Bossini, a leading Hong Kong-based retailer

Executives in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore were all using different brands of accounting software, all outdated. Financial data also was being entered manually in Excel format, with inaccurate information delaying key decisions. This status quo was no longer working for Bossini, a leading Hong Kong-based apparel retailer, brand owner and franchiser, and so the firm embarked on an ambitious enterprise-wide plan to fix it.

Bossini launched its first retail store in 1987, and during the past 20 years, has grown from a local retailer into a major player in apparel retail, with more than 1,000 outlets in about 20 countries. The firm’s, premiere brand is its “bossini” label of casual wear, known for its colorful mix-and-match styles for men, women and children. In the coming year, Bossini plans to embark on a brand-building program with revamped logos, and to open 100 retail outlets, most in mainland China.

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Prior to its systems investment, the firm’s capital budgeting and allocation, asset management, financial forecasting, budgeting and investment assessments were all handled separately by its operations in each country where it did business. Bossini was in dire need of an integrated solution to bring financial transparency to its entire enterprise, says Andrew Ling, the retailer’s director of information technology. “Manual data feed and consolidation requires tremendous labor,” says Ling. “The lack of financial transparency encumbered sound and quick management decision-making processes.

Aside from its four core base markets in Asia, Bossini also has extensive international distribution networks in the Middle East and Latin America. Given plans for rapid expansion into international markets, the company wanted to consolidate its financial systems and processes onto a single, consistent platform. After a year of evaluating several different systems, Bossini’s management team chose Oracle’s e-Business financial suite (EBS) to manage its financial supply chain in its five regional centers, located in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. The recent market consolidation among first-tier vendors limited our choices,” says Ling.

“Besides, our corporate IT standard prefers Oracle DBMS as the database engine”. The Oracle implementation, which will support about 100 users, will provide a single, accurate view of all of Bossini’s financial information for better visibility into the company’s operations, the company reports.

The first phase of the implementation began this March, and the target date for completion of the 49-week rollout is February 2007. We have gone through the stages of analysis and design, and system integration testing,” says Ling. “We are now at the stage of user-acceptance testing and data conversion. ” If the user-acceptance test results are good, Bossini will roll out the solution to its Hong Kong regional center this month, with other countries to follow during the next three months. Better data will allow Bossini to address regional statutory requirements, corporate governance and internal audit control needs, and ensure accurate reporting of financials, says Ling.

The system also is expected to help the firm make more timely decisions in response to changing market demands and in turn enable it to compete more profitably in the global market, the company notes. In this way, the benefits of the system will be reflected at the store level — a key priority for Bossini. For instance, a manager in Taiwan will be able to see financial data at an aggregate level at any time. With the old systems, users had to painstakingly pull up information by each individual location and often found flawed data.

With data by location or region available much closer to real time, managers can see the sales volume at a particular location, and more accurately gauge supply chain demand across the enterprise. Resistance to change An unexpected challenge for Bossini when it approached its systems investment was the reluctance to change it encountered during the transition to the new system. The firm had to focus considerable effort on convincing independent offices in different countries to get on board with a system that was chosen and administered by the headquarters in Hong Kong.

There also were concerns about additional manpower resources and overtime work that might be required to support the rollout. “Frankly speaking, looking for a suitable product on the market was not as difficult as convincing the finance staff to use a new financial package,” says Ling. These concerns were addressed through workshops, debriefings, lobbying, case study references and customer reference checks until the skeptics on the team were satisfied that Oracle EBS would benefit the company.

