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Donna Karan deploys merchandise planning solution from Maple Lake

BY Marianne Wilson

Markham, Canada — Donna Karan Co. is implementing a new merchandise, store and assortment planning software solution, QuickAssortment from Maple Lake, that will enable it to create assortments that align to the purchasing preferences of its customers in each location, as well as via its e-commerce stores.

QuickAnalytics is also being used to provide extensive reporting and
analytical capabilities.

“In the luxury market we have to be sensitive to the individual preferences of our customers and ensure that we have an assortment that inspires each time they visit our stores,” said Donna Sarian, VP planning and allocation at Donna Karan. “From an inventory planning and management point of view, our challenge is to balance the needs of a multi-brand, multichannel organization with long design and buying cycles. It’s very easy for departments to be disconnected and find we don’t have enough of the right product in the right stores. With Maple Lake we’re joining all aspects of our retail planning into a single application, so that we can be sure our products, stores and assortments all balance.”

Sarian continued: “The quick win is obviously one of efficiency — we won’t have to spend time maintaining our web of spreadsheets — but the real value to us will be through greater visibility to the effects of our decisions on the bottom line. Understanding how deep to go on a markdown, quantifying the buys, fine tuning the targeted inventory levels to maintain just the right amount of cover — all of these things will have a positive impact to the gross margin and the ability for the company to grow efficiently.”

Donna Karan used the power of social networking as part of its due diligence process to help choose a vendor. The team established contacts with existing Maple Lake clients and obtained informal references and on-site visits in absence of the vendor to gain a real world understanding of whether the solution could really add value.

Sarian concluded: “We knew that we had a good technical fit, we liked the product and we were confident in Maple Lake’s ability to deliver a project all before they walked through the door,” Sarian said.

The QuickAssortment solution includes merchandise planning, store planning, store clustering, store assortment planning and key item planning. QuickAnalytics provides an extremely comprehensive reporting and analytical capability powered by MicroStrategy. Technically, Maple Lake’s software operates on a Microsoft SQL server platform and operates within a client-server architecture. The system is integrated with a variety of merchandise management and business intelligence systems.

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Gap sees future in outlets

BY CSA STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO— At an investor conference on Thursday, Gap CEO Glenn Murphy announced the company will close 200 of its 900 U.S. namesake stores even as it expands its outlet presence.

While the company did not identify which stores will close, Gap said the 200 Gap brand closures over the next two years will be accompanied by a push to expand its Gap Outlet and Banana Republic factory chains.

At the Piper Jaffray investor conference, Murphy said he believes the company can recapture operating margins of 13.4%, which it saw in 2010. Operating margins were 8.5% in first quarter 2011.

Murphy also outlined a plan for Gap Inc. to shift from being primarily a specialty retailer in North America to being more of a value player. In addition to closing 200 Gap brand stores, Gap will grow its Gap Outlets to about 250 stores, a net addition of 50 or 60 stores. It will grow its Banana Republic Factory store count to about 150, a net addition of about 40 stores.

"The economic model of Outlet is the highest return on capital and is where customers gravitate," Murphy said in the meeting. "Everywhere around the world there’s a way to put the value expression of the brand."

The Athleta brand is slated for expansion, with 10 stores scheduled to open by year-end 2011 and ready to “explode” the brands’ real estate opportunities in 2012 and beyond, said Murphy.

Murphy also said that he would dramatically reduce the number of vendors with whom Gap works, including working more directly with mills, in an effort to secure better prices and a faster, more flexible pipeline.

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Fortune Brands names SVP, CFO home and security unit

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Fortune Brands announced that it has named E. Lee Wyatt as SVP and CFO of its home and security unit.

Wyatt was most recently EVP and CFOat HanesBrands.Prior to joining HanesBrands in advance of its 2006 spin-off, Wyatt served as a VP of Sara Lee and as CFO of Sara Lee branded apparel from 2005 to 2006. His previous executive leadership positions include serving as EVP, CFO and treasurer of Sonic Automotive and as VP administration and CFO of Sealy Corporation.

“Lee Wyatt is a talented and proven leader who is a terrific fit for Fortune Brands Home & Security,” said Chris Klein, president and CEO of Fortune Brands home and security. “As CFO at HanesBrands, Lee helped guide the company through its spin-off from Sara Lee, built a strong finance organization, and was instrumental in building HanesBrands’ reputation on Wall Street. Lee has a long track record of helping create shareholder value and we are excited to welcome him to the FBHS team as we prepare to become a standalone company and build on our considerable strengths.”

Klein also announced the appointments of executives to lead the company’s investor relations and corporate communications functions.

Brian Lantz has joined the company as VP investor relations for Fortune Brands home and security. Lantz also comes from HanesBrands where he was VP investor relations for the past five years.

Gary Ross has been named Fortune Brands home & Security’s VP corporate communications. Ross has served in key communications roles at CDW for the past 11 years, most recently as director corporate communications. He will join the company the week of June.

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