Competing in Retail The Business Integration Challenge

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Today, retailers are looking to gain real business benefits through better merchandise and warehouse planning, better promotional planning and integrating data from these systems to financial accounting and intelligence systems. In order to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive sports marketplace, all:sports realised this level of integration was the way forward.

Business Profile

Founded in 1977, all:sports has grown rapidly to become one of the UKs largest sports goods chain with approximately 300 stores. all:sports has extensive coverage in England, Wales and Scotland and sells branded clothing, footwear and equipment, with in-store departments such as all:man, all:woman, all:terrain (outdoor gear) and all:kids.

The Challenge

Integration, integration, integration. all:sports wanted to focus on running the business as a tightly knit operation, which meant a seamless link of communication and data from in-store to back office to head office and the web, with enhanced reporting capabilities. The challenge was to improve systems integration throughout the organisation, with the aim of delivering improved financial reporting and better evaluation of merchandising decisions.

all:sports wanted to update its legacy-based systems and manual processes to rely more on electronic means of information transfer. Processing daily EPOS information required all:sports store managers to manually collate the paperwork and send it by post to head office, which was both time-consuming and subject to human error. With ever-increasing consumer demand and product turnaround, store managers need to free more time to work on the shop floor, not in the back office processing sales data, banking and other administration.

all:sports not only needed an upgrade of systems, but also an experienced retail IT vendor that could provide all the latest developments in retail, finance and reporting technology in an end-to-end solution.

The Solution

The solution needed to easily integrate from point of sale systems right through to head office accounts. all:sports had a long-established relationship with leading retail solutions provider, Alphameric, who offered an integrated retail and financial solution which suited all:sports needs.

Kris Lee, Finance Manager at all:sports, comments, "We were keen to have the best of both worlds specialist retail and financial technology so we chose to develop our partnership with a company that could provide this and was keen to develop with us."

Alphameric partners with finance systems specialist, CODA Group, providing all:sports with fully integrated, Microsoft-based solutions offering even greater management control over all aspects of its business. Nearly 25 per cent of high street retail chains use CODA's financial intelligence software to manage their accounts. The partnership with Alphameric brings together fully integrated best-of-class solutions that are already providing business benefits to many household retail names.

Alphameric is providing all:sports with its Microsoft Windows-based, Chip & PIN enabled EPOS solution, merchandise management and web site package, along with the CODA-Dream financial solution. Being entirely Microsoft Windows-based enables all:sports to fully integrate data and communications from its numerous systems throughout the organisation.

The Business Benefits

The new system has delivered greater efficiency, improved accuracy and enhanced reporting and analysis to all:sports. The inherent flexibility of the Alphameric-CODA solution allows all:sports to change documents and download and customise reports.

The daily EPOS interface gives all:sports quicker access to the data, rather than waiting for paperwork, which was previously the case. Store data, including banking, sales and VAT, populates the Alphameric EPOS solution, which is automatically downloaded overnight to the Alphameric system at all:sports head office. The Alphameric-CODA solution contains user-definable interface tables, using nominal codes, and enables the financial information to be drilled down to retail store and even individual department level. Commenting on the solution, Lee explains:

"The interface, called Dream Portal, is set up how you want it to appear, picks up the relevant files and sends them on automatically. It has already greatly improved our processing times, for example reducing period end processing by one day, which can equate to an improvement of approximately 25 per cent."

The Alphameric-CODA solution, with its user-definable import facility, also gives all:sports the ability to import budgets created in other applications. This enables calculations to be carried out on- or offline and actuals and budgets to be compared.

Goods received note handling (GRNs) and orders placed are also automated into the system, allowing all:sports to double check the accruals position with the Goods receipt interface, something that was not easily done before. The Alphameric-CODA solution also provides all:sports the ability to produce management accounts using reporting tools from the CODA-Dream database for easy analysis of data.

Lee continues, "Overall, the system is much easier to use and to import and export information. We are able to produce reports quickly and simply due to the Microsoft platform and have the option to create various downloads to Excel for smaller reports as and when necessary."

Alphameric provides front-line support for the CODA product and develops the numerous interfaces that enable retail information to be imported into CODA to aid financial reporting. Lee comments, "With the dedicated CODA resource within Alphameric, responsiveness is excellent and also the advice we get is from both the retail and the financial perspective."

The Future

all:sports is planning to implement another element of the solution which will enable stock information to be transmitted into the CODA application. This includes transactional information, such as store, supplier, warehouse receipts and stock movements in order to automate the cost of sales.

all:sports also works with Alphameric on its web-integrated ordering and on-line catalogue that will be automatically updated in real time when a new product is introduced. Linked to all:sports stock system, the on-line catalogue will ensure the automatic input of information every time a new line, style, size or colour is introduced.

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