Company: NSBCustomer: MonsoonSubmitted by: FieldworksDate: June 2001Making women’s fashion move at Monsoon is plain-sailing following the installation of new merchandising and sales audit systems from NSB.

Fashion retailing has always been competitive but never more so than today, with more and more players operating in the middle market, foreign brands setting up stores in the UK and established players no longer immune to the impact of start-ups.Monsoon has expanded dramatically in the last few years, and now has 135 UK stores, 27 overseas and one Home store covering women’s and children’s fashion and shoes. It also has a similar number of Accessorize stores, which sell accessories, fragrances and gifts. With ambitious plans for further growth at home and abroad, Monsoon realised that its existing merchandising systems would not be adequate to run a large store base or provide the type of information that the company needs to run an increasingly complex business.Liz Johnson, Monsoon’s senior business analyst explains, “The old systems had reached their capacity limit.

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We were running on a proprietary hardware platform from a supplier that would soon be stopping development and the systems were not Y2K compliant.”Monsoon investigated the market-leading systems available at the time; including SAP, Radius, JDA and NSB.Monsoon’s Finance Director, Andrew May, explains the selection process; “We looked in depth at JDA’s old technical solution (their next generation systems had not been completed at this time), Radius and SAP, as well as Mercatus . Retek was too busy to make a pitch and we felt Island Pacific did not have the local UK support we required. Pennine’s technological platform at that time did not fit in with our stated strategy.

“”We chose NSB’s Mercatus and AuditWorks after a review of the leading retail systems on offer which were locally maintained in the UK.” May continues. “We did believe however that NSB’s head-start in developing these Fourth Generation systems meant the software would be better designed and more flexible than the others on offer. In addition, Mercatus was very fashion retail specific, in contrast to SAP for instance, and NSB understood retail and our merchandisers’ requirements better than the opposition. Also, we needed to equip our audit staff with the tools to investigate the incoming data, and an infrastructure that guaranteed the reliability of data flowing through to the central systems.

AuditWorks exactly fitted the bill . In particular it gave us access to timely and accurate, multi-currency flash sales, enabling us to publish these figures on the company intranet. Finally, the technical solution utilising Oracle and Business Objects fitted our preferred company strategy.”A further reason for Monsoon’s choice of NSB’s Mercatus merchandising and supply chain management solution was that NSB offered the most comprehensive and inclusive strategy for development. By joining NSB’s Collaborative Development Group, Monsoon can influence the content of future releases of Mercatus.Monsoon’s first task was to review its business processes to ensure that it would be able to take advantage of more advanced merchandising and sales auditing systems and that bad habits had not crept in using the existing system.

Mercatus, supported by AuditWorks, now manages the entire replenishment process, allocating stock based on purchase orders and point -of -sale data. Replenishment to stores is fully automated, using a variety of parameters which can be altered at any time. For instance, each store can be allocated different replenishment criteria, such as minimum quantities in store or ideal quantities in store, all at item level. Stores can be grouped according to similar sets of requirements.Additionally, replenishment rules can be overridden to take account of sudden or one-off events, such as unseasonable weather, which could affect demand. The flexibility of AuditWorks means that the information flowing through the system is highly accurate and completely up-to-date and, should there be data integrity and audit concerns, these are rapidly highlighted enabling swift resolution to the problems and an efficient workflow.

As a result of implementing Mercatus, Monsoon has begun to recognise that it has a wealth of data that can be used to support business decisions. Mercatus is particularly good at enabling users to export data to Excel spreadsheets for analysis. Monsoon has also installed Business Objects to analyse data and has created a datamart.According to May, “The main benefits to us of using both Mercatus and AuditWorks are that they are both open systems which allows us to purchase Best of Breed solutions for any other applications we may add. They also use modern database technology, thereby providing us with both the ability to improve reporting in the long-term and a certain amount of future proofing.

We have found that Mercatus and AuditWorks are solid and reliable, and properly scaleable, which is very important for us as we continue to expand both in the UK and Overseas.”Monsoon is currently implementing version 3.00 of Mercatus and is using two key new functions that will help it manage mark-downs. Mercatus’ store profiling capabilities will enable Monsoon to allocate mark-down plans according to the particular profile of a single or group of stores. As currently configured, Mercatus is handling over 300 stores, with extra capacity to cater for Monsoon’s future growth.Liz Johnson sums up; “Mercatus is the richest, most open, scaleable and robust merchandising system we have found and it is improving our store allocation so that we can generate higher profit and reduce mark-downs.”