Mark’s Work Wearhouse Ltd. new point-of-sale solution is saving it more than 30 per cent with each store opening while reducing maintenance costs by 50 per cent, according to Robin Lynas, CIO, Mark’s Work Wearhouse.

Retek Inc.’s Java-based solution deployed on Red Hat Linux 7.3 has

been rolled out in 65 stores and hundreds more are soon to follow.

Mark’s joins a number of large retailers, including Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Benetton who are bucking the trend in technology spending by launching significant new IT projects.

The search for a successful point-of-sale (POS) solution began four years ago, with a now-defunct Calgary-based developer, Lynas said. “”We had older equipment, a 5250 emulation green screen running off of an AS/400, and we wanted a technology that was going to last longer,”” he said. “”At that time, everyone was starting to throw their weight behind Java, so we started to look at some Java POS solutions.””

While the original vendor failed Mark’s, Chelsea Market Systems (later acquired by Retek) was rolling out its POS technology for Men’s Work Wearhouse in the U.S. (known as Moore’s in Canada). “”The POS solution was running in over 400 Men’s stores without an in-store server, which was exactly what we were looking for, and because they‘re an apparel retailer, which we are as well, there would be a fit –and there was,”” explains Lynas. “”The key is that the architecture of the system is very solid. It’s 100 per cent Java, and the core system is very well-developed. We took that core system and developed some object extensions to it for things that were specific to Mark’s. The key is that those extensions are done outside of the core of the product, so that when new releases of the product arrive, we can take them and hook back the extensions that we’ve written.””

This is precisely what drove the software’s design cycle, according to Harry Levy, vice-president of POS solutions, Retek. “”Given that a POS solution has an eight to ten-year life cycle, and businesses change so much over a long period of time, we needed a system that would be good today and 10-20 years from now, not knowing what technology the future holds. We guarantee to fit what a company has today and tomorrow,”” Levy said. “”Our buyers don’t need to change their inventory control because they can be mapped straight into the files. And even if that inventory system is changed, the core logic is never at risk, nor does it jeopardize the functionality.””

Because Mark’s makes nearly one-fifth of its overall sales in the month of December alone, it is imperative that the POS not fail during the Christmas rush. “”The application needs to be up as much as possible which usually incurs a large hardware expense, but Retek’s fit-client architecture allows the ability to deploy support centrally from the retailer’s headquarters to each store,”” Levy said.

Mark’s, acquired by Canadian Tire Corp. in February 2002, will work February through June to roll out the RPOS into the more than 200 remaining stores, explained Lynas. There are also plans to open 27 new stores next year, and by the end of its five-year strategic plan, Mark’s Work Wearhouse will have more than 450 stores.

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