By  on June 13, 2007

BOSTON — One size doesn't fit all when it comes to integrating systems and processes behind the scenes at multichannel retailers.

At Selexyz, a 170 million euro, or $226 million at current exchange, bookstore chain based in the Netherlands, a new inventory system for its Web and brick-and-mortar stores dramatically improved inventory accuracy and helped the chain realize a 5 percent increase in sales last year.

Meanwhile, Anthropologie is finding smart work-arounds to handle the current disconnect between the systems and processes for its catalogue, Web and store operations.

The two retailers spoke at the ERI eXchange retail conference here last week.

"If you as a retailer aren't able to integrate, I think you will face serious problems in five to eight years," said Jan Vink, IT director at Selexyz.

The 40-store retailer started transforming its brick-and-mortar stores into "smart stores" in April 2005. At the same time, the company changed the names of all its stores to Selexyz and migrated 13 Web sites to one under the new brand. It also outsourced physical distribution to a third party.

The smart stores are designed to compete on service rather than price, said Vink. Having Web stores as well as brick-and-mortar stores will be key going forward, he said, because physical stores create emotion and the Internet delivers transactions.

The company's stores are designed to be attractive and less densely stocked than a typical Barnes & Noble or Borders. At least one of them is housed in a magnificent former cathedral with a soaring, vaulted ceiling and stained-glass windows.

"Our bookstores in Holland are more spacious than Barnes & Nobles or Borders," Vink said. "When you go into Borders or Barnes & Noble, they are like libraries. When the guys from Borders and Barnes & Noble go into our stores, they are amazed that we are still doing 2,500 euros [or $3,325] per square meter per year."

The retailer has converted two stores so far, installing kiosks for customers to look up books, tagging books with radio frequency identification instead of barcodes and putting in play areas for children. The addition of the children's facilities raised the average time adults spend in a store to 33 to 36 minutes from 25 to 30 minutes, he said.

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