Limited Brands’ color signature capture device.

Land speed records were shattered when Limited Brands and Tractor Supply turned to standard-request-for-proposal templates before investing in new technology.<BR><BR>Preparing an RFP document for a point-of-sale project, a process that typically...

Land speed records were shattered when Limited Brands and Tractor Supply turned to standard-request-for-proposal templates before investing in new technology.

Preparing an RFP document for a point-of-sale project, a process that typically consumes six months or more,

took the $1.7 billion Tractor Supply just two weeks’ time. The process was dramatically accelerated — and untold sums saved — because the retailer got a head start, using an industry standard proposal and then customizing the language to address needs specific to its business.

The standard-request-for-proposal document for point-of-sale technology was developed by the National Retail Federation’s Association for Retail Technology Standards. The ARTS group plans to make available a standard request for proposal document for warehouse management technology next month, to be followed by another standard RFP for merchandise and price optimization technology in May.

“I am not going to guess how long it would have taken us to develop an RFP from scratch,” said Sanjay Zachariah, director of retail systems for the 520-store farming supplies retailer. Other retailers said costs to prepare a point-of-sale RFP can easily exceed $100,000 once internal resources and consultant fees are tallied.

Zachariah said using the standard RFP document not only shortened preparation time, but vendors were able to respond promptly because the proposal outlined technology requirements in a comprehensive and clear manner. Tractor Supply has not yet selected its point-of-sale technology vendor but expects to do so sometime next month, he said.

Point-of-sale projects look poised for an upsurge with 57 percent of retailers planning to replace or upgrade their technology in the next year, according to estimates from NRF and Bearingpoint.

“Building an RFP is like building a playing field where vendors will compete” to win the business, said Brad Dickinson, a senior programmer-analyst for Limited Brands Technology Services. He said it’s important for the playing field to be level so that technology vendor proposals can be objectively compared and evaluated.

Limited Brands used standard RFP templates to gather vendor bids in two areas, one for workforce management technology and another for signature capture technology-debit used for electronic payments processing.

“We modified them and added our own requirements, but having that basis to start from allowed us to focus on what was important: functionality and quality,” Dickinson said. The RFP development process took just two weeks, he said, an impossible timetable to meet had Limited not had standard templates from which to work.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“I would love to show you a slide that says we saved X dollars by completing the RFP early,” he said, without delivering on that expectation. “I think there is a number there on what we saved.”

Darrell Riekena, director, store systems, Limited Brands Technology Services, said a fair amount of modification to the RFP was necessary, but without a standard template to start from the process easily would have taken two to three times longer.

For its workforce management project, which includes automated labor scheduling and time-and-attendance software, the $9 billion Limited Brands chose technology from Workbrain; for its signature capture project, Symbol Technologies offered the winning bid.

The ARTS RFP committee, which is chaired by Ann McCool, RadioShack’s senior director, sales channel application services, developed all the RFP documents. A fourth standard RFP available covers point-of-sale exception reporting technology for loss prevention, said Dick Mader, executive director of ARTS. The RFPs are free to NRF members and available to nonmembers for $5,000 apiece.