January 17, 2006, 12:00 AM

Stores’ inventory a virtual warehouse for Pendleton-USA.com

Pendleton and its technology vendors develop an application that automatically checks for items in the company’s own retail stores if they’re not in Pendleton’s catalog/web inventory or in an incoming purchase order.

More multi-channel retailers are integrating inventory status visibility more tightly across channels, but the web site of Pendleton Woolen Mills takes it a step further than most. Pendleton has developed an application that automatically checks for items in its 45 dedicated Pendleton stores if they’re not in Pendleton’s catalog/web inventory or in an incoming purchase order.

Pendleton-USA.com is the web site of the maker, wholesaler and direct marketer of woolen blankets and men’s and women’s apparel. Since 2004, the company has done a major technology upgrade, moving the site to the e-commerce platform of MarketLive and replacing its former order management and fulfillment system with new technology from CommercialWare Inc.

Under the new system, an item is not displayed on the web site unless it’s either available for immediate shipping or it’s on a purchase order with a scheduled delivery date to the warehouse. And it could be in one more place: Pendleton’s own stores.

“We have gone an extra step of building a piece of middleware that interfaces with our retail stores’ POS system,” says Peter Bishop, divisional catalog manager. Pendleton’s catalog division includes its web site. “If we don’t have inventory on the shelf in our catalog inventory, and there is not a purchase order for future inventory, the CommercialWare system then looks to an additional virtual warehouse, which is our retail stores.”

Bishop says the virtual warehouse gets data daily on the aggregated inventory of Pendleton’s stores. The system books the online order just as it would if the item were coming from regular warehouse inventory or on backorder, assigns it to the appropriate warehouse, and generates a pick ticket that goes to the individual store in the Pendleton store network where the item has been located. “The pick tickets are printed out each morning by our store mangers before they open the store for business, and they ship it out the same day,” he says.

That process is invisible to the online user, who just sees that the order will be filled, and when. The application is “pretty unique,” says Bishop, who adds that it was developed cooperatively by Pendleton with CommercialWare and Pendleton’s retail POS vendor, Retail Pro.

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