companywide rollout of MasterCard Automated Point of Sale MerchantNet on- line transaction processing. Harmonic Systems, Minneapolis, help designed the automated network for Pier 1. MasterCard has been working with Harmonic since 1993 to serve small to medium-size retailers.. Pier 1 Imports, which operates 615 stores in the United States, offering home furnishings, gifts, and related items, processes nearly 900,000 electronic payments each month. Since the Fort Worth, Tex.-based retailer hooked up with MAPP and Harmonic Systems in July, it has achieved a 50% improvement in authorization processing times for credit card transactions, according to the card giant. Sharon Cline, senior vice president and general manager of MAPP, said that MasterCard joined with Harmonic Systems because "we wanted to expand our product line. We didn't have an offering for midsize retailers like they had." Previously, SPS Payment Services Inc., Riverwood, Ill., provided a network for Pier 1. With the new system, Pier 1 stores transmit authorization requests to Harmonic's network. For MasterCard, Visa, and Discover card transactions, Harmonic switches the requests to MAPP MerchantNet for payment authorization. National City Processing Co., Louisville, Ky., is handling clearing and settlement of the transactions. "We're not a third-party processor, we're a facilities management company," said Barres Lewis, president of Harmonic Systems. "We provide network infrastructure. We're not involved in the processing per se. We don't sell authorization services, nor do we make any profits off this." In the project's next phase, Harmonic Systems said it will install routers in the stores and handle functions such as switching, network management, protocol conversion, polling, and message handling. Harmonic said this will enable Pier 1 to perform a variety of polling routines, such as bridal registry, electronic mail, inventory management and other applications, simultaneously with credit approval traffic over the same dial-up network. Credit authorizations launched from a store during an existing network session will go through in about five seconds, MasterCard said.

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