Innovative Software Solutions Assists In Box Store Replenishment

Innovative Software Solutions (ISS) in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been working with growers to marry up the sell-through data they receive from large retail chains with the inventory data they maintain in Picas Greenhouse Software. This past spring ISS took the in-house skills it acquired through Randy Howe, who developed the Clarity program, and worked closely with a few customers to make replenishment for Walmart a reality. One customer that led the way was Olson’s Greenhouse in Utah. Olson’s was already using the Walmart Retail Link data, but this information didn’t have the same value until it was matched up with current inventory.

Howe worked closely with Kurt Lainhart from Olson’s to deploy Clarity’s tools and customize them for Olson’s. The operation needed to compare the sales of more than 550 spring SKUs (stock-keeping units) to its current inventory. To do this right, Lainhart believed it would take three to five experienced analysts. His dilemma: Where do you find analysts who are willing to work for only 10 weeks of the year? This data analysis has become even more complex as Walmart is now requiring its suppliers to track sales by genus and sometimes color at store level.

With such a short bedding plant season, accurate replenishment is vital. Before, Olson’s would pull the Retail Link data to determine which stores were selling the most product, rank them from the top down and replenish until inventory was depleted, trucks were full or stores’ needs were met. The philosophy was “whatever we had available, that’s what the store needed,” Lainhart says. With Clarity, Olson’s now has the ability to quickly and correctly distribute the available inventory to the stores that are selling it.

“Writing orders beginning with the top-volume stores and working down through the lower-volume stores makes it possible to replenish what each store truly needs based on their rate of sale, on-hands and freshness of the product on their tables,” Lainhart explains. This process allows top stores to stay in-stock while also replenishing bottom stores to their lower rate of sale and not over-stocking them.

“The ability to customize Clarity to work within our business methods is a big advantage,” he adds. “Analysts can see as much or as little data as they want and make accurate replenishment decisions.” Replenishment orders can be written in a fraction of the time – five to eight minutes versus 30 minutes, he says.

For Olson’s, 2011 was a tough year for weather, but thanks to Clarity, comparative store sales increased from 2010 with nearly 3 percent less product at the stores. With Walmart complete, ISS is expanding Clarity to include Home Depot, Lowe’s and Meijer.

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