Retailer Busts Lines with New Inventory System

Sales associates at Gordmans, an apparel and home fashions retailer, found they were spending more time waiting for inventory data than they were spending on customers.

Gordmans, which operates 52 stores throughout the Midwest, sells approximately 120,000 items from companies such as Revlon, Adidas, Calvin Klein and Hanes.

On a typical morning, the associates would download files containing prices and bar codes to handheld data terminals. It took 30 minutes for the information to download and another 30 minutes to upload changes to headquarters. Each store had about four units, and the process was the same for each unit.

“It was time to make a change,” says Norm Farrington, CIO at Gordmans. “[Downloads] were done at a slow, serial speed. One unit was done, and then you do another. Out of a six-hour shift, you spend one hour waiting before doing any work…and five hours doing actual work.”

Gordmans looked at handheld inventory solutions from six vendors, eventually selecting Symbol Technologies’ MC3000 mobile computer. The MC3000 is based on the Intel XScale processor and runs on Microsoft Windows CE .NET. The mobile computer works with Symbol’s Mobility Services Platform to collect and monitor product information, delivering it to a centralized MSP console. Data moves over Symbol’s WS2000 branch office wireless switch for Wi-Fi 802.11b/g.

The retailer outsourced software development to Symbol and Agilysys, a Symbol partner, and kept its pricing and batch transfers, or what Farrington calls the “Gordmans’ flavor.”

Gordmans tested the mobile inventory system and during the initial phase, “we nailed it 95 percent of the time,” Farrington says. “I always believe you should spend 80 percent of the time on development and 20 percent of it on coding.”

Now, when associates have a problem, the help desk is able to view the same screens the associates use and guide them to a solution. “They can take control of the unit…and the associates can see what buttons are being pushed…as if they’re doing it themselves,” Farrington says.

MSP also helps reduce training time. “We have a lot of hourly people who come and go, and the MSP remote control saves us a number of hours per week,” required to show associates how to do price checks and process store transfers, Farrington says.

Gordmans’ IT staff is in the process of installing the MSP in its individual stores, and Farrington expects it will be done by mid-September.

Farrington expects Gordmans to use the MC3000 as a line-busting tool, a technique stores employ at their busiest. Associates approach customers, scan their items, create a suspended POS transaction and print out a receipt with a bar code. Customers then bring the receipt to the register, where the transaction is completed.

The system may eventually work with Gordmans’ in-store security system. Security personnel will monitor the store, and if a problem occurs, will contact the store manager electronically to view the video on a MC3000 device.

About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.