Online shopping continues to be the darling of the fashion retail sector with IT skills and technologies playing a key role in its ongoing strong performance. Warehousing systems, enterprise resource planning systems and better business intelligence all feature in the IT strategies of those online retailers recording stellar results, writes Helen Beckett.
Asos hiring skills
Asos, the online fashion retailer, reported strong end-of-year results and is looking to IT to help it reach a sales target of £1bn in five years' time. Asos IT director Dan West confirms he will be investing in software development and testing roles, project management, technical architecture and IT service delivery roles. Among the IT purchases planned to keep its fashion ahead of the high street is a £40m new data warehouse.
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The company has increased IT expenditure by £700,000 and, alongside new purchases, it will continue to develop and enhance core systems. During the year, it replaced its warehouse management system and completed its migration to a tier-one data centre. Ongoing IT activity includes the replacement of its buying and merchandising system, due to be completed in 2011.
Mulberry invests in warehouse
Web shopping was one of the best performing businesses for luxury goods retailer Mulberry, which reported i June overall sales growth of 23% to £72.1m for the last financial quarter. A warehouse module, implemented last autumn, has kept the handbags flying out of the stockrooms while a further £300,000 has been earmarked for a new ERP system.
The success is part of a UK-wide surge in online sales. In May, web retail sales rose by 22% compared with the same period last year, according to the latest IMRG-Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. The increase suggests that online shoppers spent the equivalent to £73 for every person in the country during the last month alone.
Surge in online retail
Asos’ CEO Nick Robertson said: "We believe online fashion will continue to outperform traditional retail channels. We are at the leading edge of our sector and see enormous potential to drive our business forward, both in the UK and internationally."
Next year Asos plans to launch an eBay-style marketplace, where customers can re-sell their unwanted clothes, and websites for the US, France and Germany are also in the pipeline. Robertson has commented that as a pure online player, Asos is ideally situated to exploit the online shopping. "Fundamentally, the internet is the retail channel with the greatest potential.”
Retail experience premium
The Asos chief’s comments bear out the findings expressed 18 months ago in a study by the European Commission about the retail sector’s readiness for e-business. At the time, only one in ten retail outlets employed IT practitioners. Today, IT and retail are such desirable partners, it’s possible to study for a ICT in retail business qualification.
However, there remains a widening skills gulf between the pure players and the supermarkets with their delivery businesses on one side, and all the rest on the other. IT pros with retail experience with the heavy-duty players will find that their skills are definitely more than a fashion accessory.
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