WILD OATS STORES TO USE POS FOR ORDERS

BOULDER, Colo. -- To increase ordering accuracy on a store-specific basis, Wild Oats Markets here is announcing today that it is implementing a demand-based store ordering system that will be rolled out to all of its U.S. outlets.Wild Oats, which specializes in natural and organic foods, plans to employ the system, Store for Retail, from IMI Americas, Mt. Laurel, N.J., to help its stores manage inventory

BOULDER, Colo. -- To increase ordering accuracy on a store-specific basis, Wild Oats Markets here is announcing today that it is implementing a demand-based store ordering system that will be rolled out to all of its U.S. outlets.

Wild Oats, which specializes in natural and organic foods, plans to employ the system, Store for Retail, from IMI Americas, Mt. Laurel, N.J., to help its stores manage inventory that tends to be more store-specific, diverse and come from more vendors than that of conventional food retailers, said John Louderbach, vice president of technology and logistics for Wild Oats. Stores vary by region across 24 states and operate under different banners.

"We probably order from 10 times as many vendors as conventional grocery, and we do not have a lot of self-distribution," Louderbach pointed out. "Store uniqueness is pretty critical to us."

Store for Retail's features include perpetual inventory, automated store ordering, guided store ordering, consumer-demand forecasting and real-time collection of POS data. The system allows an associate to walk the aisles and scan UPC codes while tying in point-of-sale data, Louderbach noted. It then allows the associate to "edit" the orders -- a key feature for Wild Oats -- by determining when too much or too little of a product has been ordered, he said.

Demand-based store ordering software that incorporates POS data is used by a small-but-growing number of U.S. food retailers to reduce out-of-stocks and shrink. Another U.S. chain using IMI America's system for store ordering is Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y.

Wild Oats has also licensed a host application from IMI Americas, called Order, that consolidates the orders of individual stores and then sources them. The chain has not yet decided if its Canadian operators will eventually be included in the rollout of the two applications, according to Louderbach.

The Order application, Louderbach explained, is capable of aggregating store order information it receives to minimize freight costs, though initially Wild Oats will not make use of that feature. The application also offers category management, lot handling, pricing and promotion, and multi-channel order management features.

"If we can have a balanced inventory, close the loop on the order receipt and payment process, ease the training to the stores, and have a centralized strategy for better negotiations for the merchants, we'd be very satisfied," Louderbach said.