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CASE STUDY: Bravissimo systems centralisation is perfect fit

By Retail Technology | Friday July 16 2010 | UPDATED 27.05.22

Lingerie retailer calls in virtualisation specialist Centralis to improve real-time visibility of stock

Lingerie retailer calls in virtualisation specialist Centralis to improve real-time visibility of stock

Bravissimo specialises in lingerie, swimwear and clothing for D-KK cup size women and has now grown into a multimillion pound organisation, retailing by mail order, through its website and via its 20 High Street stores nationwide.

Historically, Bravissimo has developed all its core IT applications in-house, housing them on servers at its Leamington Spa headquarters. Retail outlets operated independently of each other with their own point of sales systems and servers containing cut-down versions of the central database. In addition to retail outlets and HQ, the company also stores stock in two warehouses, which traditionally operated via terminal services systems, linking into the central servers.

As the company grew, this system became outdated and Bravissimo started to look at different ways of linking parts of the business to provide a more accurate stock picture, allowing them to improve customer service, streamline stock levels and support plans for expansion.

Meeting the customer challenge

As part of its commitment to customer service, Bravissimo enables its customers to place orders on stock at any of its sites. Previously staff in the High Street stores had to run terminal services sessions to see if stock which was not available in store was available for order from other sites; a lengthy and inefficient process. As stock information was synchronised overnight, it was also difficult to get an accurate picture of what was, and wasn't available at any one time.

Initially, Bravissimo started to look at updating applications but keeping the distributed architecture system it had grown up with, using SQL database replication to provide stock information to all relevant parts of the business.

However, it became apparent that this technique resulted in an overly complicated system due to the volume of data that needed to be synchronised and the number of servers that would need to be involved from a replication point of view.

At this point, Bravissimo decided to look at other solutions, including the implementation of a centralised system which would allow all remote locations to be connected to the same point, providing an accurate stock picture, allowing scalability and uniform applications to be pushed out across all outlets.

Virtualisation offers stock solution

Working with independent consultancy Centralis, Bravissimo decided to test the centralisation and simplification of its retail and warehouse systems using Citrix XenApp. Centralis built a proof of concept with the aim of making administration and support manageable while ensuring real-time access to stock information for staff from anywhere within the business.

Bravissimo chose to work with Centralis based on strong case study examples and the team's experience of working on a chip-and-PIN based sales implementation, which formed a large part of Bravissimo's requirements.

The situation was fairly unusual, as the new application was still in the development phase when the process to build a proof of concept began. Initial testing involved warehouse personnel to determine whether the existing applications would operate effectively and with good performance using Citrix XenApp. Results were positive so the company decided to move forward with the proof of concept to see how the solution would work in other areas.

A shop till was set up to ensure that the technology would work with the chip and pin system used in Bravissimo's High Street stores and printing capabilities were tested to ensure that as many different scenarios as possible were validated.

As a result of the project, Bravissimo needed to consider contingency loss of access to centrally-delivered applications The communications strategy was consequently reviewed and upgraded, allowing manual fallback if required.

Following the successful proof of concept, the core infrastructure was put in place ahead of the final application being ready. This allowed pilot and volume testing to take place before the system went live across the company in late 2009.

Complete stock visibility instore

The project was driven by the need to simplify the way in which stock information and point-of-sale applications were delivered to retail stores and to enable this to be easily scalable in order to accelerate roll out to new stores, reduce ongoing administration and support costs while providing real-time and accurate view of stock across the business, minimising stock levels and streamlining ordering across the branches.

Since the system went live, Bravissimo has been able to improve the customer experience in its High Street stores. If a product isn't available on the shelves, staff can instantly see if it is in stock at the warehouse or available at another store and therefore place an order for the customer with confidence.

By implementing Citrix XenApp, Bravissimo now also has the capability to scale its IT needs to cope with increased demand and new retail stores without increasing IT headcount and cost.

"Throughout the project, requirements changed continuously as we worked with Centralis to ensure the solution achieved everything we needed it to. Indeed, I would say that the only thing that remained constant was the fact we were going to use Citrix products," said Ian Murphy, IT manager at Bravissimo. "The team at Centralis took all this in their stride and we were very pleased with the final results which are proof of the hard work and dedication from both sides."

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