Aritzia dresses up in SAP retail software

Canadian retailer Aritzia will be trying some enterprise resource planning on for size as it deploys software from SAP to get its various business units working better together.

Aritzia, which operates 27 boutique fashion stores and employs more than 800 people in Canada, said it would be implementing SAP for Retail products, which includes its NetWeaver Master Data Management, Promotion Merchandizing Layout and Zone Optimization applications. The project will replace a previous system designed by Apropos Retail Management system, which is no longer behind supported following the acquisition of Apropos, according to Aritzia president Brian Hill.

Hill joked that his initial exposure to SAP came from “seeing billboards in airports,” adding that the company took a while to figure out how comprehensive a system it needed to have in place.

“We looked at point solutions, limping along and adding other solutions along as we needed them, but in the end we really needed an ERP system,” he said. “We’re not one business, we’re several businesses molded into one.” Aritizia plans to expand into the U.S. this month with its first store in San Jose, Calif., followed by another one next year in Bellevue, Wash. Hill said he considered a simple point of sale (POS) upgrade, but the company’s move to more vertical integration – it contracts out its manufacturing, for example, but needs to manage that process – demanded something that covered all the bases.

SAP has been building up its product portfolio in retail areas like POS, particularly through the acquisition of Toronto-based Triversity two years ago, but SAP Canada senior vice-president of retail Randy Broda said many customers are thinking more holistically than simply what happens at the cash register.

“POS has been part of the discussion were’ having. (Aritzia) has a multi-phased road map and POS is going to be in a later phase,” he said.

The implementation team at Aritzia includes its IT department, some project specialists, actual business users, outside consultants and some SAP Canada expertise, Hill said. The key objectives include offering business users better analysis of the operation, including how well certain vendors or products perform in its stores, or the overall performance of the store itself. Previous systems offered more of a one-dimensional view, Hill said.

“It’s been our strategy generally within our organization not to take short-cuts, but this is the last place you take a short-cut,” he said. “If you’re ever going to roll up your sleeves and plan out for the future, this is it. It’s a very, very large undertaking. Don’t underestimate it, which is what everyone tends to do, including yours truly.”

Broda said Aritzia is a case of senior leadership being more involved in major software deployments than they did a few years ago.

“The culture there is to be hands-on and detail-oriented,” he said. “Even as we look at other retailers in the small to mid-sized enterprise space or large enterprise, the business executives and sponsors are really stepping forward to drive the changes and priorities.”

Hill described the project as about six phases long, which includes the initial request for proposal period. “We’re not quite half-way there,” he said. “We’ve finished the blueprint stages.”

Last month SAP scored a much bigger win in the retail sector when Wal-Mart said it would deploy its ERP Financials product.

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