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By George, I Think They Get It!

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Systems integration has become a popular topic in this column for two reasons. Why? First, I feel it is important to cover the promise—and slow progress—of systems integration across the retail industry. And second, many of my own personal retail experiences often illustrate the impact of (for the most part) a poorly integrated enterprise on customer service.

I know this sounds cynical, but many of these poor retailing experiences are truly taking a toll on the industry and impacting customers’ loyalty.

So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to find a company that has truly integrated its electronic storefront, online checkout, fulfillment and call center.

As a working mother of two little ones, organization is the name of the game. That’s why I had my Halloween costumes ordered by mid-September (As a reformed procrastinator, I know what it’s like to wait until the last minute, scramble and come up short).

On Sept. 18, I ordered my older daughter’s costume from OneStepAhead.com , a pure-play baby-merchandise retailer that has been my go-to source of Halloween costumes since Daniella was an infant. The costume, an adorable purple-and-black velvet witch costume, complete with tall pointed hat, was $29.95. After a $7 shipping and handling fee and a bill for $36.95, I was set.

But when I logged onto my e-mail on Sept. 19, and a OneStepAhead promotion in my inbox touted that all Halloween costumes had been slashed by at least $10, my cauldron boiled over.

Since my order was less than 24 hours old, I got on the horn seeking an adjustment. I provided the agent with my order number and confirmed my name and address.

She was able to pinpoint my order, and pleasantly informed me that it already reflected the discount, and a new receipt was on the way. It seems that when the previous day’s orders were pulled into the inventory management and fulfillment systems, the company’s ERP system must have also polled its marketing applications and applied the $10 discount. I got the new receipt minutes later.

Finally! A company that “gets it.”

I’m not sure whether I was more excited that I saved money, that I didn’t have to argue for an adjustment, or that I finally found a retailer that is successfully integrating its internal operations. (I would say it’s a three-way tie.)

I don’t know if OneStepAhead was created on completely integrated systems or if this is a work in progress. But its mission-critical systems are clearly linked. And speaking from both an industry insider and a customer perspective, the value of a streamlined enterprise is evident.

The retailer is clearly supported by both a centralized platform and database. Once my order hit the system, each linked application pulled the data it needed to accurately process and fulfill my order. You know, the way it should be.

After dressing Daniella in her witch costume (with her younger sister Cristiana standing at her side dressed as a Hershey’s Kiss), I took pictures to go into our photo albums. Besides capturing the holiday memories, these photos will also remind me that OneStepAhead is an integration trailblazer—another reason why it will continue to win my customer loyalty.

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Best Buy LCD TV line to earn Energy Star label

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS Best Buy has announced that its entire line of exclusive-branded Insignia LCD televisions manufactured after Nov. 1 will meet the new ENERGY STAR version 3.0 requirements, including six Insignia models which will exceed the new specification for energy-efficient televisions by 15% or more.

All Insignia LCD televisions available at Best Buy stores across the U.S. by Dec. 31 will be ENERGY STAR 3.0 certified. For more information and an updated list of brands meet the 3.0 specification, visit www.energystar.gov/products.

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Klein’s Markets joins Wakefern under ShopRite banner

BY CSA STAFF

KEASBEY, N.J. and FOREST HILL, Md. Klein’s Family Markets, based in Harford County, Maryland, announced that it will be joining the Wakefern Food retail cooperative. With membership in the cooperative, Klein’s will transition its seven stores to the ShopRite banner.

“Transitioning to the ShopRite banner will allow us to expand our offering throughout our store including a broader selection in our meat, produce, deli and bakery departments,” noted Marshall Klein, perishable director of Klein’s Family Markets. Marshall Klein also noted that the quality of the ShopRite private label brand was another consideration when deciding to join ShopRite. “Harford County residents will now have access to more than 3,000 ShopRite branded items, including imported specialty foods, that we believe will bring a new level of quality and value to our customers,” said Klein.

The Klein family becomes the forty-fourth member of Wakefern Food Corp. and will complete their transition to the ShopRite banner by the first quarter of 2009. In addition to providing its members with procurement, warehousing and distribution services, Wakefern is the marketing and advertising arm for ShopRite.

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