Halfords is to trial store expansion in Eastern Europe using a pre-packaged IT approach pioneered by Tesco.
The "Tesco-in-a-box" approach, first used in Turkey in 2005, involves providing new country operations with all systems necessary to operate key processes, such as supply chain and replenishment.
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The three Czech Republic stores in the Halfords pilot, which are due to open next year, will test whether the business model works for the motoring and cycle retailer.
The infrastructure to support its expansion into the Czech Republic uses the same core technology as Halfords' UK operations, including SAP-based store systems and Manhattan Associates replenishment systems.
The infrastructure is pre-configured in the UK, but first-line support is based locally. The SAP element can be run out-of-the-box using the same transactions in the Czech Republic as in the UK.
Brian Scott, Halfords' head of business systems, said, "We can set up SAP and work in the Czech language and do the processes we need with our own people because it is the model we have here. There is not a massive amount of customisation or configuration to be done."
However, the applications have been tweaked to reduce complexity. "We have shaved some corners, taken some sophistication out, to reduce the cost of entry. We have made some compromises because we did not want to saddle the [Czech] initiative with cost," said Scott.
Among the benefits of this approach is that Halfords has not had to buy extra software for multilingual, multi-currency operations.
In the UK, Halfords is in the final stages of testing a new in-store system in time for the peak Christmas season. The project will see the replacement of in-store legacy platforms, including a green-screen Unix product look-up system, Windows NT tills and an internet platform for credit agreements.
Scott said, "Multiple devices have to be used to perform a single process in store, which makes it costly, cumbersome and difficult to learn." The new system will provide a single integrated point of service allowing staff to look up product information from the till.