SAP rolls out enhanced retail app

SAP AG has unveiled an enhanced version of its retail software that it says will boost forecasting accuracy and offer customers more flexibility when planning store shipments.

At the Retail Systems 2002 conference in Chicago this week, the software company announced that it would introduce new merchandise management and planning functions for its mySAP Retail application and more tightly integrate planning processes within the inventory management function. The application will also offer an ability to integrate style and color planning, along with other business indicators, when deciding on what mix of products to market.

SAP also announced that it would resell technology from SAF AG and eventually embed the technology into its retail application to improve and automate forecasting and replenishment functions.

That represents a slightly new tack, according to Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif.

Typically, companies have approached the issue by squeezing fat out on the supply side of the supply chain, as opposed to focusing on the demand forecasting side. "Poor forecasting means too much product, too much inventory and too much waste in a retail market that lives and dies by the thinnest of margins," Greenbaum said.

MySAP Retail can be purchased as a stand-alone application connecting to any retail system without other SAP modules in place, said Hunter Harris, vice president of retail business development at SAP. It will allow users quick access to data and the ability to make changes across an entire product hierarchy with less manual intervention.

For example, if a company wants to change the price on blue shirts throughout its product line, it can do so automatically without first having to call up each individual category, such as men's shirts or women's shirts, and making the price changes individually to each category.

Those enhancements, particularly one that will speed up the time it takes to format data for new store openings, sound appealing at OfficeMax Inc., which is based in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

According to Steve Baisden, public relations manager at OfficeMax, the company plans to open as many as 17 stores this year -- and the sooner it can get them up running, the better. Since OfficeMax began implementing the SAP retail suite, which includes human resources, merchandising and finance modules, more than two years ago, it has seen significant productivity increases. And after its latest upgrade, the company expects to save US$3.3 million in operating costs.

Although the SAF forecasting tool is available now, other enhancements to the retail suite will not be available until the third quarter. Pricing has not yet been disclosed.

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