UK retailer Jacques Vert shapes up supply chain as part of multichannel strategy

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Womenswear retail group Jacques Vert, which manages over a thousand outlets in the UK, Canada and Ireland, has reduced costs, minimised discounting and improved stock management after implementing new merchandise planning and supply chain software.
In today's competitive retail trading environment, the Jacques Vert Group, which is made up of the Jacques Vert, Planet, Precis and Windsmoor womenswear brands, recognised a critical need to implement a supply chain solution that was central to its multichannel strategy.

According to John Bovill, Jacques Vert Group Commercial Director, the company's finance, business intelligence, retail and stock management systems were no longer suitable for multichannel retail, and didn't meet the requirements of a forward-thinking retailer. The previous supply chain solutions did not support planning, ordering, allocation or monitoring of stock, leading to time-consuming workarounds with an over-reliance upon Excel spreadsheets. The legacy systems, selected over a decade ago in 1999, lacked integration and did not have a future development path. What's more, they were supported by an in-house I.T. team overburdening the business with support issues.
The company needed a solution which allowed the retailer to pre-empt and react to a changing womenswear marketplace. "Fashion changes in rapid and unpredictable ways and the connectedness of consumers to media and technology has resulted in a need for instant availability. It was critical for us to gain clear stock management in order to react and plan more efficiently and quickly," says Bovill.

A key challenge of the project was the international nature of the Jacques Vert Group business. The group has 1,000 concessions and standalone stores in the UK, Canada and Republic of Ireland. Products are mainly supplied from the Far East and Europe, and delivered to the central warehouse in County Durham for redistribution, or direct to stores in Canada. Virtual warehouses are also located in Hong Kong. The process was made more complicated by different countries and sales channels requiring a varying mix of products.
"We need to be more reactive and operate a more effective supply chain to remain ahead of the competition," says Ian Johnson, Group Finance Director at Jacques Vert. "This means continually monitoring trends and identifying best sellers so that popular lines can be quickly replenished throughout the season."
The new solution provides a fully integrated 'single version of the truth' and has improved the user-experience by accelerating decision-making for buying and merchandising. The improved stock management system has enabled the buying and merchandising teams to define optimum stock packages or targeted allocations for all channels. The automated product and sales data transfer provided by the new systems and host store partners (House of Fraser, John Lewis and Debenhams) have led to productivity savings and a   reduction in E-commerce staff costs, immediately increasing efficiency and profitability.
The management of discounts has been enhanced, allowing the Jacques Vert Group to sell product at the optimum price and increase throughput of stock. The Jacques Vert Group now gets real-time stock updates every 15 minutes. It has also enabled the group to move from a 5 to a 7 working day Distribution Centre operation, improving order fulfilment. The Maple Lake and Merret integration has provided enhanced space planning at a capacity and linear level, resulting in improved stock densities in store and the allocation of stock more aligned to what sells best and where. It is providing the Jacques Vert Group with a flexible and agile distribution model to manage an increasingly complex supply chain.
Retail Assist's Nigel Illingworth explains: "A centralised stock pool ensures that less product is automatically allocated out to stores, meaning it's sent to the right places for replenishment. Terminal stock has reduced, improving margin."

Maple Lake's Bob Jolley continues: "Maple Lake's planning application provides in-depth analysis and visibility to aid the alignment of product to stores and/or channel. The solution provides the Jacques Vert Group teams with the ability to conduct detailed and comprehensive assortment planning, integrating financial plans and purchase order processing in Merret. It's a fully streamlined and automated process now."

The seamless I.T. managed services transfer from the in-house Jacques Vert Group teams to Retail Assist allowed Jacques Vert Group to focus on the I.T. strategic roadmap. As a result of the managed services transition, the Jacques Vert Group I.T. team reduced staff costs by a third.
Johnson adds: "The project has allowed the Jacques Vert Group to react faster to the market place whilst lowering our cost base."
In December 2011, half-way through the project, The Jacques Vert Group was bought by private equity firm Sun European Partners. The deadline for implementation was tightened due to the acquisition, and the new planning solutions proved invaluable in supporting the need for rapid generation of 3-5 year plans.
The Jacques Vert Group's acquisition and subsequent merger with the Irisa Group (formerly Alexon), also owned by Sun European, recognised the need for best practice systems in underpinning the wider group's future growth plans. Sun European Partners Managing Director, Paul Daccus, concludes: "The Jacques Vert Group had already invested in its systems and processes while Irisa needs a lot of investment. It makes sense to merge the two."

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