Virgin visibility

Fashions for music and film are fickle and fast. That means Virgin Retail, which includes the Virgin Megastores CD and DVD chain, needs a stock ordering process that can turn on a dime.

But until its recent implementation of Microsoft’s BizTalk business process management (BPM) server, data from the company’s point of sales databases would only update its IBM merchandise management system and SQL Server data warehouse overnight.

That meant that its stock ordering was informed by day-old trends – or at the weekend, three day-old trends. While that was not a business-critical impairment for the company, says head of software development Kevin Hepburn, it did endanger its primary strategic goal: impeccable customer service.

By establishing the BizTalk server as a central integration point for till data from its 126 stores, Virgin Retail expects to gain an estimated £315,000 in what would otherwise have been lost sales, and create £240,000 worth of in-store operational efficiencies.

Any number of point integration solutions could have provided a quick fix, says Hepburn, but Virgin Retail wanted to consolidate on a platform it knew could be easily extended.

The BizTalk server, as the central integration hub, can now be exposed to service providers. That enabled Virgin Retail’s decision to outsource all of its buying. A third-party provider, which can buy CDs and DVDs for lower prices by serving multiple customers, will in future access the real-time trend data to purchase appropriate quantities of stock.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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