Were you annoyed by the piped-in music at the mall while doing your Christmas shopping? Think about this: The same system that brought you those Abba tunes might be processing orders over the Web. Lids Corp. in Westwood, Mass., sellers of baseball caps in malls across the United States, uses a satellite-based music delivery system for its high-speed Web access in 100 locations.
The satellite delivery system for music and video, called Pixnet, is operated by Pixel Systems in Montreal. Scott Hasting, Lids' VP of systems and logistics, began discussions with Pixel earlier this year when store managers became frustrated with the slow dial-up access from PCs in the stores. The PCs let in-store customers go to www.lids.com to order caps that are not available in Lids' tiny 400-to-600 square-foot stores and mall kiosks.
"Our store managers wanted to use the Web access as a selling tool, but the speed was so slow -- 28.8 (Kbps), or maybe 56 if you're lucky," Hastings says. "Our core customer base is 14-to-21 year-old kids; they can't deal with slowness."
Lids couldn't justify the cost of frame relay, fractional T1, or virtual private network access, but found a comfortable price point (which the firm won't disclose) with Pixnet. Now the access speed, from a Compaq iPAQ, is about 650 Kbps. Lids also uses the system for daily polling, the retail industry's term for downloading the day's sales results from point-of-sale systems in each store location to regional managers and sales-trend analysts. "In almost every store," Hastings says, the high-speed access "has exceeded our expectations wildly."