In talks with Robin Coles; BT Multichannel expert

Friday, 08 June 2012
In talks with Robin Coles; BT Multichannel expertWith ‘multichannel’ becoming an ever undefinable term as it has developed to incorporate so many new infrastructures, FashionUnited caught up Robin Coles, BT Expedite Director of Supply Chain Consulting, who as part of BT’s retail business team, has just signed a deal with UK independent footwear retailers, Charles Clinkard, to install its multichannel retailer systems, integrated store and merchandising systems. With 25 years experience of providing retail solutions for some of the UK’s biggest retail houses, including House of Fraser and Aurora Fashions, FashionUnited learnt more on where technology can take retail.
 
HowIn talks with Robin Coles; BT Multichannel expert did the deal with Charles Clinkard come about? What other fashion retailers have you worked with before?
Charles Clinkard has a systems infrastructure that does not adequately support the growing multi-channel needs of their long established, family business. Over a period of 18 months they researched the software market looking for a vendor whose solution could match their multi-channel aspirations. BT Expedite worked with Charles Clinkard throughout this process demonstrating the quality of our product and people.
BT Expedite has a long history of providing solutions to a number of the UK's leading fashion businesses, including Oasis, Coast, Karen Millen, Warehouse, Monsoon, Accessorize, Phase Eight, Austin Reed, Country Casuals and Thomas Pink.
 
What are the key features you will be working on for Charles Clinkard?
The focus for Charles Clinkard is the accuracy and availability of stock across the physical and online channels, together with support for increased customer service and fulfilment options.
 
How do you find multichannel in fashion differs from systems across other retail markets?
Fashion is a want, as opposed to a need driven purchase, where seasonal goods are sourced over long lead times from factories around the globe. In addition, the need to support both local and global trends, matching customers' increased service demands, whilst providing a wide range of sizes and fits, makes it a unique business sector, requiring expert solutions.
 
How soon do you expect to see results? And what improvement do you hope to see over a one year period?
Positive results are anticipated as soon as the implementation is complete, with improvements to stock availability and increased customer service options amongst the initial goals. The implementation is scheduled to be complete by Feb 2013, meaning that returns will be achieved within the first 12 months.
 
How do you go about making each of your installations niche/fitted to the specific retailer?
Our product set is highly configurable meaning that differing business processes can be managed with the need for significant customisation to the base software. To understand the precise requirements of each main job function, e.g. buying or merchandising, we run a series of discovery workshops, the deliverables being documented business processes that act as the roadmap for the required configuration.
 
Where do you see multichannel as still needing to improve in this ever changing digital landscape?
Retailers need to focus more on harmonising the customer journey/experience across different channels, so goods purchased on any channel can be returned on any other channel. To do this a common approach to pricing, stock availability and a single order and inventory position must be maintained. No longer is it acceptable to have systems that are channel specific.
In addition this, moving to omni-channel demands that retailers have trading directors that are responsible for all channels, as opposed to separate store and e-commerce directors.
 
How do you see the future of multichannel over the next 5 years?

The UK is a saturated market, with little room for significant retail expansion. Consequently, multichannel retailing will be seen as a way of expanding internationally without the need for significant store openings. Foreign websites and relationships with franchise trading partners will be seen as separate channels, with the central systems managing inventory both by channel and across all channels, optimising the flow of goods across channels and markets alike. Stores will progressively move to a position where they are seen as service and display centres, where customers can arrange appointments with trusted sales assistants and goods can be viewed/tried. Purchases made are likely to come from central stock and be couriered or sent direct to the customer's home, rather than being physically taken from the stores.