Byline: Kim Ann Zimmermann

NEW YORK — The Sports Authority, the Fort Lauderdale-based sports apparel and equipment retailer, expects to have its top 150 vendors providing advance ship notices electronically in early November.
Advance ship notices (ASNs) detail for the retailer the precise contents of a shipment several days before it arrives. Use of ASNs is considered crucial for streamlining supply-chain operations, boosting accuracy and cutting costs out of the distribution pipeline for retailers and suppliers.
“We continue to work to make sure we go paperless with as much information as we can,” said Tom Souza, vice president of merchandise control for the 180-store chain. “The results are fewer errors and faster processing.”
The company is already transmitting all purchase orders using Electronic Data Interchange, a standard format for the electronic exchange of business documents. “We’ve been 100 percent EDI on purchase orders for quite a while,” he said, noting that Sports Authority started transmitting purchase orders electronically approximately two years ago.
While it has been commonplace for purchase orders to be transmitted using EDI, many retailers are beginning to use EDI to exchange other types of documents — such as shipping notices — with vendors.
The next step, Souza said, will be to share point-of-sale data using EDI. Souza said Sports Authority will share with vendors POS data relating to their specific products but will not disclose one vendor’s POS data to another vendor.
“It really is the carrot at the end of the stick,” he said. “We want to encourage our vendors to exchange as much information with us electronically as possible, and this is a great incentive. We are going to try to share as much information as possible with each vendor, and getting the ASNs electronically lays a foundation for sharing other information.”
Another system enhancement due to come on line soon will enable the retailer to communicate any changes in its purchase orders after those orders have been transmitted to vendors. “This will save time, and it will streamline the process,” Souza said.
In conjunction with the EDI push, The Sports Authority is opening a 300,000-square-foot warehouse in November in McDonough, Ga. The retailer plans to open three additional warehouses in the next 18 months.
The establishment of distribution centers is a change in the retailer’s distribution strategy, which had been direct-to-store delivery from vendors, making the electronic exchange of documents with vendors even more crucial.
“We want the new warehouses to be as paperless as possible,” Souza said.

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