NEW YORK — Woolworth Corp., here, said it will begin using an object-oriented system from IBM in its specialty stores in 1995.
The system, marketed as StorePlace, signals a willingness by large computer companies to help retailers enter the highly touted but often misunderstood object arena. Such systems foster horizontal communication by allowing companies to build specialized applications in a uniform manner across departments.
An “object” could represent anything from an employee to a delivery truck to a point-of-sale function, such as “verify charge number.” The advantage of object-based systems is that each object retains the same identity across applications. If someone in a retailer’s accounting department, for instance, called up “Truck X” on his computer, he would access the same history of information on the same element in the same manner as someone in the company’s distribution department.
In the parlance of IBM’s StorePlace offering, an object refers to a store-level function. The system is based on a library of such packaged self-contained functions that can be strung together to build new applications without writing arduous programs.
“The StorePlace technology provides us with an extendable framework for all store-level applications,” said Phil Richards, vice-president of MIS at Woolworth.
The system would make it much easier for store managers to alter store-level applications, according to IBM. Normally, programmers would have to go into an application and rewrite source code to alter an application like layaways. IBM said that with its system, store managers could access all relevant information on the layaway function on screen and make alterations via pull-down menus and icons. And since the function is a self-contained “building block” of a larger application, the alteration would not affect other functions within that application.
Woolworth’s specialty store division includes Foot Locker, Champs and Kinney Shoes.

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