Lilly Pulitzer is about bright, fun prints and a Palm Beach lifestyle, but behind the scenes several key technology systems have helped the company grow since it reopened in 1993.
Its CAD software, for example, helps Lilly Pulitzer produce more than 100 prints each season.
This story first appeared in the July 11, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“It helped us regain fashion credibility,” said Brigid Foster, senior vice president and chief financial officer. She recalled an incident early on in the company’s rebirth when Claudia Schiffer modeled a Lilly dress on the cover of a Saks Fifth Avenue catalogue. Saks’ then-president, Rose Marie Bravo, didn’t like the print, and the NedGraphics CAD software, installed in 1997, allowed the company to quickly substitute a different one.
The software has helped the company grow because last-minute changes and repeats are quick and easy to make. They no longer have to be laboriously redrawn by hand.
The company has branched into men’s and children’s clothing, accessories and gifts.
“We are a niche business but within our space, we want to be dominant,” said president James Bradbeer Jr. “One of the things we see in the retail industry is the need for lifestyle brands.”
As the company has grown, the business has become more complicated to manage. Foster ticked off a list of problems the company has encountered: “Samples would show up with the wrong trim, and things didn’t show up that were supposed to be in the line. Also, things showed up that weren’t supposed to be there and we didn’t know why.”
In 1996, Lilly Pulitzer installed an inventory and order management system, and in 2003, it added product data management software, which connects everyone in the company. Moving to PDM was a big change because it involved multiple departments and nontechnical staff. Initially, a few people had reservations, but now it is a centerpiece of the company, organizing all the data associated with each style in one place where everyone can see it.
“It started to support very quick growth that I’m not sure we could support without it in place,” Foster said. “It has been faster for us to be able to certify product data. If there is a change, everyone knows instantly. Now all the data is linked. It also connects to our line order system, so sales sees what it needs to see.”
Another area of growth has been Lilly Pulitzer’s retail stores, which now number 17, all in the U.S. To support the retail operations, the company bought a retail management system in 2004 with point of sale and customer relationship management (CRM). Retail is only 20 percent of Lilly Pulitzer’s business, but from the technology standpoint, it takes 50 to 60 percent of the company’s time, Foster said. The CRM software has been especially useful, helping Lilly Pulitzer understand how its customer shops and adjust its mix accordingly.
“We see traffic patterns,” Foster said. “Our customer comes back every three to four weeks. The loyal Lilly lovers are interested to see what the next thing is.”