High-street retail giants reveal IT plans

Two of the UK’s biggest high-street retailers this week revealed how many of their key IT investments were coming to fruition as...

Two of the UK’s biggest high street retailers this week revealed how many of their key IT investments were coming to fruition as they unveiled their pre-close trading statements for the year.

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, which said it has delivered £200m of cost savings for the 12 months to 29 March, said “huge progress” has been made on its business transformation programme, which has entered its intensive implementation phase.

“We have opened two of our four new automated depots and are beginning to build up capacity,” said Peter Davis, group chief executive at Sainsbury’s .

“We have installed new electronic point-of-sale equipment and in-store computer systems in 308 stores and 129 petrol filling stations. In this quarter we have also opened eight new supermarkets, 11 Local stores, delivered nine extensions and four refurbishments.”

Woolworths, meanwhile, which said it has cut £8m of annualised underlying costs from the business, revealed that its investment in IT systems infrastructure during the year totalled £18.4m

The general merchandising retailer said good progress is being made on the migration of all product categories to a new range planning and replenishment system and that, by summer 2003, all areas will be fully functional.

Rollout of the Kingstore electronic point-of-sale system is continuing, Woolworths said. A further 160 stores will be converted this year so that by January 2004 more than 320 stores will be converted, representing 67% of retail space, the company said.  It estimated that the programme will be completed during 2005.

In recent years, a weakness of the business has been the physical supply chain which comes under particular pressure over the Christmas period, Woolworths said.  To address this, a supply chain review was undertaken in 2002 to achieve a more robust approach to planning. 

“This allowed us to flow the seasonal Christmas stock into the stores earlier and increased our delivery frequencies which resulted in a more controlled and timely supply of product to the stores and improved availability for our customers,” the company said in a statement.

“In 2003, we are seeking further improvements in the supply chain by increasing warehouse operating hours and reviewing pack sizes.”

Health and beauty retailer Boots also announced its pre-close trading update this week, revealing that it is going to close its handbag.com internet portal. The move follows the closure of the company’s joint digital TV venture with Granada late last year

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