March 18, 2008, 12:00 AM

How Marks & Spencer uses the web to cut product planning cycles

At U.K.-based department store chain Marks & Spencer, web-based private-label management technology has drastically cut the time it takes to process private-label product information to quickly get new products into stores, the retailer says.

At U.K.-based department store chain Marks & Spencer, web-based private-label management technology has drastically cut the time it takes to process private-label product information to quickly get new products into stores, says Helene Roberts, the retailer’s head of packaging.

The web-based GenNovation product lifecycle management system from Agentrics, which includes technology for managing private-label programs, enables Marks & Spencer’s merchandise managers, supply chain managers and others to find and act on the information they need to expedite the flow of products in its grocery category, from conception and design to delivery and reception in distribution centers and stores, Roberts says.

Marks & Spencer, the retail chain and e-commerce brand operated by Marks and Spencer plc, has more than 500 department stores in the U.K. and a global presence with more than 200 stores operated by overseas franchisees. It sells on the web at MarksandSpencer.com.

Among its wide range of products from apparel and home furnishings to books, flowers and wine, Marks & Spencer operates a private-label program comprised of about 6,000 SKUs across its key grocery categories of flowers, wine and household products-many of which are reintroduced several times a year in new versions along with multiple new product launches.

“The GenNovation system has cut the processing time to find and sort data from days to hours-or in some cases minutes,” Roberts says. “It has transformed our ability to manage complex information related to suppliers, product and packaging sourcing, and origin of ingredients.”

A two-year study released in February by retail industry research and advisory firm RSR Research found that web-enabled product lifecycle management systems, which cover private-label product management, have helped to reduce the average time it takes to design new products and bring them to market. The percent of retailers taking 12-18 months shrunk to 16% from 33%, while the percent taking 6-12 months increased to 47% from 28%, the study found.

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