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Fast-growing retailer The Works hails IT improvements

Fast-growing discount retailer The Works, which is majority owned by private equity group Endless, has this week talked up the capability of its technology infrastructure a year on from some major changes to its warehouse operations.

Tom Scott, IT director at the retailer, which sells books, toys and stationary, said the company is feeling the benefits of a wide-ranging project in 2017 that involved introducing more automated systems, new back-end technology, and freeing up staff to focus on business development work.

Explaining the need for the technology restructure, he remarked: "We've been opening one new store per week for the last three years and we needed a new platform to help us do this.

"Our eCommerce business is now handling 30% more transactions like for like compared to the previous year.”

He added that “crucial” upgrades were made to IT infrastructure in order to improve its capacity and ability to deliver fast, accurate distribution and stock management to its 440-strong store estate, which has enlarged by 160 shops in three years.

“We are now 60% more productive with the same-sized team," he noted. "Where our infrastructure team was previously spending 80% of its time on support activities and only 20% on new business development, we've been able to flip this so that 80% is now spent on new development projects.”

The increased capacity, he said, means time can be spent testing new software, and this has resulted in an upgrade to The Works’ email system and the roll-out of better encryption ahead of GDPR, which comes into play in May.

IT consultancy eSpida was brought in to help oversee the project. Among other changes to The Works’ technology stack, the warehouse now uses an improved order-picking system, where Wi-Fi controlled picking is managed through handheld terminals.

Scott added: "We can now log on in the morning and access up-to-date sales data that helps us to quickly and easily analyse the previous day's performance.

"This not only improves stock management, it allows us to deliver customer orders faster and puts us in good stead for our growth plans for the next three to five years."

Reuters reported this week that The Works is planning a summer flotation in London, just ten years after it was bought out of administration by Endless. Neither the private equity house or retailer have confirmed those plans.

RBTE takes place at London’s Olympia, 2-3 May 2018.

You can register to attend here 

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