November 1, 2010, 12:00 AM

Bridging the Great Divide

(Page 2 of 2)

Everything in its place

For regional department store chain Belk Inc., shortening the time to market is essential to its business model, which relies on having a steady stream of private-label women's apparel SKUs arriving at its stores every other month, or for men's and children's apparel, every third month. (The retailer also sells private-label home goods and cookware, which have longer selling seasons.)

The retailer has been able to grow its private-label business, which has increased from 12% to 28% of total sales in the past five years, by finding ways to quickly adapt to its customers' needs, says Mike Restaino, vice president of sourcing, design and operations. "We feel we understand what the modern woman wants and our private-label business allows us to fulfill those needs."

A little more than a year ago Belk began managing its private-label program with the web-based TradeStone lifecycle management system. The system allows the retailer's private-label associates, vendors and suppliers to enter and access information, such as the measurements for a shirtsleeve, via a single system. Prior to using TradeStone, the retailer used a hodgepodge of in-house programs and e-mails to communicate. That system was riddled with human error.

"Information is now literally at our fingertips," says Restaino. "Before, reports got misfiled or mislabeled and we'd lose time trying to find where everything was. This eliminates a significant portion of human error. We now have visibility to all the relevant information on all aspects of the development and production cycle."

zak@verticalwebmedia.com

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