Established in 1931, Tanner Companies,
selling fine women’s apparel under the
Doncaster brand, has 1,700 direct-sales
wardrobe consultants. Its 80 retail
employees in 12 stores sell fashions
from earlier seasons, so the system must
track 72,000 SKUs and 260,000 items.
Although Microsoft Dynamics™
AX successfully tracked outside
consultants’ sales, inventory,
financials, and production, the stores’
older POS technology created redundant
manual processes and sometimes shut down
sales and replenishment.
To achieve global management of sales
and stock, Tanner is choosing a smooth
integration between Microsoft Dynamics
Retail Management System and Microsoft
Dynamics AX with Retail Chain Manager.
Managers set chainwide or
selective sales and change
prices in seconds.
Stores can poll differentially,
ensuring constant, fresh data.
Replenishment and transfers fill
Easier customer service raises
Redundant, manual chores slashed
at corporate and in stores.
DigiPoS point-of-sale terminals
Third Party Software
Retail Analytics and Merchandise
Planning by Professional Advantage
ConnectPro by Professional Advantage
PowerOps by Digital Retail Systems
Software and Services
Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0
Microsoft Dynamics RMS
Microsoft SQL Server 2000
Microsoft SQL Server 2005
Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
Microsoft Windows Server 2003
Apparel Stores, External Consultants,
Finance, and Production Get Instant Data and
Companies, a 77-year-old women’s apparel
enterprise, grew to 1,700 consultants, 12
stores, and approached U.S.$100 million in
revenues, its systems strained to track
72,000 SKUs. Microsoft Dynamics™ AX soon
became the enterprise resource planning
(ERP) solution, cutting task time and
helping manage sales, manufacturing,
finance, and distribution. But aging store
systems bogged down during polls, which
stopped checkouts, repricing, and
replenishment. Hard copies, faxes, and
double data entry were still required.
Tanner evaluated seven point-of-sale
systems, three in detail. Managers concurred
that Microsoft Dynamics Retail Management
System would complete the company’s
end-to-end integration. Within 90 days,
Tanner had instant visibility of all
transactions, customer histories, stock
levels, income, and store profits.
Tanner Companies was founded in 1931 in
Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Word spread
of Tanner’s high-quality women’s clothing
lines sold under the Doncaster brand, and
interest in selling and wearing them crossed
the U.S. The Tanner family, who still manage
the company, saw that a personal touch was
key to communicating their original designs,
personal fit, and fine fabrics. This high
degree of customer service, offered through
1,700 enterprising wardrobe consultants, has
propelled Tanner through nearly 80 years’
growth and U.S.$80 million to $100 million
in sales. The company has 535 employees, of
whom 80 are in retail.
Microsoft Dynamics AX data is imported into Microsoft Dynamics RMS
Headquarters, which explodes into the store-level database as smooth as silk. It
hasn't missed once.
Business Analyst Director, Tanner Companies
Pell Tanner, Chief Executive Officer, says, “Our legacy revolves
around our philosophies and how we interact with people. That’s
timeless and the most powerful thing we do to differentiate us. If
we do a great job for customers, our business will thrive.”
Doncaster Designs cover all categories of women’s apparel from coats
to camisoles, blouses to pants, and accessories that complete the
total look. Its nationwide network of consultants introduce four new
collections each year, with price points equal to those found in the
retail “bridge” market. The role of the 12 retail stores, located
primarily in the South of the U.S., is to sell the same high-quality
merchandise a few seasons later. A Web site increases customer
service and enables remote orders.
Tanner’s systems must track 72,000 SKUs due to continuously evolving
designs, a typically complex women’s clothing matrix, and retaining
information for products not sold in recent seasons. Tanner’s
warehouse contains 260,000 items.
Microsoft Dynamics™ AX installed by Sunrise Technologies, had been
providing a highly satisfactory ERP (enterprise resource planning)
system since January 2005. It managed financials, inventory
tracking, and enterprise reporting. It provided order entry for
consultants’ direct sales transactions. Sunrise Technologies is an
experienced supply chain consulting organization and a Microsoft®
Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics AX ERP
solutions, with particular strength in apparel applications.
