Lush Branches Out With altoHiway and Enhanced Computer Solutions

Fresh handmade cosmetics retailer Lush has selected the altoHiway secure Private Branch Network (PBN) system to connect its high street outlets. Expanding at a rate of two new outlets a month, Lush currently has 60 stores deployed and is planning to have the altoHiway PBN installed in all 100 of its UK branches by 2005.

Lush was looking for a solution that would enable fast, secure and cost effective communication between its head office, manufacturing plant and the high street outlets. The retailer required secure communication of sales data from its EPOS system, to enable stock ordering and production planning improvements at Lush manufacturing sites.

Andy Jones, Director of Manufacturing, Lush explains: "This is particularly important for Lush, as its products are handmade fresh to order for each store. Much of our dairy stock, for example, contains fresh produce, which is perishable. Therefore, it is vital to have a good link to our EPOS system, which is capable of providing up to the minute sales figures for each store, so that manufacturing keeps up with demand."

Lush was coming up to its busiest retail period and was keen to identify an effective solution. Simon White, sales director at Enhanced Computer Solutions explains: "As we had installed the communications link for the initial EPOS system, Lush asked us to recommend a communication partner. So we turned to business ISP altoHiway. altoHiway has invested heavily in its own network infrastructure over the past ten years and was in a perfect position to offer Lush a solution".

altoHiway developed its new, second generation virtual private network, the PBN, specifically for the retail sector. Based on a secure non-Internet facing network altoHiway's PBN allows management reports to be updated throughout the day in real time. In the Lush PBN deployment, a collector server polls the EPOS tills for data updates and feeds this back securely to head office, so that the production planning system is constantly updated. To further increase security, all traffic is routed "off Net" through the local ADSL exchange directly to altoHiway's own diversely routed, resilient network without any data getting anywhere near the Internet.

The Lush head office has complete control over branch access to the Internet for web browsing and email as data can only pass between branch and head office therefore they can be assured that there is no misuse of the Internet at Branch level.

"This solution is ideal for the retail environment, where head office staff need to communicate efficiently with branch staff, without having concerns about network security being compromised at branch level." Says Chris Wood, sales and marketing director at altoHiway.

As the EPOS system is now near real time, Lush sales data from each of the stores is uploaded to head office and communicated to the manufacturing sites, with the result that order fulfilment has been significantly improved. The retailer is now considering deploying an extranet for ordering stock, which will also be installed by value added reseller Enhanced Computer Solutions using the altoHiway private branch network.

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