Focus On: Logistics

Urban Outfitters benefits from enhanced visibility and planning tool

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Urban Outfitters' store operations and visual teams are benefitting from a cutting-edge solution that provides upstream visibility with regard to store-delivery shipments and more robust tools with which to plan receiving the goods.

The application, StoreTrac from Philadelphia-based PCSTrac, is a Web-based inventory control and management application that delivers a store-level snapshot of shipments. It has been deployed across all the company's retail brands, a total of approximately 430 stores.

"We worked with PCSTrac for a number of years on the beta version (of StoreTrac), modifying and building it along the way," said Terese Tubbs, senior manager, transportation, Urban Outfitters.

The retailer wanted a solution that would provide better visibility into stores' inbound product shipments. Prior to the current StoreTrac tool, Urban Outfitters utilized a manual process. It provided very little detail to stores — beyond category — about the specifics of incoming shipments.

Along with operational inefficiencies, the lack of detail with regard to tracking cartons had consequences for loss prevention.

"If a store couldn't prove a specific carton had been delivered, it couldn't prove it was missing either. And that made it hard to prove a loss-prevention claim," Tubbs explained.

Working with PSCTrac, Urban Outfitters went beyond its initial goal of tracking cartons more efficiently to develop an innovative inventory management tool that not only provides specifics as to the volume and category type of forthcoming shipments, but also such key data as SKU, style, item quality, item description and shipment history.

By utilizing StoreTrac's web-based reporting tools, store managers can print reports to see exactly what is coming into the store. A SKU search function provides visibility to cartons in transit and allows store personnel to see what items are on their way.

According to Tubbs, success in the logistics business comes when you can get out of the transportation box and find solutions that have company-wide impact. And that's exactly what happened with StoreTrac, which has increased supply chain visibility at Urban Outfitters and also driven store labor cost reductions, Tubbs said.

"Initially we went into this to increase visibility from a transportation perspective," she explained. "But as our relationship with PCSTrac grew into more of a business partnership, it opened up a world of benefits beyond transportation that have impacted loss prevention, merchandise control and, most important, the stores."

Indeed, by providing better visibility into inbound product shipments, the solution allows each individual store to plan its business much more efficiently than it could previously. With the detailed merchandise data StoreTrac provides, stores are able to better manage pre-planning, store setup, and labor management to improve operational efficiency.

"We recognized early in the development stages the benefits that would come by repurposing the data to provide the stores a very detailed snapshot of incoming shipments," Tubbs said.

If, for example, 50 cartons are coming in on a certain night, Tubbs said, and 30 of them are in the men's area, the store might want to plan ahead and have a concentration of payroll that night in the men's department.

"What started solely as a transportation win has evolved into a store operations win," Tubbs said, "one that allows stores to better manage their daily functions. We keep discovering new benefits as we go along."

Urban Outfitters took its time in rolling StoreTrac out, working closely with finance, store operations, loss prevention and other areas of the company.

"It's been smooth sailing from the start, with no hiccups," Tubbs said. "Our stores love this product and can't wait to see what's next."

Currently, Urban Outfitters is working with PCSTrac on some enhancements to StoreTrac. Tubbs declined to go into specifics, saying only: "It's going to be really spectacular."

Tubbs also noted that PCSTrac has proved an ideal partner for Urban Outfitters.

"They are so flexible in their thinking and willingness to create an even better tool," she said. "And that's so important to us as a company with a culture that promotes creative thinking."

mwilson@chainstoreage.com

"Our stores love this product and can't wait to see what's next."

Terese Tubbs, Urban Outfitters