Athletic shoe and apparel retailer Finish Line is moving into the final stages of a project with Columbus Consulting International meant to improve strategy and financial planning around its in-store and online merchandise assortment, according to a press release from Columbus Consulting.
The project, which makes use of new technologies and processes, is aimed at helping Finish Line better manage its inventory across its own 950 retail locations and its spaces inside Macy’s department stores, along with Finishline.com and its presence on Macys.com.
The first phase of the project, completed last October, involved centralizing the strategic planning, preseason financial planning, in-season forecasting and open-to-buy management of Finish Line's merchandise management. The second phase of the project includes store planning and grading, as well as key-item planning and assortment strategy. That phase will be completed this spring, according to the release.
Finish Line is making a fair leap in its inventory management capabilities, migrating from what had been a spreadsheet-driven program.
The upgrades completed in the first part of this project are intended to synchronize inventory awareness across the channels, centralizing data and providing Finish Line "with one version of the truth," in the words of its partner. That should, if all goes according to plan, enable better communication across the organization as a whole.
The second phase will be more about applying that improved awareness and communication to deepen assortment planning, better control logistics and profitability, increase visibility across the business, and improve the retailer's merchandise presentation and assortment across stores.
Brad Eckhart, Finish Line's senior vice president for planning and allocation, explained in the Columbus press release that the ultimate goal is to be in a position to better plan inventory assortment on a location-by-location basis.
"We hit the ground running with the implementation of the new technology solutions here at Finish Line, and we are taking important steps to update our merchandising processes," Eckhart said. "The implementation of a merchandise financial planning system is the first step in a multi-phased merchandising systems roadmap.”
Competitive shifts in the athletic footwear market, including the move by Nike to increase direct-to-consumer sales efforts, has sent some retailers scrambling for a new competitive edge. Finish Line has been trying to revamp many of its stores and has invested millions of dollars in mobile and digital efforts. It has also has closed dozens of stores in recent years and been rumored to have engaged in buyout talks.
Improving inventory has been seen by some analysts as a key to righting the ship.