Magazine Article | March 1, 1999

WMS Merges The Inventories Of Two Chain Stores

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A highly automated warehouse management system (WMS) minimizes the involvement of the 128 Gart Sports store managers when ordering merchandise.

Integrated Solutions, March-April 1999
On every Labor Day weekend since 1954, the Denver Sportscastle store of Gart Sports has conducted a colossal sales and festivities program. The annual sale has become a major event in Denver, Colorado and, last year, more than 200 of Gart Sports' suppliers sent representatives to participate.

Merchandise on sale included 17,000 pairs of skis and binders, 5,000 snowboards, and 15,000 pairs of boots, plus outerwear and accessories. Many items were available combined in discounted packages. Keeping tabs on merchandise activity was the company's warehouse/logistics module, a component of its Merchandise Management System, provided by JDA Software Group, Phoenix, Ariz.

Gart Sports didn't always need a sophisticated warehouse management system (WMS) to manage its inventory. Nathan Gart had invested only $50 in fishing rods to stock his first store in 1928. But with continued growth and the purchase in September, 1997, of Sportsmart, a 59-store sporting goods chain based in Wheeling, Illinois, Gart Sports had expanded to 128 stores in 16 states, and three distribution centers.

Gart Sports and Sportsmart were both running on dissimilar solutions provided by JDA Software, but neither had the current version, and the acquired company was using a very early and highly customized product. The timing was right for a new system, explains Mike McCaghren, CIO. Since Gart Sports believes in the philosophy that a store manager's time is best spent in customer service, it wanted a highly automated ordering system that minimized store management involvement.

Gart Sports decided to move to the newest version of JDA Software, and it brought in a CFT Consulting, Sarasota, FL, team headed by Larry Berger. CFT Consulting's Berger helped the Gart team headed by Rob Gleave, vice president of systems development, with the transition. A key objective for the new solution was giving full control of and accountability for the flow of goods into the stores from the centralized distribution centers. The game plan called for the elimination of the need for detailed inventory receiving by store labor.

Garments and Golf Clubs Together
"Managing the buying and selling of fashion-related items with so many styles, sizes and colors involved is a lot different than managing the buying and selling of fishing lures," McCaghren points out, "and it is necessary for our system to do both,"

The implementation was completed in about one year. Also included in the new sporting goods enterprise solution is Arthur Planning, a JDA module that helps retailers plan merchandise assortments. The implementation included integration of E3SLIM, an inventory replenishment system available from E3 Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia. The E3 product had been a component of the system being replaced, explains McCaghren. Gart Sports liked the functionality it provided previously and included it in the new JDA system.

Scheduled for adding to the existing system is JDA's Retail IDEAS, a data warehousing system that will provide more decision making support, merchandise analysis, and performance analysis capabilities, in addition to other data-mining-related ability. The letters "I-D-E-A-S" stand for Interactive Data Evaluation and Action Support. "Retail IDEAS will give us a greater capability to monitor and measure our business performance and make more timely and informed decisions on things like store item assortments, pricing and advertising," anticipates McCaghren.

Payback on Investment Begins
Some of the early and noticeable improvements the new JDA solution has provided, says McCaghren, are more effective communications between corporate and stores and better management of store assortments. Other benefits are better coordination between flow of merchandise and more accurate timing of advertising and promotion. "Next in our plans," says McCaghren, "is to more effectively leverage our current investment in JDA and E3 through continued user training and system fine tuning, and implementing additional technology that will allow our store associates to focus more effectively on customer service as opposed to non-selling tasks."

Fine tuning assortments and determining the quantities for each store looms as one of the solution's major roles, says McCaghren. "The big-box sporting goods business (major retailers) is fiercely competitive," he notes, "and how you manage the customers, assortments, pricing, and promotions in each store is the difference between operating at a profit or at a loss."

A major initiative also under way is revamping of the Gart Sports' informational Web site ( to turn it into an online purchasing Web site. Online purchasing, McCaghren expects, will be fully operational prior to the 1999 holiday season. While selection of some of the Web site suppliers and software is still in review, McCaghren expects that IBM's multimedia development center in Atlanta, Georgia will participate in the design of the site.