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July 9, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

Nowhere has ICL’s 1976 acquisition of Singer Business Machines paid off more triumphantly than in the retail point-of-sale area. When ICL acquired Singer, its point-of-sale business was in disarray after it had bought an enormous contract from Sears Roebuck in the US, and was losing an arm and a leg filling it. The US operations were excluded from the ICL purchase, and Singer’s success with point-of-sale terminals outside the US was patchy at best. For a short time, ICL flirted with abandoning the business, but, all-too-well aware that its biggest commercial customers for mainframes were in Britain’s high streets, soon decided to plough on with point-of-sale technology in the hope that there might be a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow after next. At the time, that was quite a brave decision, because electronic cash register and point-of-sale terminal makers were falling like flies – Gross in Brighton, Anka in Germany – while Sweda in the US and Sweden was one of Litton Industries’ biggest headaches. But ICL’s gamble has paid off handsomely, and where, as a report from the company quoted in the Daily Telegraph suggests, only one in five major retailers had electronic cash registers capable of handling cashless transactions installed at the beginning of this year, a very large proportion of the ones that are in come from ICL. (Most of ICL’s point-of-sale terminal models are actually made to the company’s specification by Fujitsu in Japan, but we needn’t make too much of that). By 1993, ICL forecasts that four in five major retailers will have equipment capable of handling cashless transactions installed – and is confident of retaining and even increasing its market share. Only France of the major European markets is moving faster down the cashless shopping route, which suggests that ICL’s UK experience will enable it to win a growing share of the business on the continent in the 1990s, by which time it reckons that there will be more than 400,000 computerised tills installed in the UK.

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