When Whistles became an independent fashion brand, it had to replace the IT and logistics functions previously provided by Aurora Fashions.
The change required an overhaul of IT, logistics, finance, payroll and the creation of a new warehouse and data centre, and it had to do it in six months, with certain items required even more quickly due to the seasonal nature of fashion retailing.
In February 2010, Whistles gave notice to existing supplier Aurora and, in July, appointed David Mold, former Aurora head of IT business development, as IT and logistics director.
Following competitive tenders, Retail Assist and BT Expedite were selected to provide supply chain and store solutions.
“We needed specialists with expertise in their own fields, and with the ability to integrate with other parties. Pulling together as a team was essential. Retail Assist and BT Expedite had previously worked side-by-side at Rubicon and Aurora. What’s more, Merret and the BT Fresca platform were already integrated, so that all helped,” says Mold.
Retail Assist’s integrated merchandising and warehousing solution, Merret, had to be live by January 2011, to coincide with the opening of the new Whistles warehouse.
Retail Assist’s Merret.NET supply chain management application was required to drive the multi-channel business forward through interfaces to Whistles’ e-commerce website, and EPoS solution. This had to be live by February in Whistles’ shops and store systems in multiple concession partners including Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Fenwicks, House of Fraser and John Lewis.
Mold says: “The biggest challenge we faced was the compressed timeline. With six months from project kick-off to go-live, the fixed end-date dictated we had to keep to plan or risk incurring major costs and disruption to the business.”
Store servers have been transferred to Retail Assist’s Northampton office where they are managed alongside the host servers. With only three in-house staff looking after IT, e-commerce, logistics, payroll and finance systems, it was essential that this was low maintenance.
In January 2011, Whistles switched over to the new supply chain system for e-commerce orders. Shortly afterwards, it completed the move to the new DC in February. Finally, stores’ links were transferred to the new servers housed in Northampton in mid-March and the whole system became operational.
“From the new system, we will get clear SLA-based reporting, so the ability to introduce these service levels is one of the major improvements over the previous system. As our new solution was designed for us, responsiveness to issues has increased, and we expect we’ll be able to drive call volumes downwards. And costs are now clear with comprehensive and detailed monthly billing to ensure there are no nasty surprises,” says Mold.