June 2, 2003, 12:00 AM

New Look slashes product design-to-delivery process to 6 weeks

U.K. fashion retailer New Look is keeping ahead of the fashion curve with a web-based system that integrates merchandising and distribution operations.

When it comes to retailing apparel fashions, the time that elapses between product design and store deliveries can make or break a merchant`s success. New Look, a U.K.-based retailer of fashion apparel for young women, reports a sharp decrease in the length of time between product design and delivery into its stores -- to 6 weeks from an average of 9-12 months, thanks to a web-based system that combines distribution and merchandising management. "Even with increased volumes of product passing through the warehouse, we have reduced inventory," says Alan Osborne, logistics director.

New Look operates nearly 1,000 stores, including 550 in the U.K. and 150 in France, and operates two major distribution centers in the U.K. Until 2000, its legacy information technology infrastructure was unable to handle its growing number of SKU data and made it difficult to manage supply chain data for its two main lines of business, apparel fashions and accessories.

Then it began implementing on an integrated platform the web-based Retek Distribution Management and Retek Merchandising System from Retek Inc. "It made tremendous economic sense to merge the accessories and clothing businesses, and therefore, we needed a single, collaborative and comprehensive solution to support this transition," Osborne says.

Since implementing the Retek systems, New Look has expedited its delivery of purchase orders to its suppliers, increased the efficiency of its warehouse operations and reduced its turnover rate among distribution center personnel to 23% from 73%. It has also increased visibility from headquarters of store POS data, so that managers can direct suppliers to ship specific loads to particular stores. This has resulted in a decrease in the number of inbound containers that have to be opened and repackaged to at the distribution center to meet the needs of individual stores.

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