Byline: Michael Hickins

NEW YORK — Boscov’s Department Stores has implemented state-of-the-art data storage facilities that have improved customer service as well as distribution and cash management efficiencies throughout the 34-store chain.
The privately held Mid-Atlantic retailer, based in Reading, Pa., has also implemented wireless scanning technology to further improve customer service, particularly where gift givers are concerned.
Harry Roberts, chief information officer at Boscov’s, noted that an expanding store base and new e-commerce initiatives have put increasing demands on the retailer’s data-processing infrastructure. “Our data needs have been growing,” he said. “Being able to share one centralized disk area for all platforms has been an enormous benefit for us.”
According to Joe Poole, technical support manager at Boscov’s, batch job speeds have improved by 25 percent since the retailer implemented the new solution, from IBM, Armonk, N.Y.
The technology has not only helped manage storage capacity, but has kept maintenance requirements at a manageable level. “We keep adding new stores, but we have the same tech support as when we had half the number of stores,” said Poole.
Because the solution has dramatically increased processing speeds, the time needed for back office functions that occur when the stores are closed has been narrowed, increasing the number of hours that stores can stay open despite a heavier work load.
“Now we can stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight and still get up in the morning with all our tools ready to go,” said Poole.
The data-storage solution features an automated workload manager that shifts resources as needed. “The workload manager has the ability to assign capacity to ensure that multiple tasks can be performed,” said Poole.
For instance, interactive kiosks from NCR, Dayton, Ohio, have been installed at Boscov’s stores to enable customers to consult the gift registry in real time. This access ensures them that they aren’t buying the same wedding present off the registry that someone else has just purchased from another store for the same couple.
“We have a picture of every piece of merchandise, and those requests [to the data warehouse] can eat up a lot of disk space,” said Poole.
This kind of application requires a great deal of processing power, and the solution guarantees that multiple queries to the database from the kiosk servers do not result in slowdowns at other functions.
Authorization queries for the 10,000 private label Boscov’s credit cards are driven from the same database, and the solution assures that all such transactions continue to be processed in less than a half a second.
“The solution shares resources between various applications,” noted Roberts.
Better use of the data warehouse’s storage capacity has also improved fulfillment of catalog and e-commerce orders as well as supply-chain logistics.
Customer orders can’t be interrupted when the database is peppered with simultaneous queries from software engines fulfilling orders or when other customers attempt to track their purchases online, said Poole.
The wireless solution, from Telxon, Cincinnati, allows store customers to wander the aisles with the scan gun scanning items they want to purchase, initiate a payment and have the items wrapped and shipped.
In this way, Boscov’s is helping customers purchase gifts without having to tote goods around the store, wait in line for gift wrapping or arrange to ship the items themselves.
The retailer has also been switching from cabled to wireless cash registers, allowing store managers to move registers around the store to alleviate lines in departments with especially heavy volumes, particularly on sale days. “We’re moving to a wireless everything environment,” said Poole.

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