Byline: Michael Hickins

NEW YORK — Register lines have been cut in half at Corset Shop, and more sales associates have been freed for customer assistance, thanks to a new retail management solution implemented by the Newark-based intimate apparel retailer.
Corset Shop operates five shops under the Bare Necessities banner in the Northeast, as well as leased departments at off-price discount department stores throughout the country.
The new technology, from Gemmar Systems International, Montreal, includes new point-of-sale terminals that have enabled the retailer to cut register transaction times from five minutes to less than 2 1/2 minutes, mainly by virtue of being able to read manufacturers’ universal product codes.
“I personally believe we should be in a position to sell whenever our customers are ready to buy,” said Noah Wrubel, executive vice president of Corset Shop. “The checkout process should be as fast as humanly possible.”
In addition to reading UPC codes, the new terminals provide price lookup and markdown capabilities, as well as real time inventory information to headquarters.
“We can download price changes on the fly and we can process returns seamlessly, which means we have an accurate snapshot of our inventory at any given time,” said Wrubel.
Corset Shop executives can also eliminate unauthorized markdowns because price changes are downloaded automatically, said Wrubel. Moreover, “the new system provides us with an audit trail and gives us a better handle on the financials.”
Reduced waiting time is just one benefit of having speedier POS terminals, Wrubel said.
The retailer now only uses one employee at the register instead of two, freeing an additional associate to sell on the floor.
“One of our competitive advantages is we have highly trained staff who know how to talk about intimate apparel. Adding an additional head count is just one more thing we can do to improve customer service,” he said.
The solution has also improved the retailer’s fulfillment processes, in-store inventory management and ticketing, all of which has generated significant cost savings, better in-stock positions and improved customer service.
Corset Shop can now simultaneously generate purchase orders and stickers — Wrubel refers to them as “license plates” — that are then affixed by the vendors to boxes as the orders are filled.
When the boxes arrive in stores, managers simply count the boxes and make sure the contents match the license plates. The retailer still does spot inventory checks using hand-held scanners from Symbol Technologies, Holtsville, N.Y.
“The process in the stores is now just a simple check-in,” explained Wrubel, thus tripling the speed with which inventory can be turned. “When a box arrives, we can get the goods on the shelves in 24 hours, whereas before it took us 72 hours to get the merchandise in a position where the customers could see it.”
Wrubel sees this as a critical aspect of customer service. Out-of-stocks had been running at between 30 percent and 40 percent, he said, and he expects the retail solution to help get that figure under 2 percent.
“Good customer service means being in stock,” he said. “By being able to check merchandise through more efficiently, we can keep better track of our inventory and offer our customers a greater depth of assortment.”
Overall, he noted, the time from warehouse floor to selling floor has gone from five days to one. The solution has also reduced the need for personnel to process inventory. Tasks once carried out by three or four employees are now handled by just one, the manager.
While terminals at the Bare Necessities stores read UPC codes, merchandise sold through the company’s leased departments still have to be ticketed individually. Nevertheless, Wrubel said the new solution saves the company manpower even there, because price tickets can be generated along with the purchase orders. Ticketing, “went from being an eight-hour job to a one-hour job,” said Wrubel.