Chief editor of Manufacturing & Logistics IT Magazine, Ed Holden, spoke with Mike Padfield, IT director of Cath Kidston, about the company's rise to retail prominence, and the IT backbone that facilitates greater data control and operational efficiencies.
Cath Kidston is a distinctive British lifestyle brand best known for its witty vintage inspired prints and wide array of household and fashion products – from floral china to polka dot bags. Founded by its namesake in 1993, Cath Kidston is one of the most influential and original design companies to emerge from the UK in recent years. Currently, there are over 50 shops and concessions in the UK, and Republic of Ireland, and over 25 in Asia.
In terms of the IT backbone deployed to manage Cath Kidston's business and operational activities, IT director Mike Padfield explained that the EPoS equipment deployed in Cath Kidston outlets in the UK and Ireland utilises a software solution developed by Futura. Futura also extends to Cath Kidston's head office in London where it is used for things such as merchandising, allocation replenishment and product stock control. Padfield also explained that Cath Kidston relies on Maginus software for its web front-end and general CRM data gathering and sharing. Additionally, Maginus is used for the running of the company's call centre based at its distribution centre in Cambridgeshire, and also as part of its ERP package. Order and sales data is compiled in Maginus and then shared with a third party called More2 for CRM data de-duplication, analysis and segmentation.
Another key component in Cath Kidston's IT armoury is iForce, a new partnership which has recently taken over the operation of the Cambridge distribution centre for warehouse management and e-fulfilment. Padfield pointed out that he and his 12-strong IT team, together with iForce's own technicians, are currently in the process of interfacing Maginus into iForce. "Our own in-house IT personnel and the external iForce team are currently focused on this integration piece as a priority," said Padfield. "Our own internal team is busy with the specification and testing work, while the iForce team are focusing on the specifics required to ensure the best possible integration between the Maginus and iForce systems."
Padfield outlined some of the core benefits of Cath Kidston's IT portfolio. "In our stores, Futura ensures greater speed and efficiency of sales throughput," he said. "Basically, using Futura means we are able to serve in-store customers more promptly and efficiently. The system also allows us to capture customer information, which then helps us to make better informed decisions about the types of products customers like to buy at certain times of the year and in different regions. It's largely about seeking to understand our customers' requirements as clearly as possible in order to best serve their requirements."
When customer information gathered by Futura is relayed to the Maginus system this is when the data analysis stage commences. And, as Padfield explained, because Maginus is involved at the ecommerce end too, this means that data from both Maginus and Futura allows Cath Kidston to be able to analyse cross-channel customer buying trends – for example, whether some types of customer buy mainly online, whether some buy predominantly in-store or whether many of our customers regularly buy goods both in the high street and on the Internet. In terms of the user experience in store, Padfield considers that the Futura software is very intuitive for Cath Kidston's retail outlet personnel to operate. "Staff in store need minimal training on the use of the Futura software," he said. "Once they're generally au fait with using the POS system at the till then using the software is a very straightforward process."
Padfield commented that, although Cath Kidston already has in place a highly effective and flexible IT portfolio – and currently has the integration project in hand – it is nevertheless constantly looking for opportunities for further enhancement in order to keep at the cutting edge of business and operational performance in the retail space. "What we are doing is looking at our business processes, reviewing them and seeking to understand where any pinch points might be," said Padfield. He added that, in terms of its international operations, Cath Kidston's partners – which predominantly comprise successful wholesalers in their respective global regions – use IT systems that they feel best suits their local everyday working requirements. However, explained Padfield, in addition to the integration work currently taking place in the UK between Cath Kidston's Maginus and iForce packages, it is also presently working on an integration layer to retrieve partners' sales information on a weekly basis. "When completed, this will mean we have immediate access to sales data from all our global stores in the form of FTP files," he said. "This sales information will then be imported into our local data warehouse to gauge sales trends on a more international level."
One new technology area currently being considered at Cath Kidston is opportunities concerning multichannel and how this could further enhance the company's data capture and communication regime. "For example, this might involve sourcing tablet PCs or handheld devices in stores for queue busting or scanning loyalty cards – another idea we are currently considering," said Padfield. "All things are being considered as part of the IT strategy that we're building and refining at the moment."
Future expansion is always high on Cath Kidston's list of priorities. The company recently opened new stores in Westfield Stratford, Bournemouth and Aberdeen, with another due to open in Jersey later in the year. "So we're very proactive in terms of expansion in the UK at the moment," said Padfield. Additionally, future global expansion is also high on the company's agenda. This includes plans to open an outlet in Shanghai, China, with further Chinese presence planned following on from the opening. "We are looking at steady growth as opposed to spreading into multiple territories too quickly," Padfield explained.
In the Far East Cath Kidston relies on a network of wholesaler partners. Padfield explained that once the company has the right partner in place to successfully manage stores within a certain territory it then looks to move into other geographies with the help of other partners. "We operate internationally out of our London office while at the same time keeping in close contact with all our global partners," he said. "With the impending full integration of our Maginus and iForce IT systems, this process – including global sales data sourcing and analysis – will mean we are in an even stronger position to offer the very best selection of goods. Ultimately, it's all about serving the customer in the best and most efficient way possible."