Now those benefits are becoming more tangible: The system is streamlining Bossini’s regular financial reporting periods, and quarterly reports and the monthly “closing of the books” have become much less painful processes. Previously, company financial records were kept in a manual, non-standardized chart of accounts structure, and the three-week-long process to close the books and report numbers was error-prone. With manual financial data feed in Excel format from four countries, human error and discrepancies often delayed the consolidation of the firm’s accounting books even further. The 21-day lead time for closing of monthly accounting books was a Mount Everest expedition that required lengthy time and lots of patience,” says Ling. “Now key financial information can be retrievedat our fingertips to make sound business decisions. “

Bossini expects the time needed to report its financials to decrease to only a few days, which will enable managers to understand the overall P&L performance in locations much earlier than before. For instance, if a particular area overruns budget or a sales target can’t be met, we will be able to intervene and make corrective decisions much earlier because information is more visible,” says Ling. As a result of the implementation, Bossini expects to shorten account consolidation lead time by at least 70 percent, and to improve compliance with regional statutory requirements, corporate governance and internal audit control. “We also expect to improve overall productivity and efficiency, and access key financial information anytime, anyplace, for better budget control,” says Ling.

The retailer is known for its “bossini” brand of casual wear, which features colorful mix-and-match styles for men, women and children. The company plans to open 100 stores in mainland China in the near future. Bossini to Streamline Financials with Oracle Also, Oracle Retail Completes 60 Implementations Hong Kong-based apparel retailer Bossini has selected the Oracle E-Business Suite Financials family of applications to unify and automate its financial systems and processes across its five regional centers located in Hong Kong, ainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. The new system will enable Bossini to gain a single view of its financial information for timely decision-making and improved visibility into the company’s operations, while the improved quality of the data will help Bossini to address statutory requirements, corporate governance and internal audit control needs, said Gladys Lau, retail industry director, Oracle.

In other Oracle news, the company has completed more than 60 implementations of Oracle Retail solutions at retailers around the globe in the first three quarters since establishing its new retail business unit in April 2005, she said. » for more information: www. oracle. com Stylophane Offers Web Sales Analytics Stylophane, known for its Apparel Brand Popularity Search Index, has developed the Stylophane Sales Analytics Tool (SSA) for real-time reporting of online sales data.

SSA offers advanced e-mail segmentation tools designed to help companies improve their understanding of customer behavior in order to act on information to drive more sales. Companies can use SSA to generate e-mail lists from different sales reports so that they can target specific states, products or categories for promotions, reward loyal customers and identify buyer groups for new products. A sales summary report provides important daily sales information at a glance, including comparisons to sales in previous weeks and months.

Sales reports provide clear product names and thumbnail images so that decision-makers can easily recognize which products are best sellers and which are under-performing, Stylophane reported. The cost of using the tool starts at $79 per month, and a free 30-day trial is available via the web site below. » for more information: www. stylophanesa. com · 415-351-1976 Synchronics Releases New Version of CounterPoint Synchronics, which offers software for small- to medium-sized retailers, has released the latest version of its CounterPoint SQL retail management solution.

The new release contains more than 40 new features to help users run their businesses more efficiently, including a new loyalty program, which allow users to reward loyal customers with points that they can redeem for future purchases or special incentives. It also features time cards and the ability to clock in or out from any CounterPoint workstation. Other offerings from Synchronics, which was recently purchased by Radiant Systems, include CPOnline, a fully integrated e-commerce solution and CPGateway, which returns credit card authorizations in less than two seconds.

Roots Introduces Gift-Card Program Roots, a North American lifestyle apparel and accessories brand, has announced the introduction of its new electronic gift card program at 130 retail locations across the United States and Canada. Technology for the gift card solution is provided by Ernex, a division of Moneris Solutions Corp., a provider of real-time loyalty and stored-value gift card programs. The new system will allow sales associates to process payments for merchandise and gift cards on the same, easy-to-use terminal.

Ernex also will work with the company to enable real-time promotions within its gift card solutions, including “swipe n’ win” sweepstakes programs, custom receipt coupons and custom receipt messages. On a related note, Roots recently activated 50,000 gift cards as part of a recent promotion for American Express. “Business-to-business gift card sales are becoming increasingly important to Roots,” said the company’s co-founder Michael Budman.

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