Lush cleans up on data with QlikView

Cosmetics retailer Lush has reduced wastage and made its shops more profitable through using QlikView business intelligence software

Cosmetics retailer Lush has reduced stock wastage and made its shops more profitable through using QlikView business intelligence software.

It started to implement QlikView in 2010 at the same time it was bringing in a new stock management system to track waste, and upgrading its till system. Until then, much of its business processes, such as ordering and waste tracking, had been handled manually.

Scott Silverthorn, head of reporting and data services at Lush, says the company “selected QlikView Business Discovery as it’s a very easy system for all of our staff to use, even with varying levels of technical experience”.

Qlik, which was founded in Sweden, might seem a good cultural fit with Lush, which prides itself on its ethical credo, not using animals to test its soaps and cosmetics, and supporting environmental causes. Silverthorn says most Lush staff would not be aware of that, although he adds that QlikView gatherings do remind him of his own company’s events.

The hand-made cosmetics retailer has reduced its losses in stock wastage by more than £1m since it started using the business intelligence (BI) software in its UK business.

The company is now running a project to integrate the data from its continental European shops, says Silverthorn. “The way the business has grown is to work with partners in Europe, but we’ve reached the point where we are bringing those shops under our wing. And we realise that they are where Lush UK was [from a BI point of view] three to four years ago.”

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Silverthorn describes Lush’s technology strategy as similarly organic in that the company tends to deploy “small systems that do something really well”, and then integrate them.

The company does not plan to extend QlikView to its operations in the US or Japan, he says. “The European shops are served by our manufacturing facility in the UK. In the US they have their own facility and [the shops] are run as a separate business. In Japan, they have been looking at Qlik, though.”

Poole-based Lush has some 900 stores in 51 countries and is a manufacturer as well as a retailer. It has a range of datasets, including retail data within EPOS systems, supply chain and stock management, payroll and timesheet systems. In 2010 it needed a technology platform that could be used by employees at every level throughout the business to provide access to relevant sales, stock, store and staff information. A CRM consultancy and BI provider Qgate, based close to Lush’s headquarters in Fareham, helped deploy the software, “and they are still our main point of contact with Qlik”, says Silverthorn.

Lush has QlikView Enterprise Server hosted by Memset. The in-house development team that owns the application comprises Silverthorn and three others.

The software is used everywhere at Lush. Silverthorn says: “Some shop managers have told us they have had their most profitable year ever because QlikView has brought together the data they need to manage their sales, their stock and their staffing. By pulling it together in one place for analysis, QlikView allows them to make the right decisions.

“Our colleagues are naturally very inquisitive people and giving them access to data means they can find ways to improve performance to do a better job.”

Some shop managers have told us they have had their most profitable year ever because QlikView has brought together the data they need to manage their sales, their stock and their staffing

Scott Silverthorn

Silverthorn says staff in the shops are animated by a spirit of friendly competition, and QlikView is their window onto their commercial performance. 

“I personally live in QlikView,” he adds. “The reporting function is so natural and intuitive that it’s easy to share with your colleagues, so everyone gets the same experience. Our next goal will be to give our senior managers access to the technology, via tablets and mobile devices.”

He advises peers in other organisations to put the time and effort into training frontline staff in using the software. “To show it is not as scary as they might think. Sometimes they’ll say 'QlikView’s being a bit naughty today', but it’s always a network problem, not QlikView’s fault at all.

“People were nervous at first, and it took time to do the training tour, but the feedback was very positive. Everyone in a support role here is available to staff. If they have a reporting or design request they will send an email straight to me.”

He confirms that by combining QlikView with Lush’s stock value management systems, the company was able to make savings of more than £1m in the first two years of deployment. A peculiarity of Lush’s business is that the freshness of the products, and the fact that they are deliberately not packaged, for environmental reasons, makes for a “lot of waste”, so the company needs to keep as tight a rein as possible on its physical stock. It strives to order exactly what it needs to make the right amount of stock for the levels being sold and ensuring that no products go out of date.

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