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The Digicam Fax: Enabling Charity Shopping on the Internet

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Diginomics, Apr 20, 2004.

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  1. Diginomics

    Diginomics Guest

    Hi. Any ideas or comments on how much the digicam-fax machine outlined
    in the article beneath would cost to be mass produced? PS. Charity
    shops in the UK are equivalent to USA thrift shops but are organised
    as national retail chains with standardised operating procedures.

    The Digicam Fax: Enabling Charity Shopping on the Internet

    Charity shops have a unique demand and supply profile similar to fine
    art as goods are not mass produced and hence often only available as
    unique items. Therefore there exists a physical-virtual conflict when
    attempting to sell such unique items in two places at once: on the
    Internet and on the shop-floor. This is a technique to overcome this
    and introduce e-commerce into the charity shop retail sector. It aims
    to widen consumer choice and more importantly for charities aims to
    maximize potential revenues from massive price mark-ups on unique
    labels or trademarks through central co-ordination of locally selected
    items. The same techniques could be applied to branches of chains
    where remnants of stock are held (maybe the end of a fashion line).

    To begin with, from the buying public's point of view, purchasing
    hours through the Internet are restricted to between the hours from 6
    in the evening until 8 in the morning or what may come to be called
    the "Bargain Shopping Hours" or BSH. The charities e-commerce website
    during normal shop-floor opening hours is closed for purchase although
    still open for browsing. This is essential to overcome the
    physical-virtual conflict. Purchase on the Internet, as said always
    done out of shop-floor opening hours, is generally done through a
    prepaid scratch card and the amount deducted is a only the
    non-refundable deposit to secure the item. Probably a percentage (say
    10%) of the total cost. Particularly in the case of charity shops this
    charge is for the Reservation and Movement (R & M) of the chosen
    items. The goods will often be imperfect so physical inspection on
    site is required before the remaining balance is paid. It is not
    intended that any good is home delivered, only that they be moved
    around a national network for inspection for a small charge to the
    nearest convenient high street branch of that particular charity.
    Charities may need to improve their logistical supply chain to
    encompass this even perhaps pooling clothes rail transport with rival
    charity shops.

    Central to the success of the design is a new invention. The "digicam"
    fax is a unique machine designed to enable back-room shop staff to
    carefully select a few items (say 4-5) on a daily basis to be imaged
    and registered with head-office without the intrusion of a keyboard on
    their work duties. Hence the device consists of a separate digital
    camera that plugs directly into the digicam fax. This device acts like
    a fax in sending paper but also uploads maybe several photos of the
    chosen items. Since normal digital cameras allocate unique identity
    numbers to photographs, the staff include on written paper with the
    photo transmissions these unique identities against other written
    basic details such as: label or trademark, size, gender and condition.
    Thus there is no keyboard with the digicam fax but is essentially a
    machine with normal fax controls to limit training needs and relies on
    pen power for further detailing. Head-office thus collects information
    from all branches, inputting by hand (typist volunteers) the extra
    faxed data and creating a database out of the pictures.

    Stock movement on the charity shop floor requires a regular (perhaps
    daily) movement of a display rail out and in. The rail coming in holds
    the Internet reservation items that have come from all around the
    country through an intervening sorting depot and await inspection. The
    rail going out must go on first to the intervening sorting depot for
    rail hanging according to geographic destinations. Items that have
    been digitally photographed and placed on the Internet are still
    available for purchase on the local shop floor during the day. Hence
    reservation from the database can only be done during the BSH, or
    Bargain Shopping Hours (6 to 8) to avoid conflict between the physical
    and virtual buyers. The specially chosen goods for Internet
    reservation may command higher prices of between 200 to 300% depending
    on label and collector's tastes. They are also marked with special
    pricing tickets while on the shop floor with such as things as "As
    Seen On the Internet". This will increase not only product want but
    make their removal from the shop floor easier in the morning before
    the doors open if they have been reserved on the Internet during the
    night. A morning fax or email alerts staff to this.

    The baseball cap is an appropriate item to consider being sold on the
    Internet for a charity shop chain using such a system. The student or
    lower income shopper not possessing a credit card has already seen
    from the national database using a free library Internet connection
    that there appear from time to time quite rare baseball caps for sale.
    He visits his local charity shop but finds nothing unique but decides
    to purchase from the counter a £5 reservation scratch-off card. One
    week later he spots a desirable label for £15 on the Internet and uses
    £3s of the scratch-off card value to reserve it. 5 days later he gets
    an automatic email to tell him the item has arrived at his local
    branch for his inspection. A few days later he gets a moment to go in
    to the shop and happy with the condition, despite a small blemish, he
    decides to pay the remaining £12s. The cap had been moved halfway
    across the country but rather than be sold for £5s the cap was sold
    for £15. Thus a very reasonable 200% increase mark-up on what it would
    have fetched without Internet e-commerce. If the cap had been rejected
    as too imperfect, the charity would still have made a small profit by
    keeping the £3 already paid up for R & M (Reservation and Movement).
    Project First Cup inventions development program supports the frank
    exchange of ideas, concepts and prototypes likely to lead to
    commercial success. Project First Cup requests acknowledgement as
    first source when things succeed.
    Please visit to discuss this invention and
  2. Dave Cole

    Dave Cole Guest

    Sounds like an excellent demonstration of bureaucracy run amok...too much
    solution chasing not enough (or nonexistant) problem.

    Cameras exist; scanners exist; fax software exists. Most are cheaply
    available. Why reinvent the wheel? :)
    And what's the deal with moving low-value stuff around the country?
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