By Matt Pillar, chief editor
To call Showcase a unique retail concept is a bit of an understatement. The 101-store Canadian retailer bills itself the “Home of the Hottest Trends,” and it features a product line diverse enough to match the claim. As-seen-on-TV merchandise is its specialty, which means the retailer’s assortment spans health and beauty, home goods and furnishings, toys, and more.
The uniqueness of its product line creates a challenge for Craig Brownridge, manager of the Showcase Institute Training Department. Because success at Showcase depends on timely promotion of hot and constantly changing product trends, he says the retailer requires systems that are easily adaptable to meet sometimes small windows of opportunity in a competitive market. “Unlike many retailers who work on slower promotion schedules, we might change planograms, pricing, offers, and signage every day or several times per week,” he explains. That pace of change requires each of the retailer’s 600+ associates to be at the top of their game. But managing those associates’ tasks using traditional communication systems like e-mail, phone follow up, and several custom solutions that were disparate from one department to the next was cumbersome at best. In 2011, Brownridge and his colleagues at Showcase began looking for an all-in-one solution that would ensure task-oriented information was delivered—and tasks were completed—in a timely manner. “We also sought to provide associates an outlet to express issues and questions in an organized way, and to enable tracking of those issues and their resolution,” says Brownridge.
A Store Operations Center In The Cloud
The effort to take its in-house developed systems and replace or integrate them into one solution led Showcase to Opterus. “We wanted to take our communication with stores to the next level to ensure our strategies were easily understood and implemented on the sales floor.” Says Brownridge. “The solution we sought would have to integrate all of our processes, with the power to easily communicate between stores and head office, and flexibility in design and function.” The search led the retailer to the cloud-based Store Ops-Center from Opterus. Store Ops-Center takes a modular approach, with features including Messaging, Task Management, Audits, Forms & Surveys, Testing & Certification, Documentation Library, Knowledge Base, and Compliance Reporting. Showcase began with no risk/no cost custom pilot program that included all system modules. “I was involved with assessing and testing the system, ensuring it would meet our needs while providing room for growth as we continue to evolve,” says Brownridge.
After partnering with Opterus, the store operations and merchandising teams at Showcase were the first to integrate. The retailer then added product knowledge and training systems, swapping out emails for the Messages Module, and excel sheets for comprehensive multi-tiered tasks in the Task Management module. “We were soon able to ensure users saw and implemented the information we were sharing with them,” says Brownridge. Through integration of its existing product knowledge database with the Store Ops-Center Knowledge Base system, Showcase staff can communicate and learn about its products in a forum-style format that encourages sharing and learning. “We were also able to provide a paperless solution to our payroll processing departments by seamlessly and securely providing our employees with paystubs and T4s [a key Canadian income tax document also known as Statement of Remuneration Paid] through the system,” explains Brownridge. He says Opterus’ SaaS model, which is built on industry standard Web services to allow retailers to link to their systems of record, WFM solutions, and other systems that feed content to Store Ops-Center, made the initial investment manageable. The implementation was also quick—it took just a month to work through testing, training, and implementation.
Speed To Execution, Improved Staff Efficiency
Opterus claims that more effective store preparation results in 20 percent sales increases during peak sales periods, increased revenue due to higher conversion as a result of markdowns compliance, and on-time task completion improvement of 50 percent to more than 95 percent. Brownridge says those results have proven out at Showcase. “We’re ensuring the execution of our merchandising, operations, marketing, and payroll initiatives in a timely, quantitative manner,” he says. The retailer is measuring the success of its merchandising, pricing and promotion, and logistics directives by monitoring their speed and execution at store level. “Feedback from our field support managers, as well as store and associate feedback, has been positive. Our ability to track and analyze staff behaviors, speed to execution, and the ability for two-way communication with our stores has been well received. The speed in which we can quickly implement changes that happen with our products or brands is a major factor in our success,” he says. He also adds that the ability to eliminate or integrate its multiple legacy systems freed up creation and processing time, and streamlined store operations at Showcase. “The ability to reach out to each store associate and ensure they are in sync with our strategies is invaluable,” concludes Brownridge.
While Showcase is certainly unique, its high-turn operations environment puts a spotlight on some universal retailing challenges. Whether a mixed bag of trendy merchandise or a full line of staple commodities, it takes real-time, integrated systems to keep store personnel current and able to execute on the retail strategies that satisfy today’s demanding customers.
For more information on Opterus go to www.opterus.com