Leading hospital-based fashion retailer targets healthy growth, thanks to technology-led distribution transformation

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A leading ladies fashion retailer that began life as a single table-top trader in a hospital in Cambridgeshire has revealed plans to grow its 26 hospital-based outlets at a rate of two a year, thanks to a technology-driven transformation of the business.

TheStockShop, found in NHS Trust hospitals across the UK, has embraced Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technology system to streamline its distribution operation, making management of the measured expansion plans possible from a compact existing team.

From a single table-top trader in Addenbrooke's Hospital in 1988, TheStockShop has grown to 26 outlets now run by a central management team of 16 and a warehouse facility in Cambridgeshire employing five. It sells clothes, accessories, fashion and gift items not often found on the High Street.

With the help of the technology, sales have increased while the time and cost of adding new stores to the network has been reduced.

ERP specialists K3 Business Solutions (K3BS) implemented Microsoft Dynamics NAV and the company's Pebblestone Fashion solution, created specifically for fashion retailers and manufacturers. Mark Mitzman, Operations Director for TheStockShop, described the solution as "phenomenal" and said the business was now fully prepared for future growth plans.

He said: "Better stock management and distribution has certainly increased our sales; equally, now when we add a new store to the business the impact on the time spent distributing is negligible. We have probable saved around 10 man hours per week since adding this feature.

"Before NAV we used to manually allocate stock and because of the time this took we were only able to deliver to our stores twice a week. With an automatic distribution system we now send out deliveries every day to our stores. This has enabled us to reduce the stock holding in our stores and allows us to more rapidly respond to demand.

"Moving to a newer technology platform also improved the time needed to serve an individual customer – it's now much faster to process the transaction through the till and card machine."

Seeking an all-in-one ERP solution, The StockShop chose Microsoft Dynamics NAV, now managed and enhanced by the K3 Pebblestone Fashion module through Microsoft Dynamics Gold partner K3BS.

Pebblestone Fashion is designed specifically for the fashion industry, handling all essential pre-sales to supply processes including sourcing, purchasing, logistics, warehousing and financial administration.

Improved handling of management information means The StockShop can take advantage of better business intelligence for more accurate reporting and forecasting. Paper filing, manual double-data entry via spreadsheets and handling of transactional data has been brought together inside the software.

Mark added: "We used to spend a lot of time simply preparing the reports. Where we were previously juggling spreadsheets, the reporting power is now phenomenal. Generating reports is a lot quicker and because it's now possible to customise them so that we have the data we want instead of having to perform additional calculations based on the reports, we can spend more time analysing sales and making better business decisions."

Around 40% of TheStockShop's sales are generated by NHS staff with the remaining made up of in-patients, out-patients and visitors.

The company is one of many fashion clients K3BS works with. It specialises in delivering innovative solutions and first class support on the Microsoft Dynamics NAV and AX software platforms for the distribution and manufacturing industries, including fashion and food and drink retailers.

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