By  on May 4, 2007

CHICAGO — Jones Apparel Group is planning a technology-driven initiative to boost inventory turns and margins through advanced pricing practices.

The apparel company will unveil on Monday plans to roll out price optimization software to nearly 1,000 of its mall and outlet stores, starting this fall with footwear stores including Nine West and Easy Spirit, followed by apparel stores such as Jones and Anne Klein early next year. Specialty store division Barneys New York is not involved.

Testing is under way now and a 60- to 90-day pilot in Bandolino footwear stores begins next month, followed by a rapid ramp-up to other footwear divisions, Nine West chief operating officer Bill Tracy told WWD.

"We feel very confident that once we get past the pilot stage, this will be very well embraced and we'll see significant positive impact to comp-store sales growth and also to our margins as well as inventory turn," Tracy said. (For the quarter ended April 7, overall comp-store sales were down 5 percent and outlet footwear stores down 12.3 percent.)

The software, from Oracle, generates pricing recommendations by analyzing a host of variables influencing demand such as seasonality, price elasticity and even inventory presentation in store.

Tracy, who calls himself a champion of the project along with Jones executive vice president and chief technology officer Paul Lanham, said there are important benefits for the 228-store Nine West division in particular. Nine West's new design, now in 14 stores, has more of a boutique presentation and an edited assortment.

"It is a lot cleaner look, easier to shop and less clutter, so there are fewer [stockkeeping units] displayed in the store at one time," Tracy said. "Having this type of tool will certainly help us maximize the inventory turn and allow us to get new fashion right and new trends to the selling floor faster."

The $4.7 billion Jones Apparel Group will spend more than $1 million on price optimization technology and expects a "significant" return on investment based on the experiences of other retailers using the software, Tracy added.

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