One of the trends reported in Bobbins annual June Top 40 feature, which ranks the industry's leading public apparel firms by profit margin, is a divergence from traditional business models. As a part of this evolution, many of the tried-and-true manufacturers of decades past have become multifaceted organizations that are now focusing on brand management and retail expansions. At the same time, the emergence of new e-commerce and retail-related information technology (IT) options has opened new business avenues for these apparel firms, many of which are now exploring ways to enhance multichannel product distribution and streamline supply chain execution strategies.
This expanding focus has become an increasingly important part of Bobbin's editorial coverage, as you will see reflected in this month's special report on information technology, which begins on page 46. For example, we have updated our annual computer software directory and comparative pullout to include e-commerce Web sites and related software, and we have included profiles of apparel companies that are leveraging new online business-to-business (B2B) and retail technologies, such as Gymboree corp.
The IT architecture now available to support apparel companies' forays into bricks and clicks retailing and other forms of multichannel product distribution is impressive. And there is an amazing array of systems providers that are now partnering to offer crossover products that span multiple business processes. In fact, this was one of the most notable trends at the mid-March Retail Systems Expo 2000 conference and Exposition, which took place in Chicago, IL. While on-site at the show, I found a number of interesting product introductions that illustrate these trends:
* Celarix Inc. has developed a Web-based transportation procurement and logistics management application that is completely automated, from purchasing transportation. services to managing goods in transit. Its three components, Marketplace, Management and Intelligence, facilitate a collaborative environment for buying and selling transportation services, coordinate all documentation and perform analytical and advanced modeling, respectively Both Lands' End and L.L. Bean recently signed on with the system.
* Smith-Gardner launched Ecometry, a new e-business application that integrates customer relationship management applications with back-office e-fulfillment functions. The system, which is designed for a multichannel business model, is built around a centralized customer data center that distributes information across an enterprise. As a result, users can view customer transactions as they occur, interact with customers and offer promotions through many mediums, including the Internet, catalogs and wireless devices. Coldwater Creek and Nordstrom.com are among the software firm's customers.
* IPNet Solutions unveiled its eBizness [Suite.sup.TM] 3.1, a best-of-breed collaboration, order management and transaction management system that uses the Internet to transfer information among trading partners, which eliminates the need to use fee-based exchanges, such as value-added networks (VANs). The system, which seamlessly links companies in virtual, tiered trading communities, is based on extensible markup language (XML), and it is compliant with the collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment model. Hanover Direct is currently using the suite to manage business with 4,000 trading partners.
* Essentus, a provider of business-to-business software for the apparel industry, has partnered with Spotlight [Solutions.sup.TM] to integrate the firm's Spotlight Markdown Optimizer -- which plans the timing, depth and location of retail markdowns -- with Essentus' merchandising system. Price changes generated by the Markdown Optimizer will be automatically updated in the merchandising system.
* GlobalFulfillment.com introduced comprehensive e-fulfillment systems and services for international product delivery. The company offers e-Base, one of the world's largest entertainment product databases (which it is planning to expand into other categories, including apparel); Global Online System (GOS), a back-end application that can conduct transactions in six languages and more than 160 currencies; [SmartHub.sup.TM] Technology, an advanced logistics and processing system; and Global e-Store, a customizable Web storefront. GlobalFulfillment.com also has an international network of warehouses from which it can distribute customers' products to end consumers.
These products are just the tip of the e-commerce iceberg, and industry experts in all segments of the apparel supply chain are predicting more explosive growth on the B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) fronts. And as the worlds of manufacturing, marketing and retail continue to merge, e-business applications will serve as the architecture of change.
Lisa C. Rabon
editor in chief.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Miller Freeman, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group