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Harrods explain why industry collaboration is key to solving the problems with data

Date: June 13, 2017

Category: Industry news


On 8th June, GS1 UK supported the Drapers Operations Forum, the only UK event to focus on retail operations. Speaking at the event were some of the biggest brands including All Saints, Missguided, Ann Summers, Monsoon Accessorize, Fat Face and Harrods.

Being the day of the general election, initial discussions centred around politics, especially in terms of Brexit and the impact it will have on global operations. However, the real theme of the day was about data and how data can be used to its full potential by the apparel industry. This raised questions about what the industry could do to make apparel operations more effective.

The importance of collaboration

Simon Finch, Distribution Director at Harrods, talked about the importance of collaboration and how it solves problems and opens new business opportunities.

One of the biggest issues for the retail industry is the inconsistency and inaccuracy of data. 80% of product data within the UK is inaccurate which isn’t helping business efficiency. Retailers are focused on providing their shoppers with new technologies and services to improve their shopping experience, but customers’ basic needs are being overlooked in the process. This is also resulting in more time spent correcting data errors rather than focusing on future developments. 

This is why GS1 UK has, for the first time, brought a group of apparel retailers and brands together to collaborate on data issues, working together to make the management of data an easier and more accurate process. Simon Finch, Distribution Director at Harrods who sits on the GS1 UK Apparel Advisory Board, spoke about how data can be tackled and how collaboration will support this.

“Through the Apparel Advisory Board meetings, it became obvious that we were all having the same conversation – and it was all about data. The frustrations of getting or not getting data in regularly, in the right format and timeframe. That conversation evolved into an agreement that we’re all asking brands for different bits of data in different ways and at different times. There’s a group of retailers complaining about brands’ ability to give us data, but actually we’re not helping because we’re not coordinated.”

And it’s not just retailers who are facing these frustrations, brands are saying the same thing. Which is why GS1 UK is working closely with both retailers and brands to see how they’re currently handling data, so we can create a common dataset which can be used throughout the apparel industry.

“From the retailer and brand meetings, we thought let’s just pilot this. So, this has been with myself, John Lewis and Kurt Geiger, we’ve worked with GS1 UK who have come in and looked at how much work we do with our data.” 

Simon admits, “we haven’t shared the stats yet, but on a high level from Harrods’ perspective, 50% of our people’s time is associated with data in warehouse and logistics. Their time is spent asking for data, checking data or following up on data.”

And Harrods aren’t the only ones to be spending more time than they should fixing data errors. “Brands are having the same discussions. So, there’s a massive opportunity for all of us in terms of profitability, margin and more importantly, collaboration. It’s about providing a clever experience, and providing a better service.”

“We’ve never talked to each other because we’re competing with one another, but this is a conversation we should be having…It’s not about comparing prices or supply chain efficiencies, it’s about saying that we all need this data.”

“This programme is hosted by a not-for-profit organisation, and it’s not revolutionary. It already happens in the States, and it’s currently happening in the UK grocery sector. I believe retailers will be up for it and I am optimistic that it will work.”

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