INVENTORY

Ordering Made Easy

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Customer service is more than a priority at The Container Store—it’s a core competency. So it’s no wonder that the retailer was unhappy with the fact that some of its key store-level staffers were spending hours in the back room—as opposed to on the selling floor—ordering toilet paper, aprons and the like through a cumbersome manual process.

“Prior to early this year, we maintained detailed Excel spreadsheets for non-merchandise store supplies such as bags, aprons and office and cleaning supplies,” explained Scott Jones, purchasing agent, The Container Store, Coppell, Texas, which operates 48 stores nationwide. “One key store-level employee would count supplies, compile an order and fax or e-mail it to headquarters where it would be reviewed, approved and keyed into the warehouse management system.”

The order subsequently ended up in the hands of the Coppell central distribution center, where employees would pull supplies from inventory and ship them to the stores. But the company had come to the point where it knew it needed to make a change.

“We needed to upgrade the system, eliminating the spreadsheet and the amount of time spent keying in orders,” Jones said.

The Container Store opted to implement a cloud-based, e-procurement solution from San Mateo, Calif.-based Coupa Software Inc. that would allow store-level employees to log on, see pictures of the available products and their costs, click the items and quantities, and return immediately to the sales floor.

“Having our employees see pictures of the products they’re ordering, along with the cost, has prompted them to be better stewards,” Jones said. “In fact, we’ve seen a 3% decrease in supply spend because of it.”

By managing its requisition and purchase order processes through the new system, The Container Store also can accurately charge supply costs to individual stores based on supply usage, instead of more arbitrary measures like cost allocation based on percent of sales volume.

The software, which is integrated with The Container Store’s warehouse management system, has allowed The Container Store to establish direct-ship relationships with many of its vendors. Previously, the retailer was maintaining all non-merchandise inventory in the central distribution center—eating up about 20,000 sq. ft. of space.

“Because Coupa has allowed us to have many of our vendors ship directly to stores, we have been able to reduce what was about 800 SKUs of non-merchandise inventory by about 200 SKUs, freeing up 25% of the space formerly devoted to non-merchandise inventory in the DC,” Jones said.

Items such as office supplies and light bulbs are now direct-shipped from the vendor in a step that is invisible to the employee placing the order.

“If you’ve ever ordered anything online, you know how to use this solution,” added Bram Warrick, operations analyst, The Container Store. “You just select what you need, click and you’re done.”

Ease of use sold the retailer on the solution.

“Typically, when companies are examining their purchasing processes, they are coming from a manual paper-based environment or have other ERP (enterprise resource planning) packages that have been extended to manage the order process,” said Jason Hekl, VP marketing, Coupa. “Those can be inefficient and prone to error. Our solution is designed for this very scenario to allow the average employee to successfully place orders.”

The Container Store launched the cloud-based procurement solution in July 2009, starting with its local stores. It expanded its efforts to one market each week. By spring 2010, the solution was in place chainwide.

“Today, store managers no longer spend hours on the computer placing orders,” said Container Store’s Jones. “The solution has allowed our key personnel to maximize their time with our customers on the selling floor.”

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Kmart launches Smart Sense

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Kmart announced the expansion of its brand portfolio with the introduction of the Smart Sense line, its new Kmart brand that includes a wide range of items including everything from snacks and beverages, to oral care, paper products, household cleaners and over-the-counter medications. The quality of the Smart Sense line is comparable to that of national name brands, and on average costs 20% less, according to the company.

"With the introduction of the Smart Sense line, Kmart is looking to offer a more affordable Kmart brand product assortment that will rival the quality of more nationally recognized brands," said Mark Snyder, chief marketing officer, Kmart. "While the Smart Sense line will offer the everyday essentials, Kmart is also taking it a step further by providing unique products that you wouldn’t typically expect to see under a store brand."

The Smart Sense line currently consists of hundreds of products available in Kmart stores and the product line will expand to more than 1,200 items by early 2011, the company reported. Kmart said it will also support the Smart Sense line launch through multiple communications channels, including advertising, coupon offers, merchandising displays, sampling, digital marketing and event marketing.

In addition to the introduction of the Smart Sense line, a new look has been created for many other Kmart brand products, the company reported. The brighter and more vibrant packaging has been designed to capture the "colorful thinking" Kmart is demonstrating through its new product and brand announcements. In addition to the Smart Sense line roll-out, Kmart is also introducing products in a re-launch of its other exclusive brands, which include, Little Ones baby care products, Champion Breed pet care products, Image Essentials personal care products and VitaSmart vitamin products.

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Target to open ten stores on 10/10/10

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS Target announced that it will open 10 stores across the country, resulting in the creation of more than 2,400 jobs.

The stores will open in the following communities:

 

    * Sacramento East: 6507 4th Ave., Sacramento, Calif.     * Simi Valley West: 51 Tierra Rejada Rd., Simi Valley, Calif.     * Bakersfield Central: 2901 Ming Ave., Bakersfield, Calif.     * San Jose North: 95 Holger Way, San Jose, Calif.     * Azusa: 809 Azusa Ave., Azusa, Calif.     * Salt Lake City: 1110 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City, Utah     * Little Rock University: 420 S. University Ave., Little Rock, Ark.     * Christiana: 800 Christiana Mall, Christiana, Del.     * Flushing: 4024 College Point Blvd., Flushing, N.Y.     * Braintree: 250 Granite St., Braintree, Mass.

 

“These new Target store openings will help support local economies and make life easier for our guests by creating new jobs, spurring development and providing the utmost in convenience and value,” said John Griffith, EVP property development for Target. “We are looking forward to deepening our relationship with guests in communities across the country.”

As part of the grand opening celebrations, Target said each store will contribute to its community by initiating a local grant program, contributing to the United Way, donating food to Feeding America and product to the local Goodwill chapter and encouraging team members to volunteer their time to serve their community.

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