October 19, 2004, 12:00 AM

Sears expands online supplier collaboration to hard goods and apparel

Happy with a supplier collaboration system it launched with Michelin, Sears is rolling it out for several hardlines products and some apparel, Sears says. Web-hosted by GNX, the system lets Sears avoid supply disruptions and monitor supplier performance.

Happy with a web-based supplier collaboration system it launched with Michelin and hosted by the GlobalNetXchange, Sears, Roebuck and Co. is rolling it out beyond just tires to include suppliers of several hardlines products and some apparel, Tracy Reeder, manager of collaborative relations, tells Internet Retailer.

“We saw success in terms of inventory management in tires and other automotive products, so that drove us to use GNX to collaborate with suppliers in several other categories,” Reeder says. Although she declines to name the additional suppliers in the collaboration program, she notes that the program includes mostly the retailer’s most strategic suppliers and its highest-priced goods. Categories include sporting goods and home appliances, she says.

The system, which uses Manugistics supply chain collaboration software running on GNX’s servers, lets Sears avoid supply disruptions by sharing more information with suppliers. While Sears can directly view information on a GNX web page about a supplier’s product schedules, for instance, a supplier can also view updated sales forecasts and promotional plans set by Sears. “We may have updated information on planned promotions that a supplier otherwise wouldn’t have,” she says. “Maybe a promotional item wasn’t advertised as planned, so now we have less demand for it.”

Sears, which started using the GNX service in 2001 with Michelin, says it has been able to reduce on-site inventory levels by more than 25%. With improved visibility into supplier product and shipping schedules, Sears is able to avoid unexpected supply shortfalls without adding to the inventory it keeps in distribution centers and stores. In one case, Sears was able to identify a disruption in Michelin’s production schedule early enough to have the manufacturer modify its production to avoid missing a major tire promotion.

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