American tourists who come to Iceland typically come for the spectacular scenery and Reykjavik nightlife, but if you’re in LBM and travel to the island, add a visit to BYKO to your itinerary. BYKO is a home center chain with a color scheme like Lowe’s, price claims like WalMart, and something extra you won’t see in any dealer anywhere in the U.S.: high-tech shelf tags.

Petite but power-packed, these tags display up-to-the-second pricing information delivered from the central computer by infrared frequency. If a competitor launches a sale, you can change your prices on thousands of labels in minutes. If you want to run a Ladies’ Night for Christmas season with special prices between 6 and 9 p.m., the labels will switch for just those hours.

“This kind of solution should have been a standard a long time ago and probably will be in a few years,” Gretar Thorsteinsson, CEO of Edico, BYKO's technology partner and supplier of the shelf labels, wrote in an email to ProSales. “The stability is very good and the savings are obvious.” Among those savings: Less time spent relabeling shelves, the ability to have back-office information available on the tickets (useful during inventories), and the ability to change prices more often. Accuracy is another benefit; by some estimates, as many as 6% to 8% of a store’s shelf prices typically are out of date.

BYKO’s electronic shelf labels (ESLs) are made by a Swedish company called Pricer AB that claims to have 100 million of its ESLs at 8,500 stores in 51 countries. The U.S. is one of those 51, but currently it can be seen in just a few places: a couple of hundred stores selling cellular goods, 180 military commissaries, and some states’ liquor stores. The closest equivalent to a building supply store is a fairly new installation at the three-unit Nebraska Furniture Mart.

There are competitors to Pricer, but they aren’t in lumberyards either. The most notable of them is from Altierre, a California–based company whose products have begun showing up in the Kohl’s chain. Canby (Ore.) Builders Supply tested the ESLs several years ago, but ultimately removed them because the communications technology proved impractical.

ESLs’ cost varies dramatically, says Wayne Perry, co-owner of MarginMate, an Austin, Texas–based distributor of the Pricer line. The up-front investment can be steep; Perry says that small quantities of the traditional LED-style tag cost about $4.75, while tags that look like a Kindle reader page cost from $14 to $160.

Perry believes the return on investment in the U.S. can be enormous as well. But, he says, “a large number of people don’t understand how much time and money they spend on paper labels. ... How can you do an ROI if you don’t know your costs?”—Craig Webb