Byline: Jeanette Hye

NEW YORK — As it branches out into new apparel markets, Duck Head Apparel is seeking to strengthen its brand image by providing retailers with new technology that assists in merchandising, sales tracking and replenishment.
The Winder, Ga.-based apparel manufacturer, a division of Delta Woodside Industries, is providing its retail customers with software that acts as a virtual store planner and contains sales analysis and Electronic Data Interchange capabilities.
Last week’s debut of this technology complements the company’s reach into new apparel categories. Traditionally a men’s and boy’s wear manufacturer, Duck Head will announce this month licensing agreements for women’s and juniors collections under the Duck Head label.
The software enables retailers to lay out a floor plan for Duck Head shops, plan merchandising strategies and track point-of-sale information. It can also be connected directly to Duck Head’s corporate headquarters to facilitate automatic replenishment.
“This is all part of a plan to increase brand awareness and provide the highest level of customer service to our retailers,” said Paul Robb, Duck Head’s chief executive officer, during a recent interview, when he unveiled the software. “It is part of a plan to become a dominant national moderately priced fashion brand.”
In the past, said Robb, the 132-year-old company has sometimes been slow to react to market changes.
The software, licensed from ModaCAD, Los Angeles, will be provided at no cost to retailers that have in-store Duck Head shops.
Currently, the company has 200 men’s shops averaging 500 square feet and 175 boys’ shops averaging 200 square feet in such retailers as J.C. Penney, Belk’s and Proffitt’s. The system has several functions. Initially, the retailer and Duck Head can work together using the system to design an in-store shop from scratch. Dimensions of the boutique, display fixtures, signs and point-of-purchase materials can be created and displayed in the virtual Duck Head shop. Merchandise — broken down by style, color and size — is then chosen from the on-line Duck Head catalog and displayed in the virtual store.
This function gives retailers the opportunity to plan merchandising in advance before executing it on the sales floor.
Once the Duck Head shop is up and running, a virtual replica created by the software can be used by the retailer and Duck Head for further communications.
Tied into the retailer’s POS system, the system tracks inventory and sales by using any specifications indicated. Sales can be tracked by style, size or even individual merchandising display. Reports on sales can be generated in the traditional way but will also be represented visually in the virtual store.
For example, information regarding the number of Duck Head T-shirts sold in a retailer’s in-store shop can be generated in report form but can also represented visually by the automatic removal of T-shirt images from a virtual fixture displayed on a computer screen.
In addition, the system, which is connected to Duck Head’s offices, makes it possible for the manufacturer to automatically replenish standard items such as twill pants.
Robb said the software is most valuable since it enables retailers to make fast decisions on replenishing fashion items. The system allows merchandisers to see where stocks are low and then refer to the on-line Duck Head catalog to determine the best replacement merchandise. The catalog is updated regularly and contains availability information.
“This allows store buying staffs to focus on merchandising stores and not on sales analysis,” Robb said.
Robb, who previously worked at Levi Strauss and Haggar Clothing, said the system complements Duck Head’s merchandising strategy, and that Duck Head will begin using the software with four retailers this fall, before rolling it out.
“I’ve always believed that technology will increase efficiency and increase profits if your merchandise is what the customer wants to buy,” he said.