June 12, 2003, 12:00 AM

Staples plans a data consolidation initiative

Staples will consolidate isolated pools of product data into a web services architecture to build a central information repository that customers can access at the web site or via a store kiosk.

 

Traveling fast and far in a short period of time is nothing new to Staples Inc., which charged aggressively into Internet retailing well before most other office supply chains and now processes more than 100,000 online orders daily. But the push into electronic commerce hasn`t come without growing pains and the Framingham, MA-headquartered chain is now making a concerted effort to consolidate isolated pools of product data into a web services architecture. Its goal is to build a central information repository that customers can access at the web site or via a kiosk in the store.

Today, Staples` product and pricing information is housed in separate systems operated by its bricks-and-mortar, catalog and e-commerce operations, Marcia Mitchell, Staples senior project manager-information systems, told attendees Wednesday at the Retail Systems 2003 Conference and Exposition in Chicago.

But by the start of its next fiscal year all product information will be streamlined across sales channels and accessible via the web and interactive kiosks that Staples operates in 1,500 office superstores. "We are focusing on centralized product content," Mitchell said. "We are consolidating 15 separate item files into three buckets of product content."

By improving product content management, Staples expects to eliminate redundant systems, reduce the number of screens for online order taking and reduce its interactive check out time by 50%. "Staples is undertaking a consistent enterprise approach to item content and implementing change management," Mitchell said.

Staples has not started on the project and has yet to choose the software it will use, Mitchell said. It is still adding up the cost of consolidating product information and expects to make final decisions on a web services architecture and a software platform within several months, Mitchell said.

 

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