Saving Thousands of Dollars through Collaboration
Independence. It’s the core of being an independent run specialty retailer. That’s why people get into this line of business. They have a specific idea of how they can uniquely address the needs of the running community.
And yet, running stores share some of the same pain points when it comes to operations. The time-consuming process and difficulty involved in maintaining consistent, accurate product data is a problem that Running Industry Association members readily agree on.
“We handle a lot of data. All the SKUs, UPCs, pricing, price reductions, and product images… putting them in the sales system is just a process. Ensuring the accuracy of our inventory and the data is a lot: a lot of staff time to input, format and update hundreds of thousands of SKUs,” said Justin Porter of Athletic Annex, a company with three stores in the Indianapolis metropolitan area of Indiana.
“Often, we are taking existing vendor data and we have to chop it up and make it work for our POS system that connects to all our other systems,” said Porter, who has been in the run specialty industry for two decades, while Athletic Annex celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023.
Ken Larsheid of Running Lab in Brighton, Michigan sees the same problems with product data. “The difficulty is mainly in how the data comes across in raw form, and the time it takes to get it into the correct format and into your system quickly. Everyone is trying to do it, but there’s no time for it so they’re not executing at 100%,” he said.
Larscheid, whose been in the industry for more than 20 years and opened his store in 2011, explained that staff capacity, both know-how and time, make it difficult to keep up with the demands of data input and accuracy.
“You can get away from consistency, and processes can get lost if more than one person is handling the data,” he added.
Companies would save a lot of effort, time, and money if a streamlined system provided retailers with access to accurate, consistent product data. One study showed that the time saved from having consistent data available could add up to $30,000 in savings per year.
Not only would it help staff in the office and stock room, it would be easier to make more sales on the floor, also.
For these reasons, the RIA has spent the past year developing the Product Data Collaborative or PDC, a streamlined data management system that removes the burden of searching for, manually formatting, and managing product data. This service, launching in February, provides running industry product data in a centralized location, easily organizable, and quickly upload-able and updateable.
Larscheid has been eagerly anticipating the launch of the PDC, because “When items are in our system and easily searchable, and we can find all brands, sizes, and colors, it helps from a speed standpoint,” he said.
“We specialize in getting specific shoes for customers. When we check on an item for a customer, if we can’t easily search and find it, then that’s going to bog down the transaction. Having data match how the vendor displays it ties together to make the sales associate’s life a lot easier, not to mention making it smoother for a staff member doing inventory,” he explained.
When the PDC makes stores more efficient with the customer, then stores will be more efficient with space. That is valuable since, as Larscheid observed, everyone is trying to maximize dollars per square foot.
Porter agreed on the ability to increase sales through the efficiency and momentum, created by the streamlined system.
“Speed to market is major. Having product data up and ready to go ahead of time is great. Just operationally, having everything ready to go helps presell products because they are ready to promote and pull off the shelf,” he said.
Selling special orders is even easier when the data connects inventory from the brands all the way to the warehouse.
“If we have six colors in the store, and the customer wants that 12th color, we can look in the system and show that we can get it, or if it’s not available, we can show the other options,” he explained.
What excites him the most about the coming launch of the RIA’s Product Data Collaborative?
“Not spending hours of my life in excel spreadsheets. Getting back some productivity not only for myself but for other people,” he answered.
To receive timely information about the PDC and its launch, including invitations to training modules and online FAQ discussions, please pre-register.
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