WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Shaw's Supermarkets here is setting up a Web-based vehicle by which smaller suppliers will be able to electronically send the chain pricing and promotion information.
Jim Sheehan, Shaw's strategic process leader, told SN the chain expects to be able to begin receiving pricing and promotional information in this manner by October. The Web-based vehicle, described as an in-office "kiosk," is part of the VistaRetail system, from JDA Software Group, Scottsdale, Ariz.
JDA acquired VistaRetail through its purchase of Vista Software Solutions in May. JDA received a Microsoft Retail Application Developer award for VistaRetail in June.
The kiosk is already enabling between 10 and 12 small suppliers to transmit item information electronically to Shaw's, which is discussing the price/promotion potential with them, Sheehan said. He declined to name the suppliers.
The kiosk is designed for smaller suppliers who do not have access to conventional EDI (electronic data interchange), or who are not using EDI for transmitting pricing and promotional data, noted Sheehan. It also applies to suppliers who have not joined UCCnet. The kiosk enables these smaller suppliers to dispense with paper-based methods.
But the primary purpose of the VistaRetail system, which Shaw's has employed since 1999, is to facilitate item synchronization with manufacturers via UCCnet, the Uniform Code Council's data registry division, based in Lawrenceville, N.J. The system takes manufacturers' electronic messages, currently delivered through UCCnet, and reformats them for Shaw's systems. "It filters messages to the right person, matching against a category," said Sheehan. "It's our buyer's eyes to the world of items he manages."
Once other data pools begin offering their own UCCnet-compatible synchronization engines, messages into VistaRetail will come directly from manufacturers, he noted.
One of the leading practitioners of UCCnet-based data synchronization, Shaw's is in production with 31 suppliers, having matched around 4,000 items to items in its database, correcting information on about 1,500 of those items, said Sheehan. Item problems were caused equally by Shaw's and its suppliers, he said.
When it begins receiving pricing and promotion information in October, the kiosk system will be accomplishing something not yet offered via UCCnet, which is thus far limited to item information, noted Sheehan. Therefore, the kiosk serves as an interim solution, or "bridge," to the day when global standards are established for communicating price and promotion via UCCnet, he added. "It allows us to go electronic now with 100% of our suppliers," he said.
While observers say standards for price could happen over the next year, "there's a concern that [global standards] are taking too long to get done," he said. Ultimately, all electronic communications at Shaw's will be handled via global standards and UCCnet, said Sheehan.
In June, A.T. Kearney, Chicago, reported on the results of a six-company data synchronization study of which Shaw's was one of three retailers, along with Wegmans and Ahold (SN, June 23). The report said that Shaw's expects to derive benefits of at least $2 million per year within the next five years as a result of item data synchronization. With an initial investment of about $400,000 and ongoing costs of $100,000, this would translate to an ROI of "well in excess of 500%," according to the report.
Yet Sheehan said the return from synchronizing price and promotion data via UCCnet will ultimately be much greater than that realized for just item synchronization. "What we're really rolling out today is a process that manages communications between trading partners," he said. "When you roll out these other transactions, that's when you're going to see some tremendous savings."
According to Milan Vacval, senior director for JDA, Shaw's is the first chain to use the kiosk application within VistaRetail, though other users of VistaRetail -- such as Meijer, Price Chopper and Giant Eagle -- plan to use the kiosk application as well.