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Sep, 10 2010

TECH TRAIL IN RETAIL

AT a time when competition between domestic and international labels is intensifying, local players are scurrying to go hi-tech. Many retailers and franchisors are teaming up with technology solution providers to offer exalting customer services.

AT a time when competition between domestic and international labels is intensifying, local players are scurrying to go hi-tech. Many retailers and franchisors are teaming up with technology solution providers to offer exalting customer services. Technology is being used to implement solutions that not merely prevent shoplifting but also assist in managing the supply chain to endow the shoppers with seamless buying experience.

Shoplifting is one of the biggest challenges retailers and franchisors face today. Picking up products and concealing them under an outfit or a handbag are regular methods exploited by lifters. To prevent shoplifting, many companies are deploying technologies such as barcodes, Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) tags on their merchandise to keep a track of the shoplifters. The companies are also training their staff to tackle such menace.

Technology has become a  requisite for operating a retail outlet. The market is becoming more organised with small and big companies installing newest technologies for a competitive edge. Here's a look at the tech street of the Indian market.

Types of technologies

From manufacturing the product to warehousing to supply and eventually to the point-of-sales (POS), the organised fashion industry is impelled by the well-organised supply chain, which in turn relies on the availability of technology-related solutions.

There are various types of front-end and back-end technologies that are used for effective functioning of the store. These are:

Barcodes: They are effective identification devices that provide exact and timely data to support in everyday operations.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems: POS systems are referred to as check-out counters in the store where transaction occurs between the cashier and the customers. They reduce long queues in small or big companies and ensure fast check-outs, just like barcode scanners and printers.

Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID): Tags are installed on a product and can be easily tracked by using the radio frequencies emitted by the tag, which are decoded by a reader.

Electronic surveillance systems: CCTV cameras, security alarms, glass break detectors and door alarms are installed in stores to keep a check on theft and other actions.

Tackling biz blues

Raj Rawtani, Director, Zedds Pvt Ltd, says, “Cameras and barcode sensors are very helpful in preventing shoplifting.” Through these tags, retailers and franchisors can detect and track the availability of number of items in the inventory and also keep a check on its day-to-day sale. To keep a close watch on the movement of customers in different retail/franchised stores such as flagship and discount stores, hypermarkets, exclusive and multi-brand stores and shop-in-shop outlets, the companies are employing video surveillance systems such as CCTV or video cameras, sensors and alarms. A lot of companies are making use of RFID technology in apparels, watch, jewellery, fashion merchandise or other highly-priced items. The tags are either removed or deactivated by the cashier when the article is appropriately bought by the customer. If a customer steals an item and goes to the exit point of the store, the detection system automatically sounds an alarm, detecting active tags, which alerts the security staff.

Balvinder Singh Ahluwalia, President, Koutons, says, “Shoplifting has been a menace to retail business and it becomes physically impossible to track each and every customer. We put security tags in each item so that even if anyone tries to leave the store with the item illegally, the alarm goes off. We have also installed security towers and CCTV cameras to monitor each and every movement in the store.”

Govind Raj, Vice-President, Integrated Retail Services, Titan, informs, “We have electronic surveillance in our stores and franchisees are trained in the use of the same. In addition, safety of customers and staff is also a major concern and we take these into consideration from the design of the store onwards.”

Nilesh Shah, Director, Marketing, Rance Computer Pvt. Ltd, nods, “It is true that shoplifters come in all shapes, sizes, age and sex and vary in ethnic background, education and economic status. To combat these losses, retailers, at times, have to take extreme measures to control this menace called shoplifting. We provide Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) System with RIFD tags for precious products. These tags can easily be tagged with or without a lanyard on both apparel and footwear and can be removed only with its detacher. Commenting on front and back-end technology solutions, Ahluwalia states, “Our front-end software systems mirror images of stock sales and movement of goods at the point of sales and head office. Secondly, state-of-the-art Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system ensures optimum usage of current resources, integration of all operations and improvement in business process.”

Anil Kumar of Integrated retail says, “Yes, we are selling POS systems to franchisees in India. Franchisees can manage wide range of categories using the technology; manage inventory effectively, report to the principal by margin, tax, staff, customer and by department. For back-end, we offer technological solutions in purchases, transfers, product tagging, inter-branch transfer, physical stock verification, stock discrepancy management and of course, MIS.”

Train employees

Franchisees must train their employees well to keep a watch on the customers who hang around at one place. The staff at POS systems should quickly serve customers. They should instruct their employees to use technologies in the right way.

Sahil Malik, MD, Da Milano, says, “All stores have CCTV cameras installed that help in preventing shop lifting. As and when a new technology is introduced, the franchisee and store staff are trained accordingly.”

“We have trained our staff to collect garments from the trial rooms after the customer tries it, baggage is kept at the counter and CCTV cameras are installed at all the stores to reduce shrinkages,” states Anil Lakhani, Director, Giny & Jony. The company gives proper training before the store opens. It includes CRM training, training on how to collect and redeem points for the wonder world loyalty membership card, monthly zonal and belts' managers meet at the stores and providing IT support and training for CRM, MIS and reporting.

Pinch pennies

The cost of technology depends on the type of utility that a franchisee wants to install at his/her store. “We provide solutions to all types of retailers within the reasonable range. The price of FusionRetail software starts from Rs 15,000. However; a basic solution starts from Rs 60,000, which includes hardware also. We also offer additional bouquet of services like consultancy, technology support and business continuity support on project basis,” says Shah.

“The franchisee is required to invest Rs 1 lakh in the hardware and Rs 60 lakh in the software. There will be implementation charges for first-time users,”  Kumar adds.

Providing solutions

For apparel and footwear retailing, the area for technology implementation is wide. It covers at facets, starting from back-end processes like merchandising, procurement, finance, warehousing and supply/distribution to front-end activities like point-of-sale, customer loyalty and customer service, says Shah.

At present, FusionRetail provides solutions to few apparel companies like ITC John Players, ITC Miss Players, Hoffmen, Identity, Truworths, Shriff, Dollar, Millionaire, Bombay Dyeing and Orange Retail. In footwear, Magnet Fashion and Titas Footwear are the key players. It also specialises in providing solutions to designer studios like J.J. Valaya, Srijan Designers, Megha Modi Inc and Mogra.

Both the small and big brands, are getting more tech-savvy, utilising all the available resources to pin down the loopholes and soar in profits. They are not willing to compromise at any cost.

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