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Habitat upgrades retail operations with Cegid Winshop.net
Oct '09
Habitat, the international home furnishings retailer with around 75 stores across Europe, has recently launched its online sales channel, so that customers can now browse and order furniture directly from their homes. Home Accessories will be available online in early November 2010. The retailer currently has store operations in the UK, in France, Spain and Germany, as well as a large distribution network of retail partners throughout Europe and other parts of the world.

Business Challenges
The Habitat group needed to upgrade its retail, point of sale technology in a bid to streamline retail operations. The retailer originally turned to international software vendor Cegid a few years ago when it was experiencing problems with a mish-mash of ageing systems and poor reliability. It needed multi-currency retail software available in different languages, so that users, particularly staff in stores, would find it easy to carry out transactions, while management would constantly be kept up-to-date on sales. In 2010, Habitat will be implementing the latest version of Cegid's retail point-of-sale solution, WinShop.net.

Alyna Farrer, Retail IS Manager at Habitat, said that the retailer is having to focus on improving stock availability, especially given the tough sales environment in retail today. Cost savings and improving service seem to be the biggest drivers.

“We need to upgrade our systems to take advantage of new functionalities, such as capturing contact information on customers for more targeted offers,” she said. “We also need to be able to trigger the replenishment of stock more directly from our point-of-sale system.”

With the new software, store staff will be able to more easily order items (before, all furniture orders had to be done separately through the company's existing ERP system), or advise customers on where products can be found in other stores. Mobile devices can even be used in future to enable staff to organise deliveries or check stock while on the shop floor.

Combating fraud and improving security is another challenge facing most retailers today, and upgrading to the latest version of Cegid's retail software will help alleviate some of these concerns. For instance, Habitat wants to be sure that gift vouchers used in one store can't then be used in another. Security is also improved by flagging-up discrepancies and recording reason codes for any cancellations.

Customer relationship management is another area where the company wants to improve, for instance following-up on sales using the new technology. Habitat hopes to be able to use its insights into customer behaviour to offer what customers are likely to want, such as linked or complementary products.

Reporting is another benefit of the new software, with real-time information on sales and stock visibility. The new architecture, improved integration with SAP and a SQL 2008 database is expected tolead to more operational efficiencies. Online updates to and from stores can be exchanged immediately and so are expected to improve the information flow and overall monitoring of the international business. For instance, the real-time view of sales and stock is helping managers respond faster to optimise stock replenishment and profitability, says Farrer.

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