Efficient IT helps to boost Christmas sales

It was a mixed Christmas for UK retailers, but successful stores used IT to underpin the core retail principles of "the right...

It was a mixed Christmas for UK retailers, but successful stores used IT to underpin the core retail principles of "the right products, in the right place and at the right time", according to industry experts.

Department store John Lewis was one of the stronger performers over Christmas, recording its best ever day's sales in the week running up to 25 December.

The retailer's IT systems - a Linux-based IBM Websphere infrastructure running on an IBM Z900 mainframe - held up against high demand because of planning, said IT director Kevin Berry.

"We put an 'amber' systems change embargo in place three months before Christmas, which allowed only limited changes, and then a 'red' in December which allowed no changes.

"This meant we were focused on keeping systems running," he said. "We only went live with Websphere in the autumn, which was a bit late, but it went very well, with no glitches."

Richard Hull, retail consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, said companies such as Tesco and Asda/Wal-Mart, which have sophisticated IT infrastructures and use detailed customer data to make their merchandising decisions, were among the stores that performed well.

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