By  on July 13, 2005

In the eight years since Rose Marie Bravo joined Burberry as chief executive, the company's market value has increased tenfold, there's preparation for a full flotation on the London Stock Exchange and designer Christopher Bailey has become a fashion world favorite, infusing the company's well-tailored, weather-proof heritage with a classy, youthful flair.

Its image is a seemingly effortless blend of luxury and whimsy. At Burberry's flagships worldwide, stylish trenchcoats stand shoulder-to-shoulder in one room; life-size toy sheep, a reminder of its bond to the wool mills of northern England, inhabit another. The new Burberry isn't only about the Mario Testino ad campaigns that have featured English aristos and top models. It's also about such attention to detail as the hand towels, chilled and infused with African rosemary, that Burberry staffers handed out to the hot and weary guests at the men's runway show in Milan last month.

The back end of the Burberry business, however, is light years behind. The company, which recently posted profits of $201.1 million on sales of $1.31 billion, has been leaving money on the table for a variety of logistical reasons: It's failed to leverage its size — and spending power — with suppliers, for example, and it's been "shipping air," because some boxes are too big for the merchandise they contain. On the retail front, Burberry stores don't have a uniform way of dealing with returns, and individual countries source packaging from different places.

But that's all about to change.

In May, Burberry announced a major infrastructure redesign initiative called Project Atlas aimed at revamping its wholesale, retail and finance systems. The program will affect various parts of the business, including supply chain, shipping, merchandising and support services.

At that time, Burberry talked about its plan to invest $91.5 million over three years in Project Atlas, which is currently being put into effect. The company plans to reap annual benefits of $36.6 million by year three, and that figure is expected to grow by years four and five.

"Until now, we've been spending our time on the front end of the business, and we realized it was time to step back and reinforce IT and supply chain systems," said chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright, who's spearheading the IT revolution at Burberry.

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