4 Ways a Retail ERP System Can Help Manage Multiple Store Locations
No man is an island, and the same goes for data; a retail ERP system brings together islands of data naturally formed by multiple store operations.
It’s a concept contrary to what retailers have traditionally thought. Many retailers fear that an individual store could feel stranded when external issues like a slow Internet connection to a central retail system hinder the ability of a store’s point of sales system to process a sales transaction. That makes islands of data a natural occurrence in retail operations; individual stores typically manage their own databases because they don’t want to risk losing customers or sales due to external factors like a central database that’s down or a slow Internet connection.
But here are four ways a retail ERP system can help companies to bridge the information gap between their individual stores and overall management.
Avoiding duplicate data or the appearance of it: There are times when individual stores must control their own data, and other times when data must merge with a central system. For example, each store generates a receipt with a number for identification. But if you don’t give each store its own range of numbers, then by the time the data gets back to the home office, you can have what appears to be duplicate information or even causes a nasty error on your central system. Compound that with inventory transactions and movements and you increase the chances of data being incorrectly identified or overlapping from use of the same number.
A retail ERP system, however, can be designed to know which data needs to fit together and where. The system also ensures that retailers replicate low-level information efficiently and effectively while accumulating all that information in one place.
Transferring specific information critical to all stores: Modern technology has made it easier for individual stores to quickly transfer or verify critical information, such as balances for gift cards or customer credit. For example, some retailers manage their own gift card or certificate program rather than having a credit card program manage it for them.
As a retailer, you likely want assurance that that there is a balance on that gift card; you don’t want the customer to make copies of it repeatedly. If a customer knows your store systems don’t update to the central server until the next day, that customer could theoretically go to all of your stores and use the same gift certificate. While it’s not possible to send all store data instantaneously over the Internet due to slow or varying connection speeds, stores can quickly transfer critical information between a store’s computer and the central server.
Consolidating inventory logistics: To have a good replenishment plan, retailers need to know what’s in each store, how fast those items are selling and the vendor lead times. That requires retailers to plan when they need to order inventory for the warehouse and how to ship those items to a specific store as soon as they arrive.
Replenishment brings up another inventory management issue: Does the central warehouse decide inventory for all the stores, or should inventory replenishment be managed at the store level? Or should it be a little of both, with replenishment for certain products ordered by a central system while other products are ordered by store managers?
A retail ERP system can give you the tools and abilities to manage inventory according to your policy. So, for example, if you don’t want store managers issuing purchase orders, you can withhold that capability from them in your retail ERP system.
- Managing visual merchandising: Visual merchandising is an issue for each individual store. Unless you are a big chain and create a new building for each of your individual stores, the specs of each retail location will be different. Visual merchandising will be handled at the store level, but a retail ERP system can give insight into the products, stocking locations and their allocations at each store.
Other benefits of using a retail ERP system to manage your retail locations include centralized staff scheduling and omni-channel retailing. With omni-channel retailing, your sales associates could look up product availability at other store locations and have it delivered to a local store or to the customer’s home. Also, the emergence of cloud-based technology is making data integration easier and could eliminate islands within a retail chain.
What’s important to remember is that a retail ERP system can help iron out issues that naturally come with managing multiple stores, consequently helping stores to improve their overall operations and customer service.