Tools for Merchandise Forecasting
Solutions to Try
Three major direct commerce merchandise forecasting systems, plus three other solutions are worth mentioning:
* The Galvin System from Galvin Associates, Marstons Mills, Mass., (www.galvinassociates.com) is the grand-daddy of direct commerce forecasting systems. Used by more than two-dozen major catalogers (including J.Jill and The Company Store), it’s available in a standard version and a less costly GalvinExpress version. The latter includes the basic merchandising module but not the modules for marketing, time-phased open-to-buy, item planning, material requirements planning or purchase order management.
* IF/SO from Forerunner Systems, Sausalito, Calif., (www.forerunnersystems.com) is a PC-based system that’s one of the least expensive and easiest to use, yet one of the most powerful merchandise management and forecasting platforms. It includes a module especially designed for e-commerce sales. Even catalogers with less than $10 million in sales may find IF/SO economical, particularly when kits, seasonality, or colors and sizes are involved. More importantly, Forerunner Systems doesn’t just sell a product; it trains, educates, supports and advises users on an ongoing basis, which is critical to success.
* Forecast*21 from Direct Tech, Omaha, Neb., (www.direct-tech.com) is a comprehensive suite of tools. Direct Tech’s client list includes Coldwater Creek, Hammacher Schlemmer and other catalogers. Forecast*21 offers: unique versioning capabilities to compare forecasts for different variations of the same offer (plus “what-if” version analysis); top-down/bottom-up planning at the level of offer/category/subcategory/product/descriptor/SKU; elaborate color/size planning and analysis; merchandise assortment planning; graphical page analysis; and open-to-buy planning. Direct Tech also emphasizes training as an essential aspect of systems implementation, working closely with clients to ensure they not only get everything set up properly but that they continue to use the system for maximum impact season after season.
* One unusual and specialized solution is Connectrix from Connectrix Systems, Yardley, Pa., (www.connectrix.com). First developed for J. Crew, this is a comprehensive, truly multichannel brand management application for “cradle-to-grave” inventory planning and management for soft goods (particularly housebranded merchandise) — that is, from product development and manufacturing through assortment planning, forecasting, purchasing, stocking, distribution, and supply chain management.