Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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Simon Bell, A.T. Kearney consultant who worked on the study, says the study supports the argument that a move away from traditional paper catalogs and invoices and manual input of data would lead to higher rates of accuracy. He notes that even when invoices are handled through electronic data interchange, they are often subject to mistakes made during data input.
Bell adds that traditional means of communicating and sending invoices often lead to situations where a combination of revised product lists and delayed invoices can lead to discrepancies and inaccuracies in pricing. “One would hope that when e-catalog systems are properly integrated with other systems, many of these problems would go away,” he says.
Merulla, noting that improved information flow through UCCnet “absolutely” leads to more accurate invoicing, adds that it can also provide for far more efficient shipping. With better data on the actual number and size of containers, shippers can more efficiently load vehicles.
Tom Coles, a VICS board member and the chairman of Federated Logistics and Operations, the distribution arm of Federated Department Stores, could not elaborate on his company’s intentions regarding UCCnet, since Federated has not signed a contract with UCCnet. But he adds that, as a member of VICS, he believes the trade group’s endorsement of UCCnet “does an excellent job of outlining the objectives for the retail industry.” Among other things, the VICS endorsement notes that “UCCnet users are able to considerably reduce errant purchase orders, returned shipments, reductions, logistics systems errors and associated costs throughout the supply chain. UCCnet services help retailers ensure they have the right products at the right retail locations at the right time, and enable suppliers to decrease deductions and improve speed to market for new products.”
The sooner the better
UCCnet is the only provider of both the online registry and the data synchronization engine for the retail industry, though it has about 30 alliance partners who can provide the technology and services required to integrate their product catalogs with UCCnet. Other organizations, such as Transora, the Chicago-based online trading exchange service, are also developing synchronization engines-a move seen as positive by UCCnet’s supporters. “That will give manufacturers and retailers different options to synchronize data and keep costs down,” says Pamela Stegeman, vice president of industry affairs for the GMA.
At Wegmans, only a small percentage of its 5,000 suppliers are up and running with UCCnet. That’s partly because it can take time to get data “scrubbed” and updated to meet the latest standards. But Merulla says universal compliance is on course. “Eventually all of our suppliers will be up on this,” he says, adding: “The sooner the better.”