Coldwater Creek deploys Oracle solutions to improve online and store performance
Redwood Shores, Calif. — Coldwater Creek has deployed Oracle Retail’s suite of integrated merchandise planning and optimization solutions as part of a strategic initiative to increase full-price selling and improve the productivity and profitability of store, online and catalog channels. The women’s apparel retailer is using the new planning solutions to reduce aged inventory and ensure that popular items are consistently in stock.
“The new Oracle-based inventory planning system provides inventory visibility that simply was not possible for us in the past,” said Jim Bell, executive VP and CFO/COO, Coldwater Creek, Sandpoint, Idaho. “Ultimately, this should lead to further reductions in aged inventory and allow us to increase our full-price selling, making us more productive and profitable.”
Coldwater Creek is using the Oracle solutions to create pre-season and in-season plans that will ensure the right styles and colors are available to meet customer demand in stores, online and via catalog.
“The new planning process underpins one of our strategic business objectives for this year, which is to optimize the effectiveness of our inventory investments without diminishing our ability to meet customer demand, across all channels,” explained Deanna Emsley, senior VP of inventory planning and corporate strategy, Coldwater Creek. “The Oracle Retail solution represents a significant change in the way we approach assortments and inventory by facilitating a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approach to planning.”
With this level of cross channel and cross category collaboration, Coldwater Creek is better able to tailor and monetize its product assortments and respond more effectively to evolving customer demand. The chain also is using the Oracle Retail solutions to budget and forecast demand more accurately, enabling better buying decisions and faster reaction to item performance by either purchasing more or using promotional mechanisms to strategically clear merchandise faster.
Coldwater Creek expects the integrated inventory management and planning processes to improve the productivity and profitability of store, online and catalog channels.
Relying on an internal team of merchandising and IT experts supplemented by minimal external consulting, Coldwater Creek implemented the suite of integrated of Oracle Retail applications in just nine months.
Ulta Beauty gets CEO makeover
Ulta Beauty announced that Mary Dillon will be the company’s new CEO. She begins her new role July 1, at which time interim CEO Dennis Eck will step down.
Eck has been interim CEO since February, when Chuck Rubin stepped down as president, CEO and director to become CEO at arts and crafts specialty retailer Michaels.
“After conducting a thorough and robust search process, the board believes that Mary is the ideal person to lead Ulta Beauty as we enter our next phase of growth,” said Eck. “Mary brings strategic vision, a rich consumer marketing background, strong operational experience and a passion for the customer. Her experience with developing national brands, her expertise in the digital world, and her track record in building strong teams will all be important assets for Ulta Beauty. After spending the last several months working closely with the management team, I am certain that Mary will be an excellent cultural fit for the organization and lead Ulta Beauty to the next level.”
“With nearly three decades of experience leading consumer-driven businesses, Mary has the necessary leadership skills, experience as a public company CEO and keen understanding of how to execute a successful digital strategy that will complement Ulta Beauty’s talented team to drive continued growth and success,” said non-executive chairman of the board Ken Stevens.
Dillon was president and CEO of U.S. Cellular, where she was also a director since June 2010. Dillon led the $4 billion national wireless carrier to develop new channels of distribution and revenue initiatives, implement an omnichannel strategy and strengthen e-commerce platforms. She is credited with driving improvements in marketing execution, creating an innovation process and strengthening relationships with key vendors to deliver more competitive offerings and launches.
“I am delighted to be joining a company with such a strong track record and tremendous growth opportunities and am excited to be part of the dynamic beauty industry,” said Dillon. “Ulta Beauty has set itself apart in the industry — it has always placed a real premium on the customer experience while simultaneously innovating and adapting to changes in the market. The company is well positioned for the future and I look forward to working closely with Ulta Beauty’s excellent leadership team and 16,000 dedicated associates to build on its proven growth strategies.”
She was also global CMO and EVP for McDonald’s Corporation. Prior to joining McDonald’s, Dillon was an executive at PepsiCo, where she held various positions of increasing responsibility, including president of the Quaker Foods division.
Dillon served as chair and executive committee member for CTIA, the Wireless Association. Dillon received a bachelor of science in marketing and Asian studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Additionally, Dillon sat on the Target board since 2007, but resigned her spot there following her CEO appointment.
Ulta Beauty is a beauty retailer that offers more than 20,000 products across the categories of cosmetics, fragrance, hair care, skincare, bath and body products and salon styling tools, as well as salon hair care products. Ulta Beauty also offers a full-service salon in all of its stores. The company operates 576 retail stores across 46 states and also distributes its products through the e-commerce site.
