European Retailer's Quest for Visibility

Today's retail supply-chain managers are seeking solutions to help them better understand consumer demand trends and regulate the unique requirements of this industry segment. A case in point is Austria-based Niedermeyer (www.niedermeyer.at), a retailer of photography equipment, electronics and mobile phones. It has 150 sales outlets around the country with its headquarters and central warehouse in Vienna. Additionally, Niedermeyer has a web site where customers can shop online.

"We handle all distribution for our stores from our central warehouse," says Franz Koch, the company's chief information officer. "However, some of our suppliers ship directly to our stores. We have several shipping methods for our web customers. Delivery can be by mail, courier service or by picking up an order in one of our stores."

Niedermeyer's central warehouse contains 10 different storage areas with some 34,000 locations for stocking, preparation and splitting. Every day it receives around 300 pallets and ships 10,000 units, optimally delivering to 60 stores on 15 routes.

Faced with international competition and as part of an effort to upgrade its information technology systems, Niedermeyer implemented G.O.L.D. software from Aldata Solution (www.aldatasolution.com). The Finnish software supplier has retail customers in 50 countries and has begun to establish a presence in the United States. Niedermeyer implemented four modules of Aldata's software: Central for management of merchandise; Shop for back office operations; Stock for warehouse management; and Radio for control of its forklift trucks.

"Before the implementation of the G.O.L.D. products," says Koch, "we used proprietary solutions for material and stock management, with all of the problems and benefits that come with a proprietary system. We wanted to implement commercial software to cover those areas. G.O.L.D. delivered the functionality we needed. Additionally, because of the software's acceptance and use by a large number of other retailers, we would benefit from product enhancements."

The company has been able to optimize business processes because of improved data flows throughout its supply chain. This was accomplished by centralizing inventory and sales data from its retail outlets and in its warehouse based into a single integrated system. For the company's online channel, the software works to maintain web master data, article-and order management. In addition to Internet sales, the data collected helps Niedermeyer set pricing policy and manage product line volumes within each outlet.

For stock management the software offers inventory visibility from the warehouse to the sales outlets. It facilitates special customer requests and urgent orders and handles product transfers from branch to branch or through the central warehouse.

If for no other reason than getting rid of paper in its central warehouse, the warehouse management tools have increased Niedermeyer's productivity. Among other benefits have been the identification and control of picking routes and advanced statistical data.

"In the past," recalls Koch, "we had a private truck fleet. Now we use a core carrier group that provides the same flexibility we had with our private fleet, but at lower cost. We manage transportation through a combination of Stock functionality and carrier applications."

Retail Shipments at Ports Break Records

Through July 2006, the period for which the National Retail Federation (www.nrf.com) and Global Insights (www.globalinsight.com) are able to provide the most accurate figures, traffic at the major U.S. retail container ports was above the highest levels hit in 2005. The volume reported in advance of 2006 peak season numbers are projected to climb and set new records.

The ports included in the Port Tracker survey handled 1.38 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of container traffic in July. That volume was up 1.7% from June 2006 and 7.1% over July 2005. Projections for the remainder of the peak season are: August at 1.44 TEUs, up 8% year over year; September at 1.4 million TEUs, up 4.1%; and October at 1.45 million TEUs, 6.5% higher than October 2005.

The Port Tracker survey includes data from Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah.


Online Shopper Priorities Market research firm, Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com) conducted a recent survey on behalf of Newgistics, Inc. (www.newgistics.com), a provider of product return management services. Results of the study offer insights into consumer priorities when ordering products online. Here are a few of the highlights:

  1. Almost all (96%) respondents say the ability to return merchandise from home is important to their purchasing decisions.
  2. Nine out of 10 (88%) respondents highlight the time factor—the ability to shop day or night or in the wee hours of the morning— as a key benefit of shopping at home.
  3. When it comes to returns, three out of four adults prefer to use a pre-paid U.S. Postal Service label as a return method when shopping from home.
  4. It comes as no surprise that a large percentage (71%) of respondents say that shipping fees are a drawback to shopping from home.
  5. The number one item purchased by home shoppers is seasonal apparel.
  6. More than three out of five online shoppers (63%) say they feel that shopping at home saves them money.
  7. More than half of respondents say they are more likely to shop with retailers who provide them with the option to return purchases directly from home with a pre-paid label.
  8. Responding to the pressure on household income, half of survey respondents say they are curtailing discretionary spending due to fuel prices.
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