Byline: Robert Daly

ATLANTA — Bigger isn’t always better. When it came time to choose a trading community, the Atlanta-based sportswear and footwear retailer The Athlete’s Foot Group decided on one that is Web-based and sporting goods specific, It decided not to partner with the larger trading communities: GlobalNetXchange (GNX), Transora, or WorldWide Retail Exchange (WWRE).
“[] knows our business and they know our industry,” said Robert Corliss, The Athlete’s Foot’s president and chief executive officer. “The other organizations [such as WWRE and GNX] are much larger and we will get better attention here.”
With the sport-specific trading community, The Athlete’s Foot has easy access to participating sportswear manufacturers, such as Richmond, Calif.-based Mountain Hardwear, Chicopee, Mass.-based Spalding or Conover, N.C.-based Twin City Knitting Co.
This isn’t the company’s first foray into cyberspace to improve efficiencies. The Athlete’s Foot has been using a centralized Web-based application to train its diverse staff. It also has been using a three-dimensional virtual trade show to obtain product information. Corliss sees merchandising and mobile-commerce applications coming down the road as well.
“There is always an internal dialog on using Internet technology to drive efficiencies in our business,” said Corliss.
The company had an ongoing discussion on how to leverage the Internet to deal with its supplier base.
“Our vendors expect this from Athlete’s Foot and it’s something we’ve decided to focus on,” said Corliss.
The new trading community enables The Athlete’s Foot to send electronic orders from its point-of-sale system to its suppliers, regardless of whether they can support electronic data interchange (EDI). For the non-EDI-enabled suppliers, they can return notifications and invoices to the approximately 700 Athlete’s Foot stores via a simple Web browser.
Corliss defends his organization’s choice with bottom-line logic and the natural migration from EDI-based systems to Web-based ones.
“This solution will allow us to dramatically reduce the cost of trading with our suppliers by eliminating the manual processing cost we currently incur with our small- and mid-size suppliers,” said Corliss. “Presumably, it will be less expensive and easier for our partners to use as well.”
From the new partnership, “my expectations are better, cheaper, and faster,” said Corliss. He admitted that he’s not expecting perfection right out of the gate. “It’s going to be cheaper and faster. Better comes later. It’s an evolutionary process.”