But Tanner’s records of sales, customers, and inventory levels in
stores were unavailable to Microsoft Dynamics AX, causing a
ripple-effect of problems. The STR In-Store Plus retail solution in
stores was a standalone, not Windows®-compliant, and required tricky
terminal emulations to run. “We ran MS-DOS 486 machines with no Web
connectivity, not even e-mail,” says Don Tessneer, Business Analyst
Director, who has 36 years with Tanner. “To get data into Microsoft
Dynamics AX, almost every store process became manual and redundant.
We even faxed in staff hours to corporate, doubling input time.”
And Tanner’s Retail Operations Manager needed fast information to
run a dynamic business. “A prime barrier,” she says, “was polling,
getting data from stores to headquarters where we use it. Polling
only happened at night and, when any store’s upload failed, we had
no replenishment knowledge and that store didn’t know the new prices
for the next day. Stores’ demand polls took registers offline for
hours and could completely prevent selling."
“Our initial goals were an easy-to-use, rapidly deployable,
full-featured in-store solution that would unfailingly push store
information to Microsoft Dynamics AX,” says Tessneer. “Yet we didn’t
want a system that required fundamental or structural changes to
work our way. That just asks for downstream problems as you evolve
into your next system.
Four seasonal lines ensure constantly fresh
fashions for Tanner customers.
But this consistent flow of new merchandise
results in 72,000 SKUs and
260,000 items to track.
“We needed to view retail stores’ inventory in real time and
transfer inventory in a user-friendly way,” he continues. “That was
crucial because many associates have been with us a decade or more,
and had never used computers at work. But they are the beating heart
of our customer relations and marketing, so ease of training and
their intuitive ease of use are vital to us. Many would need basic
computer training first, then coaching on Microsoft Office,
[Microsoft Office] Outlook®—and then they’d need to learn our new
retail application. So it made sense to give them consistent looks,
feels, and some common commands in every part of the solution they
“We surveyed retail solutions for three years,” Tessneer continues,
“including visits to a large New York retail show. I inspected seven
candidates and studied three in detail. Honestly, most systems
weren’t solutions. Those that met our needs were too expensive and
were designed for huge chains. We selected Microsoft Dynamics Retail
Management System (RMS) because it has a thorough feature set for
stores, easy-to-learn daily screens, and would readily exchange data
to and from Microsoft Dynamics AX.”
Tanner turned to POSitive Technology to implement Microsoft Dynamics
RMS chainwide. J. Michael Nicholson, Principal/Solution Architect
for POSitive describes the rationale. “Microsoft Dynamics RMS is the
right choice to manage a large and growing retail chain. It has all
the features a retailer expects and can be married to any Microsoft
Dynamics accounting solution, from small through large. With
Microsoft Dynamics AX and Retail Chain Manager, the number of stores
can be virtually unlimited.” POSitive is a worldwide leader in
providing Microsoft-based solutions to retailers, and has been
recognized by Microsoft as Worldwide Point-of-Sale Partner of the
Year for four years.
Tanner’s Retail Operations Manager says, “Microsoft Dynamics RMS is
a complete retail solution that’s easy to deploy and learn, gets
thorough records, and delivers retail data easily. Microsoft
Dynamics AX is a full ERP system with unique capabilities for
apparel’s complexities—especially mixing styles, colors, and sizes
for each season and each line of goods. Integrating these two
products gives clothing retailers a powerful end-to-end solution.”
Tessneer explains the pivotal selection moment. “When we looked at
the item-master setup and the reporting side, I asked POSitive to
show me the comprehensive inventory report with all its selection
criteria. I immediately saw that we use Departments differently from
most retailers. Our departments are seasons. And we use the Category
field for our designers. But Microsoft Dynamics RMS just let us
substitute our needs the way we wanted them—not requiring us to bend
to a program’s demands.”
Sunrise Technologies wrote, and helped Tanner test and implement,
all interfaces between Microsoft Dynamics RMS and Microsoft
Dynamics AX for item masters, inventory, and distribution from
warehouse to stores.
“When our odd use of Departments and Categories threw off the
expected mapping between the two solutions, Sunrise just wrote a
program for it. They made a planning form and an electronic
dashboard to help distribute clothing by color and size across the
enterprise. POSitive added programming and support from the
Microsoft Dynamics RMS side,” Tessneer explains. “And it all works."
INTEGRATION AND INSTALLATION
Heather Essic, Account Manager at Sunrise, reports, “Our technical
architects’ experience with Microsoft Dynamics RMS was very
positive. Using it as a store-level solution definitely sped up
end-to-end integration because you find the data where you expect
it, in standard formats, and it’s easy to retrieve. It’s the right
way to build a highly unified solution and get unimpeachable data.”
“Installation went very quickly,” says Tessneer. “About 90 days from
decision to completion. All stores went live on Microsoft Dynamics
RMS the same Monday morning.”
With reliable and instant sales and inventory data now flowing in
from stores, Tanner can make better and faster decisions around
their fashion and trend-sensitive items.
Tessneer says, “From the enterprise view, one of many improvements
is the ability to poll and re-poll as we choose during the day—even
differentially per individual stores’ characteristics—so we have
realtime knowledge across the chain. It all happens in the
background, so business goes on as usual. Microsoft Dynamics AX data
is imported into Microsoft Dynamics RMS Headquarters, which explodes
into the store-level database as smooth as silk. It hasn't missed
The Retail Operations Manager explains, “Polling stores as often as
every five minutes tells us exact stock levels, cuts to zero the
risk of a customer rapidly visiting two or three stores without our
knowledge, and enables purchases from one store to be returned in
“We know where to
distribute which goods because Sunrise built a report to highlight
who’s low and high on what items. We use Interstore Transfer to
restock the stores the next morning from the distribution center.
This keeps our shelves filled and our stock balanced so we meet
demands generated by our new marketing.
“To optimize pricing, we constantly edit the chainwide price sheet
in Microsoft Dynamics RMS,” she says. “We used to send faxes for
every markdown. Now, we can schedule a markdown for specified items,
departments, or categories. We can define which days, hours, and
then by percentage or monetary amount. We literally change prices in
“This solution thoroughly automated our previously hand-keyed
processes,” Tessneer says, “saving us hours every week and ensuring
accurate item conformity system-wide, from creation-point through
registers and into stores’ back offices."
“System morale and staff satisfaction at stores jumped to a new
high,” the Retail Operations Manager says, “because Microsoft
Dynamics RMS helped us improve customer service so dramatically. We
have faster checkouts and more-accurate information going up the
The Retail Operations
Manager began at Tanner as a retail sales associate with a quota.
She says, “Staff’s merit increases depend on meeting quota. If my
store doesn’t have a customer’s size in black pants, associates now
check the system to find black at another store while she tries on
her size in brown. That second store rings up a credit-card phone
sale and ships it the same day. Customers expect this level of
service from computers, then they brag about it to their friends.
Our mission is to liquidate excess inventory, and this product
combination gives us the chainwide X-ray vision to do it."
FASTER DAILY TASKS
“Previously all our merchandise ‘holds’ were manual,” she explains.
“We had no way to know the holds in a store, or inbound special
orders from other stores. Today, the Work Order module’s Comments
section tells us the item is on hold for a store associate for a
customer, plus all the details. We change it at will and add new
information. I see it all.
“Often, when store
customers have finished their shopping and start to pay the bill,
many realize they have to ship all or part of their purchase. The
simple shipping capability in Microsoft Dynamics RMS lets you just
click on the item to add shipping cost.”
Tessneer says, “Having e-mail and other Web connectivity gives us
much better communication with corporate. We use our secure VPN
connection and access our central network selectively. Now,
associates’ hours go into a Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet that easily
exports to Fidelity Investments.”
To keep pace with external consultants’ rising sales volume, Tanner
will continue to expand its retail division with new stores and
production capabilities. IT and management are beginning migration
from Microsoft Retail Management System 1.3 to Microsoft Dynamics
Retail Management System 2.0 and from Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.1 to
Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 with Retail Chain Manager (RCM).
RCM enables chains to centrally manage stores with Microsoft
Dynamics AX, yet allows local management of pricing, purchasing, and
sales. The degree of centralization versus local control can be
defined per each company’s business rules. Tanner is looking into
Retail Analytics and Merchandise Planning (RAMP) by Professional
Advantage for deeper Microsoft Dynamics RMS reports.
Tanner anticipates ongoing growth using resources proven in this
project. “The best thing you can say about a vendor after a big
project is that you’d call them for your next one.
Looking ahead to his next conversion, Tessneer suggests to other
retailers, “Associates, operations people, and executives should
learn as much as they can about the everyday terminology and
reporting procedures of the new solution as early as they can.
Sophisticated solutions have huge capabilities. And it’s important
to know how to use all their tools so you get your money’s worth as
fast as possible."