December 31, 2002, 12:00 AM

Retail industry getting on board with UCCnet

In 2002, more than 200 retailers joined UCCnet’s online global product data registry, bring the number of members using the web-based system to 270.

2002 was a good year for UCCnet, which brought in more than 200 new retail industry subscribers to its web-based data synchronization services. It now has more than 270 member retailers and manufacturers, and expects to eventually have several hundred members as the retail industry moves toward global data synchronization.

With major retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and supermarket chain Ahold U.S.A. on board, UCCnet is getting closer to the point where it will reach a critical mass that will force virtually all other retailers to also join or be left at a competitive disadvantage, analysts say. But UCCnet still needs participation from more of the largest retail chains to reach that level. “They need a few more big ones to make that happen, such as Target Corp. or Kmart Corp.,” says Neil Stern, retail analyst with consultants McMillan/Doolitte.

That will happen this year as the major retail industry trading exchanges GlobalNetXchange and WorldWide Retail Exchange bring more of their members on board, and as major retailers like Carrefour in Europe and Asia also join in, says Pete Abell, an analyst with AMR Research Inc. “You’ll see a wave of announcements in the first quarter,” he predicts.

The end of last year saw a flurry of members joining from different parts of the retail industry, with the latest including hardware and home improvement retailers Ace Hardware Corp. and Lowe’s Cos. Inc., soft drink makers Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, and grocer Hy-Vee Inc. In addition, UCCnet’s technology alliance partners include new members like QRS Corp., which has integrated its retail industry catalog with UCCnet’s web-based GlobalRegistry of synchronized product data.

UCCnet is a nonprofit unit of the Uniform Code Council Inc. that helps the retail industry meet common data standards to support more effective and collaborative supply chains. Its web-based GlobalRegistry supports universal, real-time access to product data, making it easier for retailers and suppliers to operate with accurate and current product specifications, such as size, weight and price.

Improving efficiency

Lowe’s will begin implementing UCCnet’s item registration and data synchronization services this year and has requested its 8, 850 suppliers to follow suit. Lowe’s says it will provide information to its partners on the benefits of UCCnet and directions on how to subscribe via its LowesLink.com supplier portal.

“Item synchronization will enable Lowe’s and our vendor partners to reduce the amount of effort spent on introducing new items into our stores and improve the efficiency of our other collaborative supply chain initiatives,” says Theresa Anderson, senior vice president for merchandising sales and service. “We strongly believe in utilizing industry standards and will continue to be active in defining standards to help streamline the flow of goods into our stores.”

Lowe’s says UCCnet will enable it to streamline the collection of item data from its suppliers, helping to eliminate problems such as incorrect invoices. It said it expects to eliminate errors stemming from manual product data entry by using UCCnet’s GlobalRegistry as a single source to provide supplier and product information to all departments within the company.

Hy-Vee, which operates more than 200 grocery/drug stores in seven Midwestern states, last month started asking its 1,500 suppliers to join UCCnet and prepare synchronizing data for the 50,000 products that Hy-Vee stocks. “UCCnet will directly benefit our company by drastically eliminating errors in our data catalog, through the use of the registry and its one-to-many electronic capability for updating item information,” says Ron Pearson, CEO of Hy-Vee.

Talking it up

Pearson, who also serves as board chairman of the Food Marketing Institute, has been encouraging FMI’s members to adopt UCCnet services. “Without item registration and data synchronization, the true savings of e-commerce cannot be realized,” Pearson says. “The time is now for all companies to begin implementation.”

UCCnet has also received a major endorsement from the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards Association, or VICS, an organization of 200 retailers.

Ron Griffin, chairman of VICS and executive vice president of consumer packaged goods distributor The Fleming Cos. Inc., says synchronizing item data will enable retail trading partners to shorten the time to set up new product data to minutes from weeks, saving millions of dollars.

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