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How knowing chainwide inventory saves sales and cuts costs at Finish Line
Shoe retailer Finish Line is capturing lost sales and improving customer loyalty as the result of implementing software from Found Inc. that allows the chain to know in near real time the inventory in all stores and distribution centers.
Athletic shoe and apparel retailer Finish Line Inc. is capturing lost sales and improving customer loyalty as the result of implementing software from Found Inc. that allows the chain to know in near real time the inventory in all stores and distribution centers, Roger Underwood, senior vice president of information systems at Finish Line, tells Internet Retailer. Finish Line recently completed the rollout to all stores after beginning it on March 25.
Finish Line feeds chainwide inventory updates to the Found Integrated Clicks and Mortar database every morning. The database then polls POS terminals in 454 Finish Line stores every five minutes throughout the day to learn store sales so it can adjust inventory accordingly. The information moves between Found and Finish Line via the web.
When a customer wants a shoe that is not in stock, a sales associate can log into the database from the POS terminal over Finish Line’s wide area network to locate the shoe in the chain. The associate places the order, the customer pays for the shoe, and the shoe is delivered to the customer’s home or office. “The program has been very successful,” Underwood says. “It’s done better than we expected.”
Finish Line pays the costs of shipping to customers, figuring that if the customer had to pick up the shoe in the store, the chain would incur shipping costs to deliver it to the store. This way, not only does the customer get the convenience of delivery, but Finish Line gets a completed sale where in the past, a customer may not have followed up with an order.
The Found database is also linked to Finish Line’s e-commerce web site. If an online customer wants a product that the distribution center is out of, the database can find it in a store for shipping to the customer.
Because the system is so new, Underwood says Finish Line has not yet determined how many sales a day it is saving. Underwood says there are benefits beyond saving sales. For one thing, he believes the system improves customer loyalty because Finish Line is able to fulfill the order and deliver it to the customer’s home. For another, the chain expects to reduce expenses and efforts in consolidating end-of-life merchandise from all stores in the chain to a few stores. “To fill orders from stores that have the merchandise while another does not, we expect to reduce the amount of consolidation we’ll have to do,” he says. And by examining the items that certain stores were out of but for which there was customer demand, buyers can make more informed decisions about what to buy and which stores need more of certain products.
The Found system, though, is not a replacement for sales skills, Underwood says. “We still try to have the store associate sell what’s available,” he says. “If the size is not in stock, we still hope the associates will come out of the backroom with a couple of alternate suggestions in the right size.”
Finish Line tested the system in 54 stores during last year’s fourth quarter.