After more than 35 years in the business, Advanced Retail Management Systems (ARMS) continues to combine innovative software development with business expertise to help jewellery retailers reach success worldwide.
By Rob Shaw
ARMS was founded in 1980 in New Zealand by its current Director of Global Operations, Malcolm Alderton, who saw the potential of using technology to gain better control of his own inventory and therefore increase sales and profit. “Owning a jewellery store myself, I understood the frustrations of being time-poor from having to work all day, then manually analyse what was working in my store and what wasn’t. I knew there had to be a better way,“ said Alderton.
Because he understood the difficulties retailers face, Alderton designed the software with ease-of-use foremost in his mind. “A computer system is supposed to save you time and therefore money,” he said, “so this is what we focused on in developing the software.” This first product created and sold in 1980 by ARMS was an inventory management system that over time evolved to become Supergem.
“Supergem is the heartbeat of our modular system, and originally was designed for my own business use only,” said Alderton. However, colleagues in the retail jewellery industry quickly noticed the results he was achieving with his software and wanted to use it in their stores, so the business was born.
Today ARMS caters to all levels of businesses, both retail and wholesale. “We have clients that range from single-store operations turning over three quarters of a million dollars of inventory to multi-store operations taking in more than $50 million,” said Alderton.
Every business has its challenges and the first one faced by the company was coming to the realisation that theory and practice were two different things. This resulted in the original software eventually needing to be rewritten based on practical use. According to Alderton, “The business was immediately successful because the management analytics reporting incorporated into the software was something no one else was doing.”
The software update allowed jewellers to take a clear look at what was happening in their business and make changes to increase profitability. It was this feature that was so far advanced than any other software—and still is—that created a global market for ARMS. “Our first move internationally was to open an office in Australia, followed by GIA sponsoring us into the US market with a GIA ARMS partnership which was a big success,” said Alderton.
Like many others in the business, Alderton first worked in his family’s jewellery store, learning the industry from his parents, so it became a business he loved from a young age. “My passion now is helping other jewellery retailers to grow their business to maximise profits and the lifestyle rewards that success can give them,” said Alderton.
ARMS’s management analytics reporting software is one product that still stands out from its competitors. Analysis has always been a major focus for Alderton because he is a firm believer that, “you can’t improve on what you can’t measure.”
Having easily accessible, real-time information about a business is vital to success. “The logic the software applies means you can easily access pertinent, instant reports on all aspects of your store to allow you to make relevant, timely decisions for better management of your business,” he said.
“It is a shame that we see so many 2nd and 3rd generation independents closing their doors because they have not adapted to current management requirements. We are living in a fast-changing retail environment and not adapting results in an increasing amount of old inventory choking the business,” said Alderton. “The bottom line is you can’t have money sitting in the bank and gathering dust on your shelves at the same time.”
ARMS has always looked for ways to utilise technology to make life easier for jewellery retailers. ARMS iQ is one program that gives jewellers the ability to access their vital management reporting from anywhere in the world on any device that has internet connectivity, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers. “You can easily and immediately see in a clear graphical display, vendor performance, salesperson performance and department performance, compared month-by-month over the past five years.” said Alderton. “This is super powerful.”
ARMS has a long history of innovation when introducing new software. Over the years Alderton has had an uncanny ability to predict what will be “the next big thing” in jewellery retail. His insight allows new developments to be programmed into the ARMS system before the competition catches on. “We have a commitment to constantly evolve our software to keep up with the latest technology available so our customers have an edge over their competitors.”
Technology aside, one of ARMS’ stand-out features is the personalised business approach that attracts clients around the globe—their philosophy of “People Matter!” is a key principle of the business. Alderton takes pride in calling his software company the lowest tech high-tech company you will come across. “While we are a cutting-edge technology company, our primary focus has always been people,” said Alderton. “Unlike most companies these days which have a robotic answering system to direct your call—after you have been on hold for 15 minutes, when you call ARMS a person answers the phone. That is the way it has always been because our clients are not just a number,” he said.
Customer service is extremely important at ARMS. “The first step to any new customer joining the ARMS family is we assign an installation manager to hold their hand and guide them through the whole process,” said Alderton. “Our aim is to have the ARMS system up and running with little disruption to their business, so it is vital the customer has a go-to person that keeps the lines of communication open and can answer all their questions. It is the start of the super service our customers can expect from ARMS,” he said.
The benefits for customers of ARMS have been measurable for more than 35 years, during which time the company’s technology has helped thousands of jewellers reach their full business potential. “The vast majority of our clients have grown their business substantially simply by using the ARMS system,” said Alderton. “This has resulted in an increased quantity of sales, higher average sales, less discounting and smarter purchasing from vendors to increase profits and lifestyle rewards for the owner of the business.”
ARMS provides professional technical support for their hardware and software, and they also offer management training which focuses on helping create the best possible business decisions to maximise profit. “We help our clients accelerate the growth of their business by implementing better inventory management policies, analysing sales and tracking supplier performance.” said Alderton. “Better business decisions mean more money in the bank which is vital when retailers are competing with so many other others, including the internet for the consumer dollar,” he said.
It is this “One-Stop Shop” way of doing business, encompassing easy-to-use software, friendly technical support and professional management advice that has made ARMS unique in its field of competitors, and so popular with their clients.
Alderton recognizes there are challenges in being a leader in the field. “The main challenge in offering new technology to an old school market is changing ingrained, and sometimes generational management practices that are no longer sufficient for current business conditions.”
Like any other business, the jewellery trade is ever-evolving, a concept not lost on Alderton. “A recent trend we are seeing in the jewellery industry includes the prominent use of iPads or tablets as a Point of Sale on the sales floor to create a ‘wow’ factor,” said Alderton. “This type of POS helps the salesperson build a stronger relationship with a customer because he or she can look up the customer history to suggest items that complement previous purchases, as well as access details from suppliers on a piece of jewellery the customer may want but isn’t in the store. The important part of this is that the salesperson can do it all right by their side without leaving the customer on the salesfloor.”
When asked about what we can see coming from ARMS in the near future, Alderton is a tad less forthcoming. “We have a number of other exciting and innovative projects in the works but in keeping with our philosophy of staying ahead of our competitors, we don’t discuss concepts or release ideas for new products until they are ready to go live,” said Alderton.
ARMS has grown to include offices in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and along the way has increased the size of their team considerably. New staff members are chosen-in house by a panel of key team members to select people who are not only technically outstanding, but who also have the people skills to communicate and relate well to ARMS’s clients.
This attention to their own people and their customer base has been a primary goal for ARMS and it shows. They have become a worldwide success story in the jewellery business, but software aside, Alderton believes that in the end it all comes back to the ARMS number one philosophy— “People Matter!”