Size matters but systems are what really counts.

Toronto likes things big. The bigger the better. After all, how else is it going to remind the rest of Canada who’s boss. From Bay Street and Chinatown, to The World’s Biggest Bookstore and the CN Tower; Toronto has got it over any other city in the land. And as of February 2003, Hog Town has one

more superlative to brag about: The country’s largest liquor store.

Thanks to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the North Toronto Station — a historic train terminus built in 1915 with a replica of the famous clock tower in St. Mark’s Square — has a new lease on life as a 31,000-sq.-ft. retailer of beer, wine and spirits.

The big question is: How is the LCBO going to ensure the shelves of its flagship store are always stocked with 5,500 products? That’s where supply-chain management and IT come in. “”We have the same technology in every store regardless of size,”” says Hugh Kelly, senior vice-president of IT at the LCBO.

Customized software at the LCBO’s Toronto headquarters monitors every SKU (stock keeping unit) in every store, and makes periodic recommendations for reorders. Store managers then have the option of making minor adjustments to the recommended order before relaying it to the nearest distribution centre.

“”The whole idea is to keep product moving smoothly,”” says Kelly. To that end in April 2003 the LCBO will begin sharing sales projections about its top 100 brands with suppliers. The information will be exported into an Excel spreadsheet, and accessed over the Web. Over the longer term, the plan is to share sales and purchasing forecasts for all LCBO products.

Until that happens, however, shoppers at Canada’s biggest liquor store can still expect to hear, “”Sorry sir, we’re all out of your favourite Bordeaux at the moment.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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