ABERCROMBIE THRIVES WITH USE OF LOTUS
Byline: Michael Hickins
NEW YORK — Abercrombie & Fitch, which sells sportswear and accessories through catalogs, magazines, stores and an Internet site, has improved its merchandising capabilities and reduced labor-intensive management of critical spreadsheet functions by using “groupware” spreadsheet technology.
Groupware refers to a type of technology that enables people to work together in a collaborative fashion even though they may be in different locations. Groupware services can include the sharing of calendars, e-mail handling and shared database access.
According to Kevin Archibald, senior systems analyst for the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, retailer, groupware can be more than just e-mail. Last July, when Abercrombie’s e-commerce site was launched, the firm’s merchandisers adopted this technology, Lotus Notes, from Lotus Development Corp., Cambridge, Mass., to upload purchasing requests to the mainframe.
“In the past, our merchandisers had to enter their sku’s [stockkeeping units] in a spreadsheet,” Archibald said.
That proved unreliable and labor-intensive. Each of the merchandiser’s entries had to be manually input into a centralized spreadsheet before being uploaded to the mainframe from IBM, Armonk, N.Y., of which Lotus is a subsidiary.
According to Archibald, the spreadsheet harmonization process required one person to spend approximately 30 hours each time a new catalog or magazine was about to be produced and mailed.
The Lotus technology has been configured to immediately confirm sku’s and purchase orders with the mainframe and to notify the merchandisers if an error has been made. “The system provides for its own checks and balances,” Archibald said.
All of the company’s merchandisers have access to the same spreadsheet, which eliminates the need for one person to centralize all the purchase information.