Cambridge Consulting develops smart cash register for retail

22 March 2016 Consultancy.uk

Cambridge Consulting has developed a digital solution to age old cash register problems through the implementation of advanced algorithms. The technology improves fraud detection as well as counts the money on the shop floor in real-time.

Getting things right behind the till remains an ever important part of running a shop. Yet, businesses still face challenges in and around the till, from staff fraud ‘retail shrinkage’, to the difficulty of telling how much is in the draw. According to the Global Retail Theft Barometer 2014-2015, staff taking coin from the point of sale costs global businesses up to a third of $123.4 billion, while manually counting money is both a time consuming process as well as prone to error.

Innovation has, in recent years, sought to bring a means of accurately counting till money. The technology uses mechanical, weight-sensitive, load cell draws that detect how much money, of specific types, is placed into specially designed sections within the draw. The technology is relatively expensive, bulky, and requires constant calibration.

Cambridge Consulting develops smart cash register for retail

Cambridge Consulting recently brought a new, digital, draw-based money counting offering for retailers, which highlights the continued potential of digital on the shop floor. The technology uses three low-cost load cells to sense the addition or removal of coins – singly or in multiples – and can determine in which section of the drawer coins are deposited. However, unlike the earlier technology, the cells are able to differentiated between two 5p coins and one 10p coin (which are the same weight) falling into the respective sections. This is possible through an algorithm that continually analyses the output from the load cells to determine changes in weight and impacts, as well as providing information on the contents of the cash drawer in real time. Through the digitalisation of the process, retailers have a better overview of how much money is on the shop floor, as well as preventing error and fraud.

“The world-class algorithm and sensing expertise of Cambridge Consultants has helped make our vision of a state-of-the-art, low-cost, counting cash drawer a reality,” says Peter Charij, director of Smart Drawer. “We now have a product that offers retailers high counting accuracy, a small size and a fast return on investment. And, with our integrated software LiveStore, we can offer a complete end-to-end solution with a large number of features wrapped in a secure software package.”

“Our wide-ranging skills in sensing and algorithm development – coupled with our long history of complex systems engineering projects – has enabled us to help Smart Drawer create a truly novel product,” says Nathan Wrench, head of the industrial and energy business at Cambridge Consultants. “The combination of advanced technology and reduced cost also means intelligent cash drawer technology is now within reach of even more retailers.”

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Debenhams administrator handed legal threat from Sports Direct

24 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Earlier in April 2019, the long-suffering high street entity of Debenhams finally collapsed into a pre-pack administration, wiping out equity for shareholders including Sports Direct. Now, Mike Ashley, the controversial owner of Sports Direct, has threatened legal action to remove FTI Consulting from its role as Debenhams’ administrators, following the obliteration of his stock in the company.

As the retail sector in the UK continues to endure a torrid period, British retail stalwart Debenhams endured a spectacular fall from grace. The high street ever-present was founded in the early 19th century, with a single store in London, before expanding to 178 locations across the UK, Ireland and Denmark. However, following a string of profit warnings and several rounds of lay-offs, the company engaged advisors from Big Four firm KPMG to consider its options in the Autumn of 2018.

At the time, Debenhams Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire insisted that the chain was not heading for insolvency, or that it was actively embarking on a company voluntary agreement (CVA). Nevertheless, Debenhams fell into administration in Spring 2019. The news saw Chad Griffin, Simon Kirkhope and Andrew Johnson of FTI Consulting appointed as joint administrators, immediately selling the retailer to a newly incorporated company controlled by secured lenders.

Debenhams administrator handed legal threat from Sports Direct

The pre-pack administration deal meant Debenhams was able to access significant additional funding, preserving 165 of its stores, though plans to close around 50 under-performing stores in the next three to five years remain in place. At the same time, the deal maintained its commercial relationships with suppliers, employees and pension holders. However, it also effectively led all of Debenhams’ previous shareholders – including the retail magnate Mike Ashley – to lose their equity.

Ashley’s Sports Direct firm had increased its stake in the department store chain in 2018, but stopped just short of the 30% stake which would require it to put in a formal offer to fully acquire the business. The transaction fuelled speculation that Ashley was waiting for the opportune time to acquire Debenhams, particularly in the wake of his swoop for House of Fraser. Ashley’s deal there enabled Sports Direct to buy the firm out of administration in a pre-pack deal, allowing the new ownership to controversially wash its hands of the company’s pension scheme in the process.

While some believed this was Ashley’s intent for Debenhams, FTI’s decision to sell the store to its creditors has instead resulted in a sizeable loss for Ashley. The hit of around £150 million from his loss in Debenhams comes after an analysis by The Sunday Telegraph suggested the tycoon had accrued “a sprawling web of stakes” in rival companies, and that he may be nursing losses of more than £500 million.

Bad press

Ashley – who recently lost a complaint ruling by British press regulator Ipso allowing the Times to note that he shared many characteristics with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un – has been outspoken in his contempt for FTI since the news broke of Debenhams’ sale. The Sports Direct CEO has called for the resignation of FTI from its role as administrator, after his stake in the department store chain was wiped out. The Guardian stated that a letter to FTI saw Sports Direct’s lawyers even threaten legal action to remove the advisory firm as administrators because of a conflict of interests.

According to the reports, the document claimed, “[Sports Direct] will do everything available to it to unwind the damage caused to the company and other stakeholders (including large and small shareholders) by the events of today including but not limited to challenging the appointment [of FTI as administrators] and all consequences of it.”

The letter allegedly claims that FTI had been involved with Debenhams since the second week of February, and had engaged with the group’s lenders. The legal team reportedly suggested that this would consistute a conflict of interest, because FTI sold the retailer’s operating companies to the same lenders via a pre-pack administration.

This comes weeks after Sports Direct was itself accused of becoming overly cosy with a professional services firm, which has seen its auditor Grant Thornton placed under scrutiny for its continued role with the firm. In 2018, it was reported that Grant Thornton was set to stand aside from the role due to competition rules. It had held the role since before Sports Direct floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, while Phil Westerman, the Partner at Grant Thornton responsible for signing off Sports Direct's accounts, had himself undertaken the work for five years. 

Neither situation is understood to have changed, leading to the questioning of the independence of Grant Thornton’s auditing work with Sports Direct. Such is the level of bad press surrounding the retailer, that the Big Four of the accounting and advisory world – wary of incurring a new scandal of their own – are said to have ruled out taking the contract over.