The role of information technology in retailing: the case of supporting fashion purchasing at a European department store chain
This paper consists of an actual case study that illustrates the increasingly strategic role of information technology (IT) in retailing in the context of a large European chain of department stores. Following changes in retailing and especially in the fashion industry, this chain has developed a strategic information system intended to improve its purchasing and distribution processes. The system, called FIPS (for ‘Fashion Information and Planning System’), is integrated with the company's warehouse management and financial planning functions. It consists of two main modules: the ‘Fashion Information System’ and the ‘Purchase Planning and Control’. The case study first reports on the business factors that led to the development of FIPS, the design features of the system, as well as its cost and benefits. It then discusses the organizational impact of the system, mainly in terms of IT-enabled innovative business procedures, changing functions and competencies within the company, and redefining the role of IT in the corporation. Finally, possible future extensions of the system are presented.