ARMED AND FASHIONABLE
Equipped with circular saw blades, flame throwers and destructive kitchen appliances, robots are making a statement: Those drawn to distressed apparel need not personally endure the unpleasantries required to achieve genuine wrinkles, rips and grass stains. Staff technicians at the Swiss urban apparel brand 55DSL collaborated with Robocross to develop robot-administered abuse to the Diesel’s spin-off’s newest collection, according to communications agency KesselsKramer. Live action footage of the “death dancing” robots (wrinkles) and hedge trimmer-wielding robots (rips, tears) resemble a snuff film for mannequins but no animals were injured in the making of this film.
Foschini Retail, the $400 million (2.5 billion rand) division of South Africa’s Foschini Group, has slashed markdowns by half and is doing so its own way. The 353-store group served as a beta development partner for a merchandise planning system that is widely adopted in the U.S. but instead decided to build its own system. To date, Foschini stores’ internally developed DAP (distribution and assortment planning) system reduced markdowns from representing 28 percent of sales four years ago to just 12 percent of sales today, said David Maltby, systems and planning executive, Foschini Retail. “You can have the best merchandising technology in the world, but if your strategy and execution [are weak] then the best system is not going to help you,” Maltby said. “This is one tool.” The system Fochini developed takes product planning down to a monthly plan by product category, such as smart, casual tops. Maltby said the process creates “what we call tension in the business,” a healthy, competitive relationship between the buying and merchandising sides. As Foschini Retail continues to grow, the DAP system will play a yet more crucial role. The group, which recently opened stores in Saudi Arabia, plans to grow its store base to about 400 by 2007, when sales are projected to hit $500 million (3 billion rand).
CAN’T STOP THE OP
Price-optimization software, along with other analytics-driven optimization solutions, shows no signs of slowing. Grocery behemoth Safeway signed on for two such modules for pricing and promotions optimization from DemandTec. The $35 billion retailer, which operates more than 1,800 stores, will deploy the solutions to guide merchandising decisions based on customer demand. “Careful management of prices and promotions is important both for our customers and for the company,” said Brian Cornell, Safeway executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
Textile and crafts retailer Jo-Ann Stores has woven chief information officer back into its organizational fabric. The post, which had been vacant for four years, was filled Jan. 28 with the arrival of Gertrude Van Horn. Like predecessor Les Duncan, who exited in January 2001, Van Horn brings to the $1.7 billion Jo-Ann Stores technology experience from Limited Brands. Most recently she was vice president, global information delivery systems, Office Depot. Van Horn said she had no misgivings about joining a company that’s been sans a cio for four years. “I think the timing is great,” she said, noting that Jo-Ann is emerging from its turnaround strategy and embarking on a growth strategy. Her chief mission: business-IT alignment. Jo-Ann, which operates more than 850 stores, was among the first retail companies to embrace the SAP enterprise resource planning system. Following that difficult implementation in 2000, blamed for stockouts, other retailers grew increasingly wary of ERP.
Tandy Brands Accessories, however, is no naysayer on ERP. “We are ERP-powered,” said one proud Jim McMasters, director of information systems at the fashion accessories supplier. As of Feb. 1, 10 Tandy corporate divisions, including five distribution centers, were operational on a system using System 21 Aurora enterprise software from Geac Computer for accounting, sales, manufacturing and supply chain management. Manhattan Associates’ PkMS warehouse management technology completes the integrated system. McMasters said the now fully deployed system positions Tandy to more effectively meet special requirements of retail customers, and for Tandy, it affords greater visibility into all of its business process.
Real-time merchandising information about warehouse and store activity will soon be accessible to MD Beauty, a cosmetics and personal care company. The San Francisco company selected a suite of solutions from Jesta I.S. not only for merchandising, but also to manage production from the sourcing stage through the finished product right to the store shelves. A Web-based supply chain management module is also on tap. MD Beauty’s brand portfolio includes Bare Escentuals.