The Right Fit

One of the biggest problems for retailers is ensuring they have the right sizes and styles available in the correct stores. Retailers that have trouble planning localized assortments are at an additional disadvantage.

Town Shoes knows this challenge firsthand. The 60-year-old company relied on spreadsheets to create assortments, making targeted or clustered store assortments nearly impossible.

“We plan well at high levels and in aggregate, but without a system automating and managing assortments, our planning process is not good enough to focus at the store level,” said Peter Gerhardt, CFO, Town Shoes, Downsview, Ontario.

With its acquisition of 69 stores from Canadian-based Sterling Shoes earlier this year, it became even more important for Town Shoes to strive toward customer-centricity and tailored store-level assortments.

“Being a much bigger company than before, we could not replicate what we have done previously through brute force,” Gerhardt explained. “We have leveraged all abilities thus far, but now it is time to automate our process so we can assess inventory and get an action plan based on demand.”

A longtime partner of Jesta I.S. (Verdun, Quebec City), Town Shoes recently added the vendor’s Vision Merchandising replenishment solution to automate its inventory management, which is also tightly integrated with Jesta’s point-of-sale software solution (Vision Store).

The retailer is no stranger to the merchandising technology; it installed the solution in its Skechers brand in Canada a year ago.

 “It was a natural fit for Sterling; it is user-friendly and a newer solution,” Gerhardt said.

The success prompted the retailer to roll out the solution across its Sterling Shoes division. Vision Store sits on the company’s central server residing at corporate. As corporate planners create an assortment plan, they input data into Vision Merchandising, which is then filtered into Vision Store.

“The integrated solution enables associates to see which stores have inventory,” Gerhardt said.

The planners also now can load price changes and other enterprise operational functions through the solution’s centralized user interface (rather than into multiple locations), allowing all data to be centralized and accessible.

Based on the solution’s intuitive training and minimal learning curve, the company expects the solution to improve planning and allocation, and aid in its creation of more customer-centric tailored and relevantly sized assortments at individual stores.

“Like other retailers, we are working toward driving more turns and sales using less inventory, but we must better manage our assortments to ensure we don’t reduce sales,” Gerhardt explained.

Town Shoes is currently creating a road map for its future planning and allocation strategies, including localized assortments. Once a plan is in place, the company expects to begin tailoring assortments across 70 of its 200 stores. It hopes to begin implementing localized assortments by the end of January 2013.

Town Shoes also plans to expand its merchandising system to its multichannel operation.

“We are currently creating a new user interface that we plan to launch in January, and we are working with Jesta I.S. on implementing electronic distribution and online order management that is linked to enterprise inventory management,” Gerhardt added. “We expect to use our ecommerce site to create an endless aisle, so if shoppers do not find what they need in-store, we can order it and ship it directly to them.”