Byline: Jeanette Hye

NEW YORK — The Benetton Group is linking its international network of stores with a point-of-sale system that collects sales data, feeds it back to Benetton’s U.S. headquarters here, and enables the company to more accurately forecast sales and inventory needs.
The company, based in Ponzano Veneto, Italy, has 7,000 stores worldwide, and almost all of them, including the 103 in the U.S., are owned by licensees.
The need for POS data from a diverse group of independently operated stores prompted Benetton to move to a system that collects and processes data consistently, said Andrea Rossetto, president of Karos Ltd. in Los Angeles.
Karos is one of two Benetton “agencies” in the U.S. These agencies are granted rights to own and operate Benetton stores or license Benetton stores to other operators, in certain territories. The other Benetton agency is in Washington.
The two agencies operate 45 stores in the U.S., and have the new system. Most of the remaining U.S. stores are expected to have the system by yearend. A worldwide rollout of the system is planned.
The new POS system, from Retail Technologies International, Carmichael, Calif., is part of Benetton’s effort to unify sales information in a company accustomed to dealing with many owners and myriad methods of reporting information.
“The managers and salespeople in each store had a strong influence over how the sales data was translated and in determining what it actually meant,” resulting in data that wasn’t as reliable as it could be, he said. “This will help us connect and unify all of our stores.”
By linking all the retailers’ POS systems, Benetton will be able to collect and analyze data to identify selling trends and better respond to demands for fast-selling products. Rossetto expects the POS information will help the company forecast production needs in a Quick Response fashion.
“Although an actual order needs to be placed by the licensee, our Italian offices will be able to see which styles and colors are going to most likely be in demand,” Rossetto said.
The technology also is playing a role in the company’s drive to provide retailers with floor-ready merchandise, which reduces store labor.
In the past, bar codes assigned to each product in Italy were unreadable by Benetton’s U.S. retailers using bar code scanners. Stores were required to re-sticker each item once it arrived on the sales floor. The new POS hardware, provided by IBM, includes scanners that have been customized to read bar codes as originally printed.
The ability to use the same bar codes in Europe and the U.S. enables Benetton’s headquarters to send advance information, including bar codes, on product shipments. The company is testing a system of e-mailing packing lists, with bar codes, to stores, eliminating the need for store employees to enter incoming product information into the computer.
The system significantly cuts time and labor during order-entry. Previously, individual owners, returning to their stores after a buying trip to Benetton, would manually enter purchasing information into their own computers. In an integrated system, the information is entered during the buying meeting and then put on a disk or e-mailed to the store to be downloaded into the store’s main computer.
“It now takes 30 seconds to do what used to take between 10 and 12 hours,” said Rossetto.

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