“Remoteware has definitely proven its worth. We are able to plan our future growth, safe in the knowledge that RemoteWare can handle any increase in workload or new requirements.”
Retail Service Manager
Clarks is the top shoe retailer in the United Kingdom and the world's number one non-sports shoe brand. The company operates 670 retail shoe outlets in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Clarks continual expansion of its product lines presented a technical challenge to the company, as its existing modified polling solution proved to be unable to cope with changing business requirements and lacked the ability to scale to future business needs. RemoteWare now monitors the quick and efficient exchange of data between all 670 Clarks stores in the UK, Ireland and the head office, and routinely gathers transaction data for head office and shares new prices. This has resulted in cost savings, reduced man-hours and administration, as well as increased productivity
- Clarks' Sybase solution has substantially improved both store-to-store and store-to-head office communications between 670 stores in the UK and Ireland.
- Reduces information retrieval time from two hours to ten minutes
- Provides cost savings, reduces man-hours and administration, and increases productivity
- Retail and Distribution
Finding the Right Fit
Clarks is the number one shoe retailer in the UK, and the world's number one nonsports shoe brand. It maintains this position by focusing on quality product lines and excellent customer service.
A huge investment in Electronic Point of Sale deemed it essential for the company to evolve its communication infrastructure. A priority was the polling of data between the head office and all retail stores. The answer came from Sybase iAnywhere's RemoteWare with its unique scheduling service.
The Business Challenge
In order to maintain ongoing customer loyalty in a highly competitive market, Clarks has invested heavily in product innovation and promotion, constantly introducing new lines within its 670 retail stores across the UK and Ireland. Clarks found that this continual expansion of its product lines presented a technical challenge to the company, as its existing bespoke polling solution proved to be unable to cope with changing business requirements and lacked the ability to scale to future business needs.
"We found ourselves constrained by our old system," explains Alistair Smith, Clarks' Retail Service Manager. "We were unable to schedule times to poll vital sales information from each of our 670 stores in the advanced way that the new infrastructure demanded. The existing process was time and maintenance consuming. It interfered with our key daily retail activity, as behind the scenes polling while shops were trading was impossible. At the same time we faced the challenge of how to distribute new price lists and software in a timely and efficient manner."
Evolving the Communications Infrastructure
Clarks decided it was essential to evolve its communication infrastructure to enable faster data communications between the head office and all retail stores. Credit card transactions were slower using the existing infrastructure.
"It was time consuming and frustrating," comments Alistair Smith, "processing speeds were slow and queues in stores grew due to the delays in credit card authorization. We needed to enhance our polling system, so that we could have more complex schedules to process our sales data."
Clarks worked closely with systems provider NSB Retail Systems, to identify a system that would be capable of handling the company's increased and complex workload. This system would also have to address data exchange issues, enabling Clarks' to collect sales information from individual stores and to distribute new product and pricing information.
Clarks wanted an EPoS solution that would be compatible with a Windows NT4 platform, so NSB introduced Clarks to RemoteWare, during the planning and design stage of the project. Says Smith, "RemoteWare was chosen as it was fully compatible with NSB's Coalition product, Compaq ProLiant 3000 and IBM 300 servers, which form part of the chosen EPoS infrastructure."
Smith continues, "The maturity of the product was important to us. We chose a proven technology in preference to other newer offerings on the market, as performance and robustness were high on our list of requirements. RemoteWare also had a unique feature as it offered an advanced, but simple to maintain scheduling service which enabled us to automate data flow at certain times through the day and night."
Sybase iAnywhere's RemoteWare now polls all 670 Clarks stores in the UK and Ireland, routinely gathering transaction data for head office and sharing new prices.
In order to streamline its operations, Clarks decided to outsource the maintenance of its entire Retail IT function, incorporating EPoS data administration and RemoteWare's systems management, to Computeraid, the UK's leading provider of managed IT solutions. Performing as a help desk and general IT operation, Computeraid oversees all Clarks IT activity from its offices in Paisley and Farnborough. RemoteWare's functionalities assist Computeraid in remote diagnosis and troubleshooting for the systems.
By outsourcing, Clarks can separate the company's daily retail activity from the IT functions and concentrate on equipping its staff with essential customer service skills. By using Computeraid to field any IT problems that may occur, Clarks is able to channel its energies towards its core business: its customers and their requirements.
Since implementation, the Clarks team has noticed significant improvements in data transmission. Smith explains, "Before we had the RemoteWare solution, the time taken to receive store information was over two hours. With the new infrastructure, this timeframe has been drastically reduced to ten minutes. The benefits of this are manifold: cost savings; reduced man-hours and administration as well as increased productivity."
Clarks has the added benefit of dealing with customers without the worry of conflicting IT problems. Having outsourced the function to Computeraid and having the ability to automatically schedule polling to suit each individual branch, Clarks is able to devote its time and effort in doing what it does best, selling shoes.
A Central Point of Management
Clarks extended the use of the solution to optimize its communications network and to ensure the smooth running of its Back Office. RemoteWare centrally administers information distribution, managing Clarks' email system, which also run on remote systems. This has substantially improved store-store and store-head office communications.
Says Smith, "We greatly benefit from Sybase iAnywhere's RemoteWare's ability to centrally manage, store and internally distribute emails. By using an exchange gateway which sits on the Compaq server, we can send reports and analyses to each store and ensure that the relevant files have been downloaded successfully. This has enhanced store competitiveness and overall productivity."
"Sybase iAnywhere's technology has definitely proven its worth. It is an effective and easy to use management tool. We are able to plan our future growth, safe in the knowledge that RemoteWare can handle any increase in workload or new requirements."