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NEW YORK — Giorgio Armani is poised to break new ground with deployment of a common point-of-sale platform worldwide.<BR><BR>The plan is to bring unprecedented consistency to front-end operations in 304 stores from Bangkok to Boston. It also will...

NEW YORK — Giorgio Armani is poised to break new ground with deployment of a common point-of-sale platform worldwide.

The plan is to bring unprecedented consistency to front-end operations in 304 stores from Bangkok to Boston. It also will serve as a launchpad for a global customer relationship management initiative that extends beyond customer interaction and into supply chain advancements to improve product availability.

Having just completed a three-week, controlled-environment pilot test of the POS system, from Retek, the platform will roll out to all its stores, starting next year with those in the U.S., said Victoria Cantrell, senior vice president and chief information officer of Giorgio Armani U.S. The system will be used across all store formats, including Giorgio Armani, A|X Armani Exchange and Emporio Armani.

The system was developed using Java computer programming language, which is well suited to the distributed environment of the Internet.

Gianni Piazza, chief information officer of the $1.6 billion Milan-based Giorgio Armani Group, said in a statement, “A single Java platform for all geographies will simplify maintenance and support, reduce our overall cost of technology ownership and, most importantly, allow us to provide optimal levels of service for our customers by leveraging common business practices between locations.”

The decision to deploy Retek’s POS followed six months of evaluating solutions offered by some 20 vendors, Cantrell said. Giorgio Armani executives from Japan, representing the Asia-Pacific region; from Milan, representing all of Europe, and Cantrell, representing the U.S., met frequently to discuss their “pain points” and identified critical, must-have functionality in the new POS.

The solution had to have the capability to be deployed remotely, Cantrell said. “And we were adamant about a worldwide upgrade strategy.” Having standard front-end technology and operations would mean that employees can be transferred worldwide without requiring retraining.

While a standard POS platform brings consistency to front-end operations, Armani can continue to use the different existing back-office systems that are tailored to each country’s needs. “Using the Java technology allows the POS to seamlessly interface with the different back-office systems,” Cantrell said.

“With a common system, we can continue to bring together our initiative for customer relationship management and improve the supply chain,” she said.

This story first appeared in the October 28, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Denis Pombriant, a CRM expert and managing principle at Beagle Research in Stoughton, Mass., said a common POS platform brings advantages to those companies pursuing a global CRM initiative.

“The retailer that has a common point of sale may be able to achieve economies of scale by being able to consolidate information and move product efficiently from location to location, if that is necessary, or consolidate orders or arrange shipping with vendors,” he said. “This would be an example of how CRM is going from being front office- and customer interaction [-oriented] to helping improve the end-to-end process. That’s the Holy Grail.

“Retailers with multiple POS [platforms] haven’t always been good at bringing all those things together in a way that enables them to serve customers best,” Pombriant added.

Multinational retailers looking to standardize stores’ front-end technology in countries with various languages, currencies and fiscal and tax laws, among other local variables, face a formidable challenge. That task is made more complex by technology vendors’ uneven support in different regions of the globe. “Vendors don’t serve the whole world,” Cantrell said. “Some say they do, but that is not the whole reality.”

Cantrell said extensive research into global retailers’ POS systems revealed that none of Giorgio Armani’s competitors has a commercial common system across stores in different countries. One company did have a common POS system, she noted, but it was a homegrown solution.

Rollout to Giorgio Armani’s U.S. stores is planned for completion in the third quarter of 2005; the timetable for other countries has not been determined.