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Latest retail software eases ordering, tracking

MicroDMicroD’s new software lets retailers set up a website that helps consumers pick a sofa and fabric, then also see professionally matched Surya Rug accessory kits that coordinate with the upholstery.
HIGH POINT - MicroD, which provides Internet-based product catalogs and room planners for retailers' and manufacturers' websites, has teamed with rug vendor Surya to launch a retail program mating rugs with participating upholstery companies.
     The MicroD program will be one of several retail technology introductions presented during High Point Market week, starting Oct. 16. Most software vendors will be in the National Home Furnishings Assn.'s Retail Resource Center on the first floor of Plaza Suites.
     To demonstrate its newest offering, MicroD also has leased space in the Showplace lobby and will team up with upholstery manufacturers Klaussner and Rowe Furniture.
     The MicroD/Surya partnership also will include Craftmaster, La-Z-Boy, Best Home Furnishings and England, according to Steve McLendon, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Charlottebased provider.
     "We've already got some serious momentum," McLendon said, referring to the companies on board with the new product. He said MicroD also is talking to lighting, wall art and accessories companies about participating, some of whom came to the company after hearing about it at the Las Vegas Market in August, where the prototype was shown.
     "The cat got out of the bag," McLendon said.
     Using the system, consumers can go on a retailer's website and pick the sofa fabric or leather they like, which will immediately be matched with rugs that complement their selection.
     "The consumer will say, ‘Ah, I like that. The store has everything I need to complete my room,'" McLendon said.
     Otherwise, consumers might decide that they already have a rug that will match their prospective sofa purchase.
     "Either way," he said, "it will build their confidence so they come in with a higher level of buy-in."
     McLendon said that according to the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, online catalog companies didn't do as well in 2009 as they had in previous years.
     "My interpretation is that traditional catalog companies are not presenting a story; they're still presenting an item," he said. "Presenting a merchandise story to the consumer lets them envision the product in their home and how they'll be using it."
     He added, "It's not just about presenting catalogs online, but it's about inspiring and engaging the consumer. And the way you do that is by providing them with a merchandised view - not just an item but a merchandised view."
Container management and credit CARD act compliance are issues that San Diego-based Escalate Retail will be discussing at market, according to Roy Martin, product manager.
     The CARD (Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure) act requires changes to a company's software that tells consumers how many years and how much they'll pay if they just pay the minimum on their accounts.
     The container management software will help merchants track orders coming from China, Vietnam, Korea and other countries, and will give them a better handle on when they can commit to putting merchandise in customers' hands.
     But a larger issue will be mobile point of sale, Martin said, such as using smart phones on the sales floor.
     He said most salespeople already have smart phones and would be happy to use them if the retailer supplied them with an application with links to important information.
     "If they're working with a customer, what's the first thing the customer wants to know? ‘How much is it?' The second thing is, ‘Do you have any on hand?' The third thing is, ‘When can I get it?' So if you can get all three of these things on a mobile phone, you're 75% to 90% of the way to closing the deal," Martin said.
     Myriad, another San Diego- based provider, will release version 5.3 of its Eclicktic software "and it will have a lot of inroads to e-commerce," said Carolyn Crowley, president.
     The updated version will allow retailers to more easily transmit information - such as product styles and models - from the back end of their software management system to their company website, and then send orders for processing without the necessity of re-keying the information.
     The new release "has a lot of other great features," according to Crowley. The ability to exchange files from Myriad software to websites and back again has been on the wish list for a long time, she said.
     "One of the challenges that we had was that clients use many different Web development companies, whether it's their friends or their son or their CPA or some well noted companies," Crowley said.
     "Now it won't matter," she said. "These are XML files that should be able to take the information and post it up on the website and pass the information back to Myriad so the client doesn't have to do double duty and re-key that sales order again."
     Another issue Crowley will be discussing at market is the "cloud" method of storing information without the expense of purchasing and maintaining servers. The cloud method allows Myriad users to store information on off-site thirdparty servers, the same system used by major online companies like Amazon.
     "Running in the cloud environment is continuing to move forward," she said. "Systems that we sold in 2010 were all cloud environments."
     The newest product at Arlington, N.J.-based Storis Management
     Systems is Release 8.7, the latest version of its Windows- based product Vision R8. According to the company, the release provides retailers with the ability to run a leaner enterprise and provides enhancements to maximize customers' shopping experience.
     The software includes features that allow users to create product reviews and ratings, auto-move merchandise to a clearance Web category, and provide users with the Icovia Room Planner to map out their furnishings. Retailers also will benefit from the credit application product, which is integrated with Storis' credit reporting capabilities to reference credit reports and scores.
     Also, retailers can optimize their purchasing decisions with the release's new merchandising features, including the ability to classify merchandise as marked down for clearance or for promotional purposes, as well as indicating discontinued products and individual markdown prices at specific locations.
     Doug Culmone, chief operating officer, said that, in addition to Storis' internal research and development efforts, "We also consider our clients' direct product feedback and incorporate it accordingly to produce a powerful software release. Our development team worked closely with two of our Top 100 retail clients to create some of the enhancements of this release."
     Overall, software executives said their sales have been flat this year, reflecting the industry and the economy.
McLendon of MicroD was at the recent Furniture First symposium in Greensboro, N.C, and "walked away feeling that those who have decided they're going to be proactive have a business that is either doing well, or real well. But those who have decided they're going to take a wait-and-see attitude and are doing the same thing they've always done, seem to be either retrenching or are barely hanging on."
     Escalate's Martin said that retailers have an "air that as soon as things start getting better, (they're) going to pull the trigger. I'm already seeing some people doing it," he added, "but they are kind of few and far between."

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