One Size Fits All

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Robert Wayne Footwear’s real-time inventory-management solution keeps its Web site, stores and warehouse in sync.

Robert Wayne Footwear hit the scene more than 25 years ago as a single store in Los Angeles. But as it grew into a multichannel retailer with 45 stores across 11 states, its inventory-management needs expanded, too. By integrating front-end and back-office systems, it has found a better way to serve its customers and eliminate out-of-stocks.

Its Web storefront, created in 2001, presented a particular challenge, especially during the critical holiday shopping season.

“We had to upload inventory files and use spreadsheets,” said Adrian Rosas, director of online operations for Robert Wayne Footwear. “It was an outdated system, and it was hard to keep up with inventory levels.” This process was not only time-consuming, it was not always accurate. “We were getting orders for items we couldn’t fill,” Rosas said.

The Commerce, Calif.-based retailer sought an automated system that could manage the process in real time. Rather than looking to an array of companies to run the different areas of its Web business, Robert Wayne Footwear turned to long-time partner, Celerant Technology, a Staten Island, N.Y.-based multichannel retail software provider.

The chain began working with Celerant in 2003 when the technology company helped roll out its store-level front-and back-end retail software. Celerant provided a real-time system, integrating the POS, inventory management, sales/back-office and warehouse support. In 2006, Robert Wayne Footwear looked to Celerant again to integrate its multichannel operations, including its mail-order catalog and e-commerce site.

Celerant’s e-commerce solution connects with the retailer’s enterprise database and reads the inventory for every store in real time. Then it takes an inventory count and displays the availability on www.RobertWayne.com . As a result of this integration, there is no need to reenter orders into a separate system. All orders directly flow into the Celerant database immediately after being submitted by the shopper. Merchandise orders can be fulfilled from stores or warehouses.

“Now that we use an integrated system, we only receive orders for what we have in stock and have decreased the number of order cancellations,” Rosas said.

Since launching the redesign, the site’s conversion rate doubled.

In addition to managing the chain’s inventory process, Celerant also provides consultation services for Web storefronts for its clients. The retailer again turned to the vendor to transform its Web site’s conservative look into a design that was more relevant for its core and young audience.

“Our previous layout was flat,” Rosas said. “We needed to clean up the site with easier navigation, add more images and engaging fonts, and focus more on reaching out to our target demographic.”

The first step was to give hot-selling items prime real estate on the homepage. Since skate brands are currently a top-selling category for the retailer, they receive dominant placement on the site, Rosas said.

The retailer also utilizes some of Celerant’s features, such as product alerts and customer reviews, which are built into the vendor’s e-commerce solution.

When an item is out of stock, shoppers can type in their name, e-mail address, the size of the product they want, and the retailer will alert them when the item comes back in stock.

The system also allows retailers the flexibility to partner with third-party solution providers to further reach its shoppers. For example, Robert Wayne Foot-wear is working with Redwood City, Calif.-based MyBuys to create Web recommendations based on user history and algorithms that monitor previous purchases.

RobertWayne.com plans to expand its presence by entering social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. “We never went with grassroots or viral marketing in the past, but we see big benefits from this sort of strategy,” Rosas said. “We are excited to get into this, and much more, in the near future.”

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