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What a Night

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It’s the most important night for many high schoolers. Last year the average family spent some $800 on prom, according to Visa – including tickets, flowers, shoes and, of course, the perfect dress. Many girls spend years imagining prom, and the dress has to be as memorable as the night itself.

Windsor Fashion understands the importance of finding the right dress. The Vernon, Calif.-based retailer, which has 66 stores in 15 states, uses a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for insight into trends, customer preferences and demand.

“Prom is an emotional day,” says Leon Zekaria, president of Windsor Fashions. “There are self-esteem issues wrapped around finding the perfect dress. Our focus is to build girls’ self-confidence and deliver a store-level experience that provides service and helps her find a dress that makes her feel her best.”

The Internet is changing the game for Windsor. Since launching its e-commerce site a decade ago, the operation has evolved into the chain’s “ultimate store,” Zekaria says.

“Over the last three or four years, kids who grew up interacting through the web as tweens are now going to the prom,” he says. “It is natural for them to use the web to research merchandise and educate themselves before stepping into a store.”

Just the facts
Windsor blends gut instinct with robust reporting. “Sales reporting is imperative, and it is critical to analyze the business to stay current,” Zekaria says. Just having reporting tools is not enough, however. “You can have the greatest information, but if you don’t have the discipline to use it and learn the trends, then you won’t be successful.”

Windsor worked with Epicor to develop a robust inventory and sales analysis system a dozen years ago, but as the chain expanded its enterprise over the last five years, the hardware was becoming obsolete.

“It became difficult to find equipment to support the old platform,” Zekaria says, “and it was hard to gain access to real-time inventory at store level.”
Windsor was ready for a robust, efficient web-based platform – one that allowed all store-level information, including inventory, to be bridged between physical locations and the website. Based on its core product and its existing relationship with Epicor, the retailer chose Epicor’s SaaS merchandising, sales audit and POS applications.

“This takes some burden off [the] IT department,” says Curtis Rose, Windsor Fashion’s director of IT. “They support and control the software, which reduces the upfront cost of Windsor buying software and servers, as well as unexpected billing for things that can go wrong on your own servers.”

Real-time information
As Windsor’s store-level POS system and e-commerce customer interface process transactions, those sales become visible in real-time. “While minute-by-minute decision-making on those sales is not needed, it is a good way to verify all registers are working and data is flowing correctly,” Rose says. “Sales data goes right to the merchandising software. We analyze reports to make decisions based on sales, and the merchandising software allows us to enter purchase orders, print tickets and receive and distribute our products.”

Data is also filtered into a customer relationship management (CRM) application, allowing the company to understand consumer spending habits, preferences and the dress styles being searched for — all in real-time.

Windsor is no stranger to reporting tools: The retailer previously used customized reports created by Epicor that were costly and labor-intensive. The SaaS platform enables Windsor to generate its own reports and analyze data internally.

“Information is the key to our business,” Zekeria says. “Now we have more information at our fingertips, which makes everything easier. We don’t need any special customized reports, and it takes less time.”

The platform also positions Windsor to exploit the power of its cross-channel strategy going forward. “Our priority is to ensure that our stores and web presence talk and support each other and deliver a seamless shopping experience,” Zekeria says. “Today, our cloud-based system and website are fully connected, and we consider our e-commerce operation as another one of our stores.”