Over the next six months, Joseph-Beth Booksellers plans to install a new software system to speed up customer checkouts, better track inventory and more rapidly fulfill online sales.
It's one of the upgrades that chief executive Mark Wilson had said couldn't be implemented in the past because of the company's "burden of debt." But since exiting bankruptcy protection earlier this year, the purchase shows "we're alive and well and we're investing," he said Tuesday.
The software, Jesta I.S. Vision Suite Solutions, will allow customers and employees to check inventory in real time, "so they'll know whether or not we have the book," Wilson said.
By contrast, the existing software for the chain, which also has stores in Cincinnati and Cleveland, dates to 1985.
Wilson said the new software will speed up checking out in person and "will be an opportunity for us to finally expand our selling beyond the bricks-and-mortar locations."
Joseph-Beth has offered online sales before, but all sales are processed using paper, with employees researching the availability of each book. With the new software, items can easily be set aside for customers to pick up at the store or for employees to ship to customers' homes. If Joseph-Beth doesn't have the title in stock, the order can be placed and will be fulfilled by the company's suppliers, Wilson said.
The company's stores also will have a more concise selection of books, because "we'll know what's selling and not selling," he said.
Another feature is that customers will be able to use the company's Gives Back rewards program at any store in the chain.
The software is expected to be installed by March, with the most intensive parts of the upgrade coming early next year.
"There will be no interruption whatsoever during our holiday season," Wilson said.