Coldwater Creek execs talk tech
New York — On their recent earnings (second quarter) call with analysts, Coldwater Creek CEO Jill Brown Dean and CFO/COO James Bell talked technology, specifically discussing the results of the company’s implementation of the new Oracle-based inventory planning system.
The implementation was competed in March 2013, Bell noted. He added that while the company had, in recent years, developed many inventory management disciplines, it was lacking adequate tools to fully maximize its inventory investment.
“The capabilities of this new system are significantly more robust than anything we’ve used in the past, providing a level of transparency that represents a meaningful opportunity for us to drive more consistent sales and margin improvement over time as we become more proficient with this new capability,” Bell said.
Dean noted that system gives the chain the “precision” to plan floor set-by-floor set, week-by-week to ensure that each of its big businesses and key categories is appropriately positioned in the preplanning phase and then appropriately reacted to, be it in promotions, slowing down inventory in the supply chain, or moving it up inventory.
“It’s giving us a tremendous level of insight and visibility that we have not had,” Dean said.
Bell explained that the system allows for preseason planning and the ability to look at historical performance in a way that “we haven’t before in terms of transparency.” With regards to in-season, the capabilities and visibility of the Oracle system allow the company to read and react in a much better way.
“So it’s both the pre- and in-season capabilities. I think those are the critical factors,” Bell said.
Ultimately, the system allows the chain to buy more efficiently upfront, and also be much more efficient in terms of the management of any particular item throughout its entire life cycle — when to go to a first mark, how deep to go to that market, how is it performing at full price, how long do you keep it there on a weekly basis, etc.
“These are all capabilities that we’ve been employing, but not with the level of transparency that this system gives us,” Bell said.
He added that the first season Coldwater Creek did preseason planning utilizing the system was for its holiday assortment upcoming.”
RSR Research: Marketers take interest in customer data
Walnut Creek, Calif. – The percentage of retailers who consider their marketing department to be an owner of customer data has more than doubled in the past year. According to a new RSR Research survey, “Retail Marketing 2013: Organizational Drift,” 61% of 122 retail respondents surveyed online between May and July of this year listed marketing as a customer data owner, compared to 33% in 2012.
The percentage listing IT as a customer data owner is virtually unchanged at 34% (33%) last year. The store operations (22% compared to 14%), e-commerce direct channel (20% compared to 13%) and merchandising (20% compared to 7%) have also taken a much greater ownership stake in the past year. About half as many retailers say customer data has no explicit owner this year (17%) as last year (33%), while the percentage who say the supply chain/fulfillment department is an owner remains low at 10%, but doubled since 5% indicated this in 2012.
Other findings include:
- The top three marketing opportunities retailers see this year are more effective targeting by capturing more detailed customer preferences (53%), a greater focus on customer experience with less on product (48%) and using digital channels to drive store traffic (44%). The first two percentages are basically flat from last year, but digital driving of store traffic grew in popularity by more than 50% from 28% last year.
- Forty-six percent of retailers think their marketing department spent the right amount of time driving digital and store traffic in the past year, while 37% think they didn’t spend enough time and 17% think too much time was spent.
- Retailers listed the same top three organizational inhibitors to marketing this year as last year, but in higher percentages. They are difficulty getting IT resources (55% compared to 38%), lack of resources for available opportunities (48% compared to 37%) and difficulty quantifying ROI (41% compared to 27%).
Sustainability Index reshaping the future at Walmart
Walmart held another one of its Global Sustainability Milestone Meetings on Thursday and shed new light on priorities and initiatives that promise to have far-reaching implications on suppliers as well as competitors.
The highlight of the meeting was an update on the company’s Sustainability Index which has been rolled out to 200 product categories and 1,000 suppliers with a total of 300 categories and 5,000 suppliers expected by year end, according to the company.
“We’ve reached an acceleration point where we are moving from measurement to results. We’re starting to really drive progress with the Index,” Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke said. “This is about trust and value. Using less energy, greener chemicals, fewer fertilizers and more recycled materials – all of this – is the right thing to do for the planet and it’s right for our customers and our business.”
The Sustainability Index is a measurement system Walmart created to track the environmental impact of products. Since the Index rolled out broadly to Walmart product categories in August 2012, it has shown a consistent trend of improved product sustainability, according to the company. For example, Walmart’s general merchandise department has improved its Index product sustainability score by an average of 20%, the grocery department by an average of 12% and and consumables and health and wellness by an average of 6%.
“With the Sustainability Index, Walmart is applying the science and research that we’ve developed to create a more sustainable supply chain globally,” said Kara Hurst, CEO of The Sustainability Consortium. “We’re excited about the significant progress Walmart and its suppliers are making and value their partnership with us to address big issues and drive real social and environmental change.”
As part of the progress update at the meeting, the company share details on five major initiatives underway:
•Increasing the Use of Recycled Materials. More than 29 million tons of valuable plastics are sent to landfills every year in the U.S. at a cost of about $6.6 billion annually. Walmart said it aims to grow both the supply and demand for recycled plastics so they can be diverted from landfill and get a second life. The company is working with cities to increase plastic recycling and with suppliers to increase the use of recycled content and make packaging more recyclable. Changes in packaging are already being implemented in product categories such as beverage, over-the-counter drugs, dairy creamers and berry containers.
•Offering Products with Greener Chemicals. Walmart provided an overview of its new Consumables Chemicals initiative, describing how it is working with suppliers to reduce or eliminate the use of priority chemicals used in consumables products in favor of greener alternatives. It will begin with household cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products, asking suppliers to transition to greener substitutes for priority chemicals.
•Reducing Fertilizer Use in Agriculture. Walmart is requiring suppliers who use commodity grains, such as corn, wheat and soy in their products, to develop a fertilizer optimization plan that outlines clear goals to improve performance based on Index research. Through this program, the company estimated along with its suppliers the potential exists to reduce fertilizer use on 14 million acres of farmland in the U.S. by 2020.
•Expanding the Sustainability Index to International Markets. Walmart said it will expand the Sustainability Index and measurement to international markets with the goal of improving product sustainability at the global level. Walmart Chile and Walmart Mexico will launch the Index in their respective markets in 2014. In addition, South Africa’s Massmart has begun to include key Index questions in its supplier sustainability surveys.
•Improving Energy Efficiency. The Index has uncovered the importance of energy efficiency in several product categories, such as televisions, plastic toys, small appliances and greeting cards. By working with suppliers to improve energy efficiency through the supply chain of these products, Index energy scores have already improved 23% in general merchandise categories. Walmart said it is now providing tools for suppliers to help track and reduce the energy used to produce these products.