EDI for Retail: What It Is and Why You Need It

How Do You Stock Your Store?

Creating and sending orders is a time-consuming, but essential, part of any retail business. Even though we have technology that speeds communication around the globe, many people still dial up their sales rep to do their weekly orders over the phone. It’s nice to talk to a real human, especially someone you’ve been doing business with for years. Unfortunately, ordering over the phone creates a lot of opportunities for miscommunication.

More progressive retailers have embraced newer technology (much of it popularized in the 1970’s) by typing orders into a computer, printing it out, and faxing it to their supplier. Email will sometimes take the place of the printer and fax machine. This is faster, but it still takes a long time to create the order and produces multiple opportunities to transpose numbers, order wrong items or incorrect quantities, etc.

Depending on the supplier, some retailers order through a “dealers only” area of their supplier’s website. This method requires searching through hundreds or thousands of products to order the items they need.

No matter which method is used, the people doing the work are paid for their time, patience, and attention to detail. Adding those wages into the equation magnifies how expensive and time-consuming these methods are.

There Has GOT to Be a Better Way!

It is possible to bypass the hours it takes to create and receive your orders. A point of sale system equipped with EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) sends your order directly from your point of sale system to your supplier’s computer. Once you enter the quantities of the products you need and hit the “send” button, EDI for retail does the rest. This is a system many Paladin Point of Sale users have come to depend for over 30 years to keep their hardware store shelves stocked.


EDI reduces the time it takes to put together an order by eliminating most of the steps. The amount of time spent creating a single order is reduced from several hours to less than one. If you order twice a week, how much time would you save?

Lowered Expenses

If you’re entering information into your computer so you can print and fax your order, EDI dramatically reduces wear and tear on your office machines. You’ll be buying a lot less toner and paper. With fewer paper documents, you’ll also have fewer costs related to storage and filing.

Greater Accuracy

When you order through EDI, part numbers and related item info in point of sale is used to create your order. This dramatically reduces the possibility of missing or transposed numbers or letters, and other errors caused by even the most careful humans. Your staff won’t have to wrestle with suppliers over shipments that were filled or ordered incorrectly.

Higher Efficiency

Thanks to EDI for retail, employees who used to spend hours creating orders are now available for higher value tasks, like improving customer service or keeping your inventory counts correct.

EDI shortens the fulfillment process for your supplier, too. Without all that paper to deal with, the items you order will be on their way to you sooner. Shortening the entire ordering process results in fewer out-of-stock situations and canceled orders.

Now that order processing and delivery times are reduced, sellers can lower inventory levels, improve cash flow, and turn merchandise faster.

Better for Business

It’s easier to make decisions when you have good information about the status of your orders. EDI for retail makes you more agile and better able to respond to customer needs or changes in your market. This flexibility opens the door to adopting a more proactive, market-driven business model.

Benefits Beyond Ordering

Once your order shows up at your door, you need to receive it. Time to figure out which items have been shipped to you and which ones haven’t. Crack open those boxes, count each item, and see if the number of items in each box matches the packing slip that came in the box, then match the packing slips to the original purchase order to figure out if the supplier missed anything and determine if some of your items were back ordered. Once you’ve figured out what was actually in your shipment, it’s time to hunker down, grab a cup of coffee and manually update all your inventory quantities for each item received. Good times!

(Oh, by the way, did you notice any price changes when you received this order? More on that a little later.)

Retailers who use EDI will receive an electronic document from their supplier when their order leaves the warehouse. This document shows which items are on their way to you. When the shipment arrives, this document is used to automatically update inventory counts in your point of sale system. You can spot check if you want, but it’s likely all you really need to do is get this stuff on the shelf.

Maintenance Files

“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus

Who would have thought a Greek philosopher walking around in 500 BC would know so much about retail?

Prices are always changing. As a rule, they only go in one direction. Knowing when they change, and by how much, has a direct influence your profits. Continually comparing your current costs against the amount your supplier is charging is tedious, time-consuming, and totally impractical.
Suppliers who support EDI for retail will periodically send a maintenance file to your point of sale system to keep your information current. Maintenance files contain updated information about price changes and product descriptions, along with updates to several other categories. A single click revises each category in seconds.

EDI for Retail Just Makes Sense

A point of sale system with EDI capability will save you money by reducing the number of steps, the time, and the number of people involved in the ordering process. EDI reduces human error to improve accuracy and efficiency. The time it takes to receive a shipment of merchandise is shortened by eliminating most of the paperwork and by updating stock totals automatically. To keep you on the right track, your supplier can update purchase prices in your point of sale system, allowing you to maintain your margins and remain profitable while saving you even more time, effort, and money.

George Maginnis