August 1, 2013, 3:36 PM

Inventory insights

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The real-time inventory updates, Hirsch says, enable Hanover to market products that are available and that match customer demand as noted by the retailer's analytics on shopping behavior. "These programs have made our product marketing more relevant and produced a better overall customer experience," Hirsch says.

When Hanover sees that inventory is building up for down comforters sold by The Company Store, for example, it may decide to move that merchandise through targeted marketing campaigns designed with information on past sales transactions and customer data compiled in its NetSuite software suite. And as it watches inventory levels through the campaign, it may decide to adjust promotional deals, such as by further lowering prices or offering free shipping if it sees the comforters aren't selling fast enough. "This allows us to determine the exact promotion we need on exact merchandise, and much faster than we could before NetSuite," Hirsch says.

Hanover plans to replace the legacy point-of-sale system in its five stores with NetSuite's Retail Anywhere POS system. That will enable the retailer to also view all store inventories in real time from a central location so that it can quickly plan replenishment and promotional campaigns to keep inventory at optimal levels, Rosenholtz says.

The starting price for NetSuite OneWorld, which is provided in a software-as-a-service model, is $1,999 a month for the mid-market edition for mid-size companies, NetSuite says.

Merz Apothecary had similar goals when it began deploying web-based technology from Celerant in 2009, starting with inventory management, followed by a new store point-of-sale system and a new e-commerce site. The system also processes purchase orders that Merz places with its suppliers, providing immediate electronic updates on what has arrived and what's still on order.

Now, when the stock of a hot item grows thin, Merz can see what inventory is available for fulfillment in its warehouse as well as in its stores and also place reorders, Qaiyum says.

The Celerant system also shows what inventory is on the way from suppliers so that the retailer's web site, store employees and customer service reps can tell customers when they can expect to receive currently out-of-stock items, such as handmade Dovo razors imported from Germany, Qaiyum says. "If I can move $200 Dovo razors, that's great for my business," he says. The Celerant software typically starts at about $12,000 and can be customized at additional cost.

Systems that show the what and where of available inventory are giving retailers like Merz an edge in selling products and serving customers, instead of letting product sit in warehouses and customers slip away to competitors.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

@pdemery

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