Modern Digital Retail: Everyone Gets a Participant Ribbon
Many socioeconomic pundits have bemoaned the trend in modern education and childrearing toward creating an artificially level playing field where everyone gets a participant ribbon for everything they do, regardless of how much effort they put in or how good (or bad) the results are. Whether it’s a game where no score is kept, a ban on musical chairs because only one child gets to be the winner, or allegations of grade inflation at the nation’s top universities, critics say this attempt to make children believe they are good at everything is psychologically damaging and even threatens the future competitiveness of our nation.
My role is not to comment on how kids are being raised these days (though as a parent of two preschoolers I think this “everyone wins” approach is okay until grade school, when kids need to start learning about things like striving to excel and accepting defeat), but on how IT is affecting retail. And the increasing digitization of how goods and services are delivered to consumers is indeed leveling the retail playing field and letting a whole bunch of new competitors earn their digital retail participant ribbons, whether established players like it or not.
Jay-Z sets another trend
Consider the recent announcement that the upcoming album “Magna Carta Holy Grail” from rap superstar Jay-Z will be available for an exclusive 72-hour presale as a digital download for Samsung Galaxy owners. While musical artists have been partnering with various retailers to offer their customers exclusive albums, bonus tracks, etc. for some time, this agreement marks a major departure. One of the world’s most popular musical performers is enabling a technology hardware provider to act as an e-commerce retailer for what will surely be an extremely lucrative product.
Software and IT service providers such as Apple. Microsoft and Google have been playing in the digital retail game for a while now, but to this point hardware providers have been more or less absent. And although Samsung is only joining the fun for three days, nothing precludes Samsung or some other mobile hardware provider from inking an exclusive deal to distribute digital copies of popular albums, films, TV shows, video games, books, software or other digital content.
Needless to say, the non-digital versions of entertainment content are becoming less important to consumers (and by extension retailers and creators) by the day, meaning deals like the one Jay-Z signed with Samsung will only become more lucrative over time. The proliferation of Internet-connected smart devices also extends the type of companies that can potentially enter the digital content market far beyond mobile hardware providers. In addition to wearable Internet devices such as Google Glasses, products such as TVs and radios are increasingly being offered in the “smart” variety and would make for natural digital commerce platforms.
Competition in three dimensions
Retailers also need to consider than an extremely disruptive technology known as 3-D printing, currently in its infancy, holds the potential to exponentially increase the amount of products that can be delivered digitally. Crude but functioning firearms have already been created with 3-D printers, and predictions of products that will in the not-too-distant future be available for 3-D printing include automobiles and even houses. It’s too early to conclude that 3-D printing will radicalize how products are made and sold (remember when the experts said Segway scooters would change how cities are designed?), but at a minimum printers will also soon become legitimate digital commerce platforms.
Nobody can be the best at everything
What are traditional (and at this point pure play e-commerce retailers are “traditional”) retailers to do in the face of all these new players in the digital space? Well, just as the elimination of a score doesn’t change the fact that not all players in a game possess the same natural ability or skill level, the elimination of barriers to entry in the realm of digital retail doesn’t change the fact that not all digital retailers are created equal.
Even though some consumer product manufacturers do engage in direct-to-consumer sales and customer service, it is not their specialty. Retailers, on the other hand, live and die by anticipating and meeting customer wants and needs, which they can do at a highly individualized level in the digital arena.
This means traditional retailers can (and should) introduce some Darwinian competition to the “everybody gets a participant ribbon” modern digital retail environment by doing things like offering individually targeted product assortments, discounts, upsells and cross-sells based on customer behavior and purchase history, offering targeted mobile discounts based on customer location and time of day, and offering full channel integration (where applicable) with features like in-store pickup and returns of items purchased online.
Non-traditional players aren’t necessarily incapable of offering some or all of these features, but they generally have far less skill and background in offering this kind of targeted B2C customer experience. Naturally, retailers should be transparent about collecting customer data to create a personalized digital shopping environment and only offer it on an opt-in basis.
Regardless of the leveling of competition in their younger years, at some point kids grow up and enter a highly competitive world where they must prove themselves or fail. The same is true of digital retailers. Maybe a manufacturer can start selling directly to consumers with a relatively easy digital commerce technology implementation, but that doesn’t mean consumers will accept an inferior customer experience. Participant ribbons are nice, but they don’t guarantee a spot on the varsity team.