For a visitor attraction steeped in the age of steam Bressingham Steam Museum has come a long way since working with Merlinsoft on integrating its ticketing systems.

Its point of sale operations in the gift shop have grown in demand and technology has been introduced to include and incorporate on-line sales and the museum has also added the option of Gift Aid. Merlinsoft has provided an integrated retail manager and point of sale system, giving total control of admissions and sales operations from a single solution. Included in this is full stock control and account functionality, customisable, easy-to-use EPOS options and a powerful suite of back office utilities to keep an eye on exactly how retail operations are performing.

But as the museum’s general manager Alastair Baker says without the visitors the attraction is nothing and the area surrounding admissions has also met with its own technology makeover.

Merlin’s integrated barrier control has linked been linked to a point of sale system which can keep track of retail sales. In addition, the installation of an affordable, automated solution allows the skills of employees who were previously required to staff access control stations to be put to better use elsewhere in the business.

Using a barrier in conjunction with an admissions terminal provides accurate information regarding exact visitor numbers you have had associated revenue using powerful built-in reporting features. In locations where barriers are already installed, Merlin can work with existing hardware to provide the same full-integrated level of functionality, without any additional hassle or stress.

Membership cards, for example have been promoted heavily at Bessingham and carry a barcode, allowing each visit to the attraction to be captured and stored so that visitor numbers can be tracked and assessed from day-to-day, week-to-week , month-to-month and year-to-year. They, like single day tickets, can also be purchased online prior to the visit.

“As any attraction knows, funnelling all your visitors through your admission system, as they all want to come in at the same time can lead to a pressurised environment, our relationship with Merlinsoft over the last decade has moved us from just wanting a till system able to take money to the realisation that we now have a business management software solution from them.” says Baker.

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He explains that ticket offices are now not just physical locations (with actual opening hours) but virtual presences which never close. Just as consumers purchase goods at any time of the day or night as and when the mood takes them, visitors to attractions like Bressingham Steam.

“All of the admin staff have a copy on their PC, as we book in Group Visits, change and amend dates from people altering their on-line booking, decide what products are selling or monitor in real time numbers through the gates – reporting our findings to the ride staff and kitchens. It seems an age ago that people paid solely with cash and cheques, as payment methods and bookings have gone electronic so have our systems.”

Merlin also offer the facility to print directly onto wristbands which can be loaded or preloaded with a cash value; which are flexible in their use from festivals to school groups. An added advantage of the wristbands is that credit can be loaded onto a wristband at the point of entry, meaning that purchases can be made throughout the venue simply by scanning the barcode. They also promote the attraction’s brand and provide potential space for advertising.

In the summer the two-day BresSteam festival which celebrated all things Steampunk tested the wristbands out. Tickets were being provided for various levels of access to the site with wristbands introduced to provide a more robust method of admission and to eliminate the risk of tickets being lost, replicated, damaged or misplaced.

“It has been great to know that the team at Merlin are developing their product in real time, but at the same time able to listen to the needs we as a business and our consumers have. The ability of Merlin to be the one constant knowledge base in a sea of volunteer and part time staff has kept us able to process people through the gates, with speed and efficiency however they booked. We look forward to the changes the next decade of partnership with Merlin, knowing we will always be ready for it – with them.”

Baker also wanted to tap into today’s ‘buy and sell anywhere’culture by using Merlinsoft mobile ticket application. Thanks to low cost hardware and the software’s ability to operate on any device with a Windows operating system and inexpensive tablets and scanners have meant that additional terminals for queue-busting purposes are easily deployed anywhere on site.

“Whether at the main admissions point on busy events, or to ensure that ice-creams at the café reach wilting visitors without them needing to wait,” he says. “In addition, if an event is in the middle of a field, the tickets need to be redeemed in the middle of a field – which, thanks to mobile technology, is no longer a problem.”

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