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Thorntons, a UK chain of chocolatiers, has implemented G.O.L.D., a suite of retail management software from Aldata, a leading provider of software solutions for the global retail industry, to support its business growth and forward strategy.

In 1911, Joseph William Thornton opened the first Thorntons shop in Sheffield, England. Nearly 100 years later Thorntons plc now has an annual turnover of more than 160million, over 350 own shops and over 200 Franchises. The product ranges now include Ice Cream, Cakes, Biscuits, Chilled Chocolates as well as the more traditional Fudge, Toffee and Chocolates.

A selection of Thorntons stores also include an instore Caf.

The company produces Thorntons-branded products for many retailers including Tesco, and also makes selected own-brand products for Marks & Spencer and Boots.

Historically a manufacturer, Thorntons had built up its business based around production rather retailing. Stores were a later development, during the eighties, and existing systems were developed rather than revamped.

Thorntons existing IT infrastructure had therefore been built up over many years and comprised a variety of systems with limited integration between them.

Jim McLauchlan, Thorntons Programme Manager, explains, Our ordering system was over 20 years old and had been heavily customised over this time without full supporting documentation, so it became almost impossible to make further modifications. In addition to this, we had a number of unsupported platforms that gave unwanted risk. The third factor was that these systems no longer supported our future strategy.

Replenishment was handled manually and was based not on store demand  - more on the knowledge of the store manager. Orders were actually phoned through from the stores to a Thorntons telesales team.

As a result, Thorntons was unable to react quickly enough, to adjust production to match demand in the stores. For a business that is effectively a fashion retailer, needing to monitor, match and predict trends, the systems gap required urgent attention.

SOLUTION

Thorntons did not hurry to make a decision, because most vendors it considered did not have systems specifically for a business that was retail, franchise, commercial and manufacturing. The company is currently vertically integrated and has developed different systems to cope with the differing activities. Thorntons wanted to find a supplier that would enable it to provide solutions that would work across the whole supply chain, from production to sales channel.

McLauchlan added, We are also looking to cut the number of system suppliers we deal with so that we can manage our systems infrastructure more easily and minimise costs.

Thorntons chose Aldata on the strength of its references in Europe, where the company provides solutions to retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

As part of a two-year project, Thorntons decided to replace core systems in head office, stores and warehouses in order to drive financial benefits for the company. The existing dial-up network would be retained in the meantime, with a view to replacement later on, so GOLD will manage the existing processes until this new network is installed.

Thorntons chose Aldata for the G.O.L.D. suite of retail management software to replace the central database and take control of ordering and replenishment. Thorntons initially implemented G.O.L.D. Central and G.O.L.D. Shop across its entire estate. G.O.L.D. manages Thorntons head office processes and store operations for its own stores as well as for its franchise and commercial ordering.

Thorntons chose G.O.L.D. because it will integrate with the other new systems that have been implemented, including its warehousing and production systems, but crucially, will also help enable Thorntons to manage sales and demand across the following channels to market Retail (including cafes), Franchise and Commercial.

Operating initially at the centre, Aldata G.O.L.D. gives Thorntons greater control of item-level information across these multiple channels, eventually enabling it to develop its retail operations and increase effectiveness.

In the stores, Thorntons has already implemented new hand-held terminals, enabling staff and managers to perform easier stock counting, external sales, provide management information to store, and a queue-busting function in stores during key seasonal periods.

As McLauchlan explains, The Thorntons business is highly seasonal and our busy periods are Christmas and Easter of course, as well as Mothers Day and Valentines Day. It is critical that we can serve as many people as possible during those peak periods, but the checkouts need support. So we have equipped each of our stores with hand-held terminals to enable them to scan a shoppers purchases so all they have to do is pay.

In addition to the above, Thorntons has also implemented a new warehouse management system and a reporting management system.

BENEFITS

Thorntons now has a single vision of its inventory for retail and commercial. At head office, Aldata solutions are now managing part of the supply chain that may not be the largest retailer in the UK but is certainly one of the most complex. The solutions are beginning to give Thorntons the platform they need to support future business growth. Aldata solutions are being used to manage many variables within the Thorntons business, embracing retailing and commercial; then within retailing stores, franchises, cafes, internet; and within this, variations by season, store size and location.

McLauchlan said, It is very important for us to be able to manage retail demand on the one hand and integrate this demand with our manufacturing and production planning and scheduling on the other. The advanced features in Aldatas solution such as its very economical web-based architecture should also ensure support for the future needs of our businesses.

THE FUTURE

In the future, with a new systems structure in place (and further systems implementation planned), store ordering will be automated. This will enable Thorntons to minimise any stock-outs in store, better plan promotions and manage seasonal merchandising with the effect of boosting sales by meeting demand earlier on in the cycle.

Thorntons will also make broader use of management information to measure various aspects of business performance, enabling it to target any specific areas requiring further improvement.

INFORMATION: Free information is available from ALDATA on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

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