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ith over 74,000 employees and 2,800 stores – or a shop in every UK postal

area – IT plays a huge support role within The Co-operative Food. Mark Hale, chief information officer (CIO) and supply chain director for The Co-operative Food, spoke exclusively to Retail Technology about the retailer’s IT strategy. “We look for areas where we can

improve efficiency, drive our service agenda and availability on-shelf,” Hale said. “Our technology strategy is all about how we can improve service to customers.”

The roll out of the final phase of a new workforce management (WFM) system to improve operational efficiency across its store estate is just one example of a packed IT agenda. The WFM tool, supplied by IT software and services company Kronos, enables The Co-operative to accurately plan what staff are needed, and when, to meet peaks and troughs in trading. “Taking the approach that is the ‘best of the best,’ Somerfield were already using Kronos when we acquired their stores [in 2009] and we’d also started to implement it before the acquisition, so there was a lot of knowledge and experience of it already,” he explained. “It delivers operational benefits, but the key driver is to get staff in the store when customers and scheduled operations needed them. And we’ve seen customer service statistics increase

– not just because of the new system – but having the right numbers of staff available certainly helps.” As part of a diverse business group, The Co-operative Food relies on IT infrastructure via a ‘shared services’ model. “It’s great that I don’t have to worry about data centres and power issues,” Hale continued. “That means I can be more concerned about technology that can help take the business forward.”

Alongside the recent opening of a

new distribution centre in Avenmouth, another technology development has been the Store Merchandising and Replenishment Transformation (SMART) software project. SMART, which has radically increased product availability instore to more than 97.5% and also recently picked up a number of industry awards, is helping to drive sales and reduce stock holding and waste following a £12.5-million investment. “I am particularly proud of our IT and supply chain team and what we’ve achieved,” he said. “We’ve been on a three-year journey, building on SMART through the acquisition of Somerfield and incorporating it into The Co- operative’s systems.” No stranger to in-house IT

development, the retailer standardised on Microsoft technologies over open- source systems a decade ago. Today it runs on InControl Evolution, a point- of-sale (PoS) and retail management

suite originally developed for internal use. “The team understand retail as well as technologies that can add value to the business,” observed Hale. “Having that skill and experience gave us the confidence we needed. So we were able to adapt InControl to enable central replenishment.” As if workforce and supply chain management systems development weren’t enough, the retailer also installed contactless payment technology at 175 food stores within the M25 in time for this summer’s Olympics. Hale pointed out that current payment thresholds limit its application beyond the convenience store format. “Feedback has been pretty good,” he said. “And we’ve seen it account for as much as 10% of sales in our Stratford store.”

While the retailer will continue

to support contactless in new store openings, it has plenty of other projects to keep Hale busy. “It all comes back to the customers,” he concluded.

A new digital LED display screen from Messagemaker Systems is helping to increase footfall at JD Sports’ flagship store in Oxford Street. The full colour moving display is designed to capture the attention of

passers by, promoting the JD Sports brand 24 hours a day, while video content draws attention to current promotions and offers. Messagemaker’s Imposa Lite system uses the latest generation surface mount CREE chips to deliver exceptional brightness across a range of exterior lighting conditions. Offering 160-degree visibility, the 3 by 2-metre screen provides 240 x 360 pixel resolution and is fitted with additional outdoor window brighteners, generating 5000 NIT screen candela per square metre.


u Morrisons has awarded a five-year contract to supply chain services provider Wincanton to run its first ever dedicated convenience distribution centre in London. The contract covers warehouse and transport operations to support plans to open 20 new convenience stores by the end of 2012 following successful trials of its “M Local” format in Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

u Chorlton’s Unicorn Grocery has commissioned GS Systems to provide a six-terminal EPoS system for its £3.5m turnover store, including Toshiba touchscreen terminals with integrated chip and PIN running Microsoft Retail Management System software, to automate processes and provide detailed business reports.

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