Toy retailer The Entertainer is overhauling its retail systems to integrate e-commerce, physical stores and supply chain.
The aim of the million-pound-plus project, which goes live in June this year, is to enable the retailer to offer a unified multichannel experience to customers.
The company's senior management says this is essential if retailers are to meet customer expectations set by online giants like Amazon.
The Entertainer is replacing its existing retail systems with Retail Suite from Itim and using Neoworks' Hybris web platform and applications for its website.
The systems refit will provide a company-wide view of inventory in near-real time drawing on electronic point of sale data from its 65 stores, so customers can choose how they buy and how the product will be delivered.
"If we have stock anywhere in the business we will be able to sell it to you whatever the channel you choose to buy it in – high street store, our online store or via Amazon – and fulfil it in the way that suits you: collect from any store; standard three to four working-day delivery, or next-day delivery," Duncan Grant, director of multichannel at The Entertainer, told Computing.
One of The Entertainer's main competitors is Argos, whose sales have benefitted from its click-and-collect service, where a product is bought online and then collected in a nearby store.
Click-and-collect volumes have more than doubled for The Entertainer in 2011 and look like doubling again in 2012, said Grant.
Its current click-and-collect service has a delay of two to three days. The new systems will cut this to about 30 minutes, turning each store into a "miniature warehouse", he said.
"The system will make it easy for the store staff to know what they have to transfer to another store, and what they have to ship to customers," Grant added.
The new system will also dovetail with the retailer's couriers' systems and provide much greater order tracking detail, enabling the retailer to pre-empt any fulfilment issues before they cause delays, or email customers in advance if delays occur.
"Communication with the customer is everything," said Grant.
The new web platform will enable The Entertainer to make its online presence – TheToyShop.com –more like the stores, said Grant, with product demos, themed sub-sites for major brands, such as Lego, and even forums where customers can share photos of their purchases.
The retailer will also provide recommendations and suggestions beyond simple product-name search.
"No one wants to be the uncle or aunt who buys the un-cool toy, so we can help guide purchases online in the same way our store staff would advise customers in our shops," he added.