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SPAR UK has radically improved the efficiency of processing EFT card payment transactions across its estate of convenience stores with the implementation of the AIMS-EFT service from supply chain solutions specialist Business Computer Projects Ltd (BCP).
Worldwide, SPAR is the largest international food retail chain with 21,000 stores operating in 31 countries. In the UK it is unrivalled as the leading convenience group with around 2,800 stores and annual retail sales exceeding 2.3 billion. Membership includes both independent retailers and retail groups all of which are serviced by six regional wholesalers and the Harrow-based Central Office.
BCP is one of the UKs top suppliers of specialist Supply Chain solutions to the Food and Drink Wholesale and Retail Distribution industry with key clients including Spar, Morrisons, Woodward Foodservice, BWG, Musgrave, Pets at Home, and Pedigree Foodservice.
Traditionally EFT (Electronic Funds Transactions) payments within the SPAR estate have been handled by overnight polling, using specialised polling software. The main problem with this system is the high failure rate and, for stores using integrated EFT, the need to have a dedicated polling window for transmitting EFT transactions, during which time other store communications/data transfer (sales data, product and price information etc.) can not be undertaken. High failure rates and the need for multiple re-tries exacerbate this problem extending the length of the polling window and further restricting other store communications.
Towards the end of 2003, with a major project underway to implement Chip & PIN compliancy across its estate for the January 2005 deadline, SPAR embarked upon a parallel project to review and improve the efficiency of processing debit and credit card payments.
Following consultations with BCP, SPARs IT solutions partner, BCPs AIMS Internet Messaging Service emerged as the most effective method of handling transactions for the majority of the SPAR retailers.
AIMS - Accord Internet Messaging Service - is BCPs specialised service for high performance communications and data transfer. Utilising the latest Messaging technologies, such as XML and Java, AIMS harnesses the power of the Internet, together with a special communications infrastructure developed by BCP, to provide a fast, reliable, cost effective means of transferring information. Totally secure and flexible, it can automate the transfer of any data, at anytime, anywhere in the world, guaranteeing once and once only delivery.
The AIMS-EFT service allows retailers to dispense with polling for integrated EFT transactions. It uses AIMS to collect store EFT transactions on the AIMS server at BCP for consolidation, processing and transmission to card acquirers such as Streamline. Totally automated and reliable, the system eliminates failures and removes the requirement for a polling window since all transactions are guaranteed successful and transmitted in a matter of seconds. This means other store communications and data transfer can proceed uninterrupted. Robust with high security encryption of data, the service is totally secure and ideally suited for handling sensitive financial data.
In a project spanning 12 months BCP are now processing EFT transactions for over 1,100 SPAR stores. Implementation and roll out were simple since the service requires no special or expensive hardware or software. It was simply deployed remotely as each site was ready to take advantage of the service.
The service is flexible and has been implemented in different ways by different SPAR wholesalers. A hot card file highlighting questionable cards is also downloaded to the stores as part of the service together with confirmation of all funds transferred.
SPAR IT Controller, Roy Ford: The introduction of AIMS has transformed the handling of EFT transactions, significantly improving efficiency. For a small monthly charge retailers can now be confident that all transactions have been properly processed and focus their attentions on other more customer-facing store activities.