Electronic catalogues, or e-catalogues, are an essential tool for driving costs down and improving the efficiency of Canadian retailers and their trading partners, according to a report in May produced by the Retail Council of Canada, IBM Business Consulting Services (Canada) and Industry Canada.

Titled A Retailer’s Guide to Electronic Catalogues, it predicts e-catalogues will have as great an impact on retailers as the introduction of UPCs and Point-of-Sale systems. It suggests that Canadian retailers will need to re-examine their operations in the near future in order to stay competitive at home and abroad.

“E-catalogues will become increasingly important in the retail industry, as they eliminate the need for retailers to manually re-enter data into their back-end systems, enable merchants and their suppliers to exchange product information in a synchronized manner, and allow retailers and their suppliers to communicate more effectively,” Diane J. Brisebois, Retail Council of Canada’s president and CEO, noted in a press release. “All of these things enable retailers to compete on a more cost-effective basis.”

Traditionally, retailers have acquired product information from paper catalogues, fact sheets, CD-ROMs, e-mails and faxes and often have to enter the information of hundreds of suppliers into their databases manually. E-catalogues allow product information to be accessed and integrated electronically into a retailer’s systems. Retailers no longer need to collect, review and maintain data directly in legacy systems. Instead, information from suppliers is updated in real-time. Not only does this allow goods to get to market faster, it also maximizes the time retailers have for evaluating suppliers and negotiating contracts, according to the report.

“E-catalogues provide benefits across a retailer’s organization, from lowering costs to improving customer service,” noted Ilya Bahar, partner, Distribution Sector, IBM Business Consulting Services (Canada). “This report has really delved into this whole subject and is a valuable primer for retailers, showing them the state of e-cataloguing in Canada today, and the steps they should take to prepare their business.”

The report, developed for small and medium-sized retailers, is available at www.retailcouncil.org/e-commerce.

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