GANT, the branded apparel retailer with over 750 stores in 80 countries, is close to completing a rollout of Cegid Retail’s Unified Commerce Platform across Europe in a bid to improve stock management and customer service across multiple channels and territories.
The cloud-based point-of-sale and merchandising solution has recently been added in France and goes live in the UK in March. This is part of the brand’s strategy to introduce more omnichannel and digital technologies and standardising systems throughout the group. Theinitiative follows a move to bring more of its overseas franchise partners under the same roof - such as Portugal and Spain during 2020 - as wholly-owned subsidiaries, sharing the same processes and accelerating a shift towards more digital services like “click-and-collect”.
“A lot has changed over the last year and there’s now a greater focus on digital and e-commerce,” says Peter Joelsson, Global IT Director at GANT. “So, we’re accelerating our digital and omnichannel strategies and adding extra services. GANT has invested a lot in IT over the Covid period to ensure more reliable data across all channels and increased agility.”
Managing a global retail brand
The seventy-year-old fashion retailer started out as a shirt-maker in New Haven, USA to eventually become a global lifestyle brand combining traditional American style with European flair. The collections comprise clothes for men, women and kids. In addition, watches, footwear, eyewear, fragrance, underwear and home furnishings are licensed under the GANT brand.
In addition to its network of stores and e-commerce sites around the world, roughly half of global sales are via wholesale and selling through franchise partners and over 4,000 selected retailers and department stores.
GANT’s best-selling product internationally remains a white “Oxford” shirt. Its most popular shirts come in five or six sizes and colours are often dictated by seasonal trends, so Cegid’s software has to be able to determine which sizes and colours are selling at what rate. With around fourteen thousand different product references to manage each season, Joelsson says it’s virtually impossible to monitor without dedicated technology.
“If something’s not selling well in a particular location, it shouldn’t be replenished and take up unnecessary space. It’s better to send it instead to sell via e-commerce or an outlet store,” he explains.
Improved visibility and data accuracy
Without a single view of stock across e-commerce, wholesale operations and retail stores, the challenge for many retailers, he says, is knowing at any given time where stock actually is.
“To avoid too much stock in stores you need to be flexible and allocate (inventory) directly to the channel that sells the most,” says Joelsson. “And better visibility and automated replenishment means less capital expenditure tied up in stores.”
To compound the issue, the apparel brand stocks a wide range of style combinations to suit varying tastes and regional preferences. For example, UK customers tend to favour short-sleeve shirts, while Nordic countries prefer long-sleeved. However, few stores are big enough to stock everything, so ranges need to be carefully curated. Offering customers access to digital catalogues in-store (increasingly, these days, on mobile devices) provides more choice and better service, he says. It’s another digital add-on service - referred to as “endless aisle” - that’s helping retailers bridge the divide between traditional stores and online retail.
Other digital services and mobile solutions are being piloted and considered for further rollout across the group. Live video-streams have been used in some stores to stay in touch with the customer, particularly when stores were forced to close during lockdown. GANT has also been trialing a few of Cegid’s mobility tools, including a Mobile Inventory module (for instance, to help staff carry out stock checks directly on the shop floor) as well as a mobile point-of-sale solution (to enable staff to serve customers and process payments while on the move).
Joelsson says GANT now has much better reporting systems in place for accurate, up-to-the-minute information on stocks, customers and sales across all channels.
For consumers, it expects to reduce the number of returns by providing images and better information on sizing. It also hopes to align sales and distribution by having a more accurate picture of stock availability and location - ultimately cutting costs and speeding up delivery options by determining the nearest store, warehouse or reseller.
“Cegid’s cloud software offers standardised tools, which means it’s quicker and easier to deploy and add new services like ‘click-and-collect’, as well as open new stores in different countries,” says Joelsson.
The retail software is also pre-configured to take care of complicated tax regimes which tend to change year to year and vary from country to country. For instance, VAT and receipt rules in Portugal differ widely to those in France and Sweden.
The retailer says it wanted a single retail IT management system to run across the international business and preferred a fully hosted, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) set up, because it meant less upfront investment and more flexibility for the future.
“We’re helping GANT rebuild its foundations and lower costs by adopting standardised processes and having a cloud-based system to manage multiple retail operations across the globe,” adds Alan Holcroft, Country Manager, UK and Northern Europe at Cegid.
Other brands like Lacoste, The Kooples and Aigle - belonging to the same parent holding company, Maus Frères group - also use Cegid’s Unified Commerce Platform, which means they can all benefit from shared experiences within the group.
“There are synergies and economies of scale in having the same retail system across Europe,” concludes Joelsson. “And we want to make sure that, regardless of whether a customer is in a store, online or in another country, they’ll be presented with one face.”