With a fickle customer base of teens and young adults, apparel retailer American Eagle Outfitters is using a new web-based buying system that cuts lead times for placing orders and helps it get the latest fashions on store shelves faster, David Repp, director of supply chain technologies, tells Internet Retailer.
“We really push the envelope in terms of each product execution, and this web-based system enables us to fully understand what our timeline is,” Repp says.
American Eagle is using TradeStone Inc.’s Unified Buying Engine to manage the buying for its private label apparel products. The Unified Buying Engine operates on the retailer’s corporate intranet and extranet for integrating with internal applications as well as with suppliers. With integrated information, including design, merchandising and production plans presented in real-time on a web screen, American Eagle’s merchandise buyers can develop and issue purchase orders faster and to more suppliers, Repp says.
“Before, it would take days to create a P.O. by the time the buyer researched information and assured it was accurate,” he says. By presenting information in real-time from multiple departments, buyers no longer have to spend extra time finding out whether the design team, for example, had recently changed specifications on color or fabric for particular planned merchandise. The result is that buyers can now get purchase orders out to two or three times as many suppliers in less time than in the past, helping American Eagle get the best products, prices and delivery times, Repp says.
And because suppliers can also access the retailer’s extranet to obtain information, confirming in real time product specifications and delivery times, American Eagle can avoid delays that can result from inaccurate or missed communications, he adds.
American Eagle, which started using the TradeStone system in January, expects the system to sharply reduce the time it takes from product design to store delivery. “We hope to cut 3 to 4 weeks out of our timeline,” Repp says.
Shortening that timeline lets American Eagle make decisions closer to each selling season about particular fashion treatments and styles, helping it get products on its shelves that are more likely to sell in larger numbers and produce profits, Repp says. “Our primary focus is to make merchandise buying more efficient, and hopefully that translates into better products that sell at higher margins,” he says.