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Shopkeeper Solutions CC

The Birthplace and Home of The Shopkeeper

Our Mission

Shopkeeper Solutions have, since 1986, provided jewellers with unparalleled support for their business.  We intend to keep adding value so as to survive and prosper together with our customers.  We have expanded our offices so as to be able to provide an even better service

Based in Port Elizabeth, Shopkeeper Solutions cc is not more than 1 hour 45 minutes (by 'plane) or 1045km (by road) from all major South African cities. But more importantly, accessable instantly via Internet. 

How The Jewellery Shopkeeper started

The company, originally with the name Semiconductor Control Systems (Pty) Ltd, was founded in 1966 by Norman Perelson, who, with an aptitude for designing electronic circuits, specialised in the design and manufacture of electronic controls for industry. Having discovered computer programming already in 1966, it was only in the late seventies that computers became affordable for small businesses. Between 1977 and 1980 the business speciality changed to microcomputers. Norman wrote a number of successful microcomputer programs between 1977 & 1982, in fields ranging from accounting to property listing. "We sold and supported several American and South African accounting packages. Each had their limitations and bugs, and much of my time was spent fixing bugs and recovering data" says Norman. This encouraged Norman to develop a totally new accounting package from scratch. The release of dBase II in 1982 enabled powerful features to be designed without the critical decision being whether to design for Apple, IBM PC or CP/M operating systems. In fact, the early design work was done on a Sharp 3201 running CP/M.

Philosophy and development of The Shopkeeper

Norman is a perfectionist who believes that computers must help people, and must never introduce troubles of their own.  The resulting program was first called "Bookkeeper" but later changed to "Shopkeeper" because it did so much more than "keep the books".

By 1986 The Shopkeeper was in use by a few companies in Port Elizabeth and its potential as a viable alternative to other packages on the market was very obvious.

Negotiations with a jewellery shop next door to our computer shop, made Norman aware of some of the if unique problems that jewellers experience. It was obvious that no stock control or accounting program on the market could provide an answer to such problems as miniature labels, diamond carat weight, gold grams, long descriptions, ad-valorum duty, detailed information on when each item was bought, sold, price obtained, customer etc, while at the same time, being easy use. Data had to be accumulated automatically or else it would hardly make a computer worthwhile because manual stock cards would do most off that already.

After weeks of consultations with two of Port Elizabeth most progressive and successful jewellers, a specification was drawn up and Norman was commissioned to write the programme.

Because a the large number of unique requirements, programming of The Jewellery Shopkeeper, as it immediately was named, was started from scratch, using the clipper compiler which at that time had only just been developed into a stable language. The first part of the programme was delivered in July 1987. Only ideas and small segments of code were used from the original Shopkeeper. The full specification was implemented by February 1988. Development work continues to this day.

1991 saw the introduction of Vat. Norman took up the challenge and decided that rather than just "patch" The Jewellery Shopkeeper to meet the VAT requirements, he redesigned all affected parts of the program so as to be adaptable to both GST and VAT with tax either included in the price, or added on at the time of sale, with the ability to define selected customers as VAT excluded (add-on or exempt/export), as well as providing for, and keeping tally of, six different VAT rates. VAT rates are all pre-coded into the system so that the selecting of the correct VAT code is fully automatic. Simple yet detailed reports can be viewed that check or prove that both input and output taxes have been calculated correctly.

The introduction of VAT also forced a major upgrade of the original Shopkeeper which was in use by a few local businesses including Computer Park, as Shopkeeper Solutions was known at the time. The Shopkeeper, later renamed The Business Shopkeeper, continues to be upgraded on a regular basis keeping up with the accounting features of The Jewellery Shopkeeper and differing only in the inventory control functions. The Business Shopkeeper is one of Norman’s best kept secrets! The program has tremendous potential for numerous businesses but is not being promoted due to Norman’s decision to concentrate on the Jewellery business.

One of the most important benefits of computerising a business is the potential for accumulating, analysing, and searching all business data. It gives the user, in effect, total recall. This used to be a feature that gave a business a competitive advantage but today most businesses already have computers and this infallible memory is expected by customers. The Jewellery Shopkeeper goes one step better by keeping up to 50 years of detailed accumulated data on line, and most of this data is collected automatically (your sales staff are doing your data collection in the course of normal operations). As a user the only regret will be that you did not start using the system earlier!

Reflection

"Looking back at the early days of the program, it was not easy. Computers had limited disk space, were slow and less reliable, than now. Networking was expensive and even less reliable. Now everything is much better." Says Norman.

Details of all program developments since 1991 were recorded and can be seen here.

In 1997 the company was converted to a Close Corporation and at the same time the name was changed to Shopkeeper Solutions.

The Jewellery Shopkeeper is now compiled for four different operating systems - 16-bit DOS (which also runs under Windows), 32-bit Windows-only, SCO Unix and Linux. However, SCO Unix was finally abandoned in favour of Linux in the year 2000, and the 16-bit Clipper version saw its last update in January 2011. At present the 32-bit Windows version is only being maintained for existing users who have not yet migrated to the Linux or cloud-based version.

Future plans for The Jewellery Shopkeeper

Many programs of the past have become obsolete. They have been replaced by newer programs and forgotten. The reason for that is usually that the newer program is better, but often good programs are abandoned by their creators who have moved on to more exciting or greener pastures and allowed the old programs to become obsolete. By doggedly resisting the call to bring out a "Windows" version, Norman has been able to constantly improve the 16-bit version. Recent developments in programming languages has enabled a hybrid version of The Jewellery Shopkeeper which allows the use of the advanced features of the Windows operating system while keeping the familiar text user interface. "There is a temptation to make big changes to the user interface but a simple design philosophy controls that. The design rules that I observe are as follows:

Now with broadband Internet becoming affordable, the Linux version of The Shopkeeper has become a very attractive solution in terms of performance, reliability and ease of support. The use, where possible, of Open-Source Software is not only making the system more affordable, but also ensures continuity of availability and updates.

However, the need to provide the best possible support and development at an affordable price has forced us to abandon development of versions that are either obsolete due to advancement of computer, or have inherently poorer performance. SCO Unix was finally abandoned in favour of Linux in the year 2000, and the 16-bit Clipper version saw its last update in January 2011. At present the 32-bit Windows version is only being maintained for existing users who have not yet migrated to the Linux or cloud-based version.

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