Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

We’re about a third of the way through a nine-month project to install a new integrated multichannel solution for footwear specialist Charles Clinkard, including a merchandising system, point of sale, and CRM.

After three months of hard work on both sides, we’re bang on track to have the new system up and running in all 34 branches before the next big trading period for footwear retailers at Easter (yes, that’s right, Easter. Apparently people don’t ask Santa for shoes).

With the software now in place and the design phase drawing to a close, we’ve been working together to figure out how to set things up so that Charles Clinkard gets the most out of the functionality that comes with the Mercatus merchandising system. The company’s current system has served it well for the past 10 years, but it just can’t cope with the demands of a more integrated, multichannel world.

Right now that’s a nuisance – soon, it’ll be a disaster. Customers are getting used to seamless, multichannel shopping and increasingly expect things like click and collect.

As the teams have kicked around different ways of overcoming the more fiddly aspects of footwear merchandising (such as every size of every style in five different widths!) we’ve been regular visitors to the Charles Clinkard head office – as much as 2-3 times a week over the summer.

Fortunately everyone seems to be getting on and that familiarity has bred a great working relationship that’s really helping us create a solution that should support Charles Clinkard for many years to come.

Watch the video and read the full story, including the views of  Tim Payne, Charles Clinkard’s merchandise director

About Charles Clinkard

The business began in 1924 with the opening of a shoe shop in Stockton. From small beginnings The Clinkard Group has now grown to be the leading Independent Footwear Retailer in the North East and one of the largest Independents in the UK. The current Managing Director – Charles Clinkard – is the grandson of the founders and continues the values that have established the business. The group consists of two key components: Charles Clinkard, which is the retail arm, and Intershoe the wholesale operation.

Further reading: Retail Week on the Road: North East and Yorkshire

Posted by: Robin Coles  |   Comments  No Response

It has always been one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe, something that our minds can’t grasp, the intellectual challenge that relates to the question: “What would happen if the indestructible force met the immovable object?”

Relating that thought to retail software and services, and coming fast over the hill is the indestructible force ‑ the move toward Software as a Service (SaaS). Here, we’re told that businesses will be able to simply subscribe to software as a service, and therefore be up and running overnight, much as one does with internet service provision, but this time related to business applications. It sounds attractive, the approach is compelling, it can’t be resisted.

However, on the other side of this hill is the immovable object, the traditional ERP (Enterprise resource planning) project. This is the implementation of software applications into the business, including the adoption of numerous complex business processes and the spreading of the vision to a wide group of people, in different departments, with different skill sets and conflicting objectives.

Today this really is an immovable object. Projects are run by documenting a series of business process blueprints, produced from a lengthy series of workshops, discussed and eventually agreed by a group of business sponsors. This lengthy and time-consuming process is required before the software can be used, indeed before the training can start, and it’s costly and challenging for all parties.

As we know though, you can’t stop an indestructible force, so there must be a solution. Perhaps the force will simply go round the object or maybe they’ll call it a draw and settle it through penalties.

At a recent trade show, I was approached by a former US colleague visiting the UK to see what opportunities exist. He wanted to know the name of the organisation that acted on behalf of UK retailers, considering industry trends and providing solutions. In North America the National Retail Federation is the body that does this, enabling retailers to debate their approach. We don’t have an organisation like this in the UK.

So it seems to me that the answer to our question is closer to home than we think, but it requires collaboration, something that challenges our UK culture. Clearly we need standards, and a body that considers these things, to make the immovable object budge a little! Then one of the challenges of the universe may have a chance of being solved…

By Robin Coles, Director of Supply Chain Consulting, BT Expedite

Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

Almost everyone has one. You can launch infuriated fowl at devious swine with them. And they provide the missing link between virtual and physical worlds. The mobile phone may seem an unlikely saviour, but with the right technology in place in-store, it could give retailers a real edge.

The death of the High Street has been prophesied for a while now. Globalisation and the growth of online shopping have squeezed traditional retailers – and we’ve seen a raft of closures and changes on the High Street in recent years.

At the moment, experts suggest multichannel retailers have two options:

  1. jettison the physical stores
  2. jump on the showrooming bandwagon – and sell online

But there is a third way; bringing the benefits of the web in-store.

Because, the fact is, people still like to go shopping. The difference now is that, when they do, they expect to get all the benefits they’d get online – access to a full range of products, real-time stock availability, instant access to product information and price comparisons, no queues, quick checkout and multiple delivery options.

Mobile technology can give customers all of this in-store, while at the same time improving customer service and providing retailers with new ways to sell.

We’re already seeing it in action at retail frontrunners such as Oasis, which has introduced iPads and mobile points of sale to its stores. Liz Evans, the company’s managing director, explains: “Using iPads is a fun and more practical way of shopping. People don’t have to queue and can buy anywhere on the shop floor. They can also look things up online and take pictures of themselves when trying on clothes. We are making shopping more fun, intuitive and innovative. In our first week of operation, iPad transactions accounted for 20 per cent of sales.”

It’s not just customers that benefit from the “webification” of the store. Mobile devices also empower store staff. They can instantly get their hands on enhanced product information or access training materials, planograms and store dashboards. All in all it means they can spend more time with customers on the shop floor selling, instead of in the back office searching.

The tablets themselves can be fully mobile or docked in secure holders to act either as a customer-facing kiosk or a more traditional staff-facing till. And with intuitive ‘pinch and swipe’ touchscreen gestures now the norm – both store staff and customers adapt quickly to new devices.

Of course, the next stage will be sharing information between customer and staff devices. So rather than handing a tablet back and forth between store staff and customers, in the near future the shared experience will move between store tablets and customer smartphones, ‘throwing’ content or payment between devices.

The fact that you can access product information, check stock, order goods and take payment from just one handheld device, while roaming round the store, is also reshaping store layouts, with less need for great banks of tills. Instead we’re seeing less formal “touchdown points” dotted around the store where customers can pay and have products wrapped etc. The result is more stock and display space in store.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of mobile technology in-store we’re hosting an event at BT Tower on 24 October 2012.  The details are still being finalised, but we’ll have two high profile retailers as guest speakers, sharing their experiences, and our experts and partners will be there with a wealth of practical advice via our technology demonstration showcase at the top of the BT Tower.

Posted by Charleen Benson, Head of Consulting Services, BT Expedite

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