basic PC Tower and 17" Flat Screen Monitor.

Software Pricing (Separate From Hardware)

* Microsoft RMS Single Store Operations (this is the POS shell): $1190.00
* Microsoft RMS Annual Maintenance Plan--Minimum 1 Year Required: $205.00
* Microsoft RMS Headquarters (separate software for multiple stores: sort of overlords instances of the Single Store software, creating a pretty useful cross-store database): $3000.00
* Microsoft RMS Headquarters Annual Maintenance Plan-- Minimum 1 Year Required: $495.00
* ComicSuite Add-On Module by Diamond (this is the Diamond-specific software they've developed, which comes front-loaded with 6 months of UPCs and Diamond order codes: basically a custom interface on the RMS platform): $395.00
* ComicSuite Annual License Fee--Starting In Second Year: $100.00

Services & Support

* 90 Days Initial Support: FREE!
* Technical Support per Hour: $50.00
* Support Plan A--One Year Unlimited Support Calls: $900.00
* Support Plan B--5-Hour Contract: $200.00
* After-Hours/Holiday Surcharge per call: $50.00
* On-Site Training--per day, plus expenses: $900.00
* Custom Install Charge: Contact Diamond Technical Support For Quote

Dustin Harbin's Initial Verdict and Potential For Use

"The verdict is this: it's pretty cool, mainly in that it ties together a lot of the disparate pieces that retailers like us have handmade over the years. For instance, I have Access databases I created years ago to manage our ordering and inventory, other databases for the in-store subscription system, Excel sheets for special orders, etc. This ties all of it together with a lot of functionality tailored to the comic-store market, including handling things like store credit.

"So if I buy $200 of old Spidey's from you, I can assign your customer ID that credit, and you can use it as you please. Plus the whole UPC/scanner thing is pretty great, except for the many, many items that don't have UPC's, or are individual per copy. We might have six copies of Spider-Man #50 in 6 different grades, thus with six different and highly subjective prices. Or I might have a damaged Acme hardcover that I'm selling for $10, so that's another hand-priced item. But overall the integrated ordering/receiving/purchasing/selling functionality is pretty impressive.

"We don't do much with Ebay, etc., but we do mail-order a lot of supplies and a number of mail order subscriptions. I'd be interested to see how this integrates with retailers who have a large portion of their business in the Ebay/online market."

The Major Caveat

Everyone writing in pointed to the service plan as the greatest potential of snafus, while one person pointing to the service plan and their smaller store's ability to fold in the additional cost or hardware, software and service.

Dustin Harbin: "Diamond has never been impressive on customer service, so hearing that they're 'looking to add' technical support personnel, to meet what will surely be a massive demand, doesn't fill me with confidence. I fully expect that there will be problems with this initial release, and the $50/hour tech support cost hardly soothes these worries."

A couple of areas at the end were all Harbin.

Dustin Harbin on The Most Appealing Factor of the Package

"The carrot is the integration. This system will supposedly handle receiving, inventory, ordering, reordering, special orders, Previews orders, commerce, accounting, time sheets, mailing list etc. All from one terminal -- it's unclear whether you can network with multiple machines (for instance, so we in the office can use the data being collected in the store).

"For a small business this is wildly attractive, just in the payroll we'll save by automating a lot of these processes.

"For instance, there's an automatic function that allows you to set minimums. For instance, we could say that we want to always have two copies of Lone Wolf & Cub #1 on hand all the time--so the system not only notifies you when you fall below this level, it prepares a reorder for you to approve and submit directly to Diamond's online system. This integration with Diamond's somewhat mercurial system is both attractive and worrisome.

Dustin Harbin on The Financing Plan Diamond is Making Available

"The financing plan is a joke -- our weekly Diamond invoice is much more than the cost of even the top shelf system, and zero percent financing over 18 months is a no-brainer. This is one thing Diamond is good at: buying this system through them means the weekly cost just gets added on to our weekly invoice, so it's super easy for us to just forget about it."


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