Champion Europe and BOARD: a new approach to Merchandise and Assortment Planning
CHAMPION EUROPE S.p.A. leads in the styling, development and distribution of sports clothing, footwear and accessories for professional and amateur teams throughout Europe. Founded in 1919, the company has around one thousand employees and 150 stores. Champion's distinctive brand image is linked with an international reputation for innovation and reliability in the supply of durable products for a wide variety of sports.
The store management systems of Champion, operating as a mono-brand retail chain, and those of the multi-brand Game 7 Athletics were unified in 2011. At this time, Champion Europe also decided to unify and consolidate certain key retail functions, namely Store Sales, Target setting and Merchandise and Assortment planning.
The selection of a suitable Business Intelligence, Planning and Corporate Performance Management tool for Champion Europe was prompted by various challenges both within and between the retail buying and sales offices.
Stefano Neri, Head of the Management Information System Department explains; "Being responsible for all aspects of planning, including assortments, stock levels, discounts, prices and promotions - senior and junior buyers had to perform extremely convoluted tasks with a high risk of error, due to the large number of Excel sheets involved and the misalignment of data files produced independently. Area managers also struggled to obtain an integrated overview of their operations. The entire process was much too rigid, representing a major issue for activities in the fashion sector, where changes are rapid and products have a very short life cycle. Additionally, it was extremely difficult to present planning data properly. Lengthy data processing was needed in order to understand the various dimensions involved (brands, product lines, geographical areas...)."
The choice: the value of flexibility
The objective was to establish an integrated process, with certified data that could be checked easily, analysed in multiple dimensions and revised rapidly. The ideal software solution would protect planning data from possible errors or losses.
Flexibility was one of the principal software selection criteria, leading Champion Europe to prefer BOARD over other competitors: we began by evaluating tools designed specifically for the planning of purchases and assortments, – states Stefano Neri - but they were too “blinkered” for our needs. So we decided to consider planning tools that were easier to model.
We chose BOARD because the system is extremely flexible and easy to modify: a major advantage, especially when processes are subject to change, details are not known in advance and tools must adapt rapidly to major variations, even during different phases of the same project.
The solution: an integrated planning cycle
There were three main areas of implementation:
- Retail Merchandising Plan, used to determine the types and quantities of products to be included during the year in the collections available for purchase;
- Retail Assortment Plan, used to determine - with reference to the Merchandising Plan, sales objectives and stock levels - the detailed purchasing plan by brand, product category and store;
- Purchase Orders by supplier, used to analyse the purchasing of collections by SKU (style-colour-size), store and delivery period.
Starting from historical data downloaded automatically from the Stealth 3000 ERP suite, we are now able to plan the availability of supplies. BOARD is also used in the forecasting process to determine sales objectives by store/day, which involves “normalising” non-recurring effects in order to obtain a reliable baseline. We have found BOARD to be an extremely useful tool in the “Wholesale” area too, for planning “blind” orders and for forecasting: Champion is evolving towards the placement of “blind” orders, i.e. before orders are received from stores. These supplier requisitions are based on historical data and sales of standard items, so that production can commence as early as possible in response to new market conditions. This process – not without risk – has undoubtedly been optimised and made safer due to the functionality offered by BOARD. Our wholesale and retail activities are now fully integrated.
The benefits: investment recovered in less than one year
About 80% of BOARD users are located in the Champion Europe Buying Office, while the remaining 20% are based in the Sales Office. The system is used by both planners and buyers: The advantages contributed by BOARD are extremely easy to understand - confirms Stefano Neri - people previously worked with their own logic, using separate Excel files and generating errors of every kind. The process implemented has delivered the desired results. Subsiquently, we have now achieved complete integration, both with the ERP and between the processes involved and the departments concerned. In addition, the simulation and revision processes are now much easier and the time dedicated to planning has been reduced considerably. Even without a precise calculation of ROI, we can state with certainty that our investment was recovered extremely quickly, and undoubtedly in less than one year.