Field’s Shoppers, Sales People Want to Kick the Computer

Discussion
