February 4, 2004, 12:00 AM

Breaking Out

(Page 2 of 2)

At Roots, online order fulfillment and inventory status are key parts of its ability to grow in the U.S. market, Connell says. When it launched its U.S. web site in 2002 in time for the winter Olympics, Roots decided to support online orders with a separate fulfillment service rather than one shared with its U.S. stores.

Real-time inventory

Roots manufactures many of its products in its own Canadian factories. It ships goods to its U.S. stores from the same distribution center that serves its Canadian stores, a system that can be slowed by cross-border traffic and import duties-an especially thorny problem when Roots is trying to get fresh styles delivered in time for peak shopping periods.

It uses PFSWeb to fulfill all U.S. online orders through a Memphis, Tenn.-based warehouse, which maintains inventory on hand to fulfill non-custom online orders.

PFSWeb, whose back-end ERP system is integrated with Roots-Direct, provides real-time inventory status updates for online shoppers through PFSWeb’s Global Merchant e-commerce engine. “We automatically remove a product image from their site once it’s not available, based on real-time availability of products on warehouse shelves and orders committed in their order management system,” says Michael Willoughby, CIO of PFSWEb. He adds that it took PFSWeb about two weeks to integrate its ERP system with Roots-Direct.

Roots is also considering using PFSWeb to fulfill orders for its U.S. stores as well as its U.S. web site, Connell says. If it does, PFSWeb will also provide real-time inventory updates on the web to reflect purchases as they’re made in stores. “We can reflect all inventory in all channels,” Willoughby says.

Roots handles its custom online orders of personalized bags and jackets in batches, sending a group of products about once every two weeks to PFSWeb in Memphis for delivery to individual customers. Batching the online orders limits the number of cross-border shipments, Connell says.

Custom bags

Increased sales at Roots won’t come just from the interest consumers express in their national teams and the affiliated apparel and accessories it sells, Connell says. Because of the web’s ability to support customized bags and jackets, Roots expects continued growth on Roots-Direct in extended lines. For example, it is promoting a customized line of duffel bags that online shoppers can configure with a personal letter and color. “You can go to our web site and create a bag out of 68 color combinations and apply your initials in different fonts,” Connell says. “It’s a feature that lends itself to a web environment.”

“It’s going very well, and we’re looking at offering customization with more products,” he says. “We’re also exploring kiosks to let customers customize products in our stores.”

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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