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Benetton's megastore turns to iPads to help manage its extensive inventory of colorful fashion

by Steven Lang

“I knew the iPad was the right tool for the job," says Christian Glöck, Benetton’s IT system administrator.
“I knew the iPad was the right tool for the job," says Christian Glöck, Benetton’s IT system administrator.

Retailer Benetton's largest store uses the iPad to photo and barcode every item it stocks to help sell fashion to customers more efficiently and track sales for inventory control.

The Benetton team was tired of doing things the old way.

First, employees at the Vienna, Austria-based megastore took each and every piece of clothing from its hanger and scanned its data. Then they reached for a camera to photograph every product in every color. All of it had to be stored manually by employees on the company computer.

There had to be a better process.

Last year, Christian Glöck, Benetton’s IT system administrator, came up with one. “I knew the iPad was the right tool for the job and the main reason was the camera,” he told TabTimes. “We could use the camera to read the barcode (for inventory control) and photograph the clothes.”

Glöck initially considered writing his own program for the iPad, but then turned to software developers Zimmel + Partner with the outline of a process.

He designed a structure that would allow automated transfer of data to and from the store’s merchandised management system. And he wanted pictures to be uploaded and allocated to the clothing automatically without having to enter a serial number.

He conveyed these needs to the software designers. Their solution was a combination of the database app FileMaker Go for iPad and FileMaker Pro. “It was implemented within four days,” says Glöck.

Substantial savings

The IT systems administrator says that the cost savings have been substantial. The store (which, at 4,000 square meters of sales floor carries a lot of inventory) was paying professionals 60,000 Euros per season for all its photography work. The FileMaker solution cost Benetton 3,000 Euros per season. “That’s a savings of 57,000 Euros each season,” he said.

The new inventory control/sales help program started in the spring of 2011. Staffers take photos of each piece of fashion with iPads and scan its bar code, matching them to each other.

Each article could be in five colors. “It’s not so easy to remember,” said Glöck.

This two-tiered tracking systems enables the Benetton team to know what’s in stock, what has sold and move inventory at a quicker rate. The net result is a more precise snapshot of what’s available, where—and in what size and color.

In addition, the iPads are being given to sales staff. “Not all the merchandise is on the sales floor, or available in the same color,” he explained. “The iPad enables the sales staff to sell [inventory] in the back of the store or that’s at another store.”

The iPad-catalogued inventory is linked to two other Benetton stores close by. The FileMaker server is in the main store.

The store is using six iPads currently and Glöck is considering bringing the total count to 15. “We would like our customers to be able to use them [to see all our inventory] by the beginning of next year,” he said.

Steven Lang is the managing editor of TabTimes. His Tablet Leaders feature appears every Monday.

Our Tablet Leaders series is brought to you by FileMaker, with the support of the Savo Group.

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