One of Canada’s largest retailers plans to migrate more of its business processes to the routing system that has taken over its card payments.

Sears Canada installed Toronto-based Oasis Technology’s IST/Switch software just over a year ago when it launched a retail gift card in time for Mother’s Day 2002. The application, which routes transaction traffic from various retail stores to Sears’ issuer’s systems for authorization, sits on a Sears mainframe in its data centres and handles its entire network. That network comprises 122 department stores, 43 Sears Home stores, 143 locally-owned dealer stores and 15 outlet stores.

John Beaumont, director IT Credit Systems, Sears Canada Inc., said the initial implementation could be the first stage of a larger technology refresh.

“”We have a number of different products — it’ll be an ongoing thing over the next couple of years,”” he said. “”Right now, it’s our gift card, our Sears Mastercard, and the private label cards that are passing through.””

Keith Briscoe, vice-president of marketing and communications, said Sears is among 180 customer sites in more than 70 countries that have adopted the 14-year-old IST/Switch. Other users include Petro Canada, which is using the product to handle its loyalty program in more than 1,800 locations across the country.

Briscoe said the increase in electronic processing can create a justification to explore new technology when retailers realize they can’t support the transaction volumes.

“”I think one drives the other,”” he said. “”When merchants decide they want to introduce things like gift cards, loyalty products, they realize they need a technology refresh to manage it.””

Beaumont said Sears Canada is using TSYS, a processing platform that is also used by retailers like Canadian Tire, to automate transactions for its Sears Mastercard launched last September. Some of its legacy routing systems are considerably old, dating back to the company’s days as part of the Sears-Roebuck empire, Beaumont said.

“”This (software) improved our capability,”” he said. “”We would have found a way to launch the gift card with our old technology, but this helped us move it faster.””

The implementation doesn’t merely affect Sears but also merchant partners that accept its private label cards, like Choice Hotels, Beaumont added.

“”We’ll eventually have them passing through the IST/Switch as well,”” he said.

Briscoe said the software would ensure Sears Canada won’t have to re-architect all of its internal systems the next time it wants to offer a new card product. This is the flexibility many of its customers demand, he said.

“”Certainly performance and throughput is a huge requirement,”” he added. “”Compliance is becoming a major issue as well, because you have to make sure you comply with your associations.””

Other recent Sears Canada IT projects include the use of tracking software to improve its logistics operations and an upgraded portal to assist its call centre activities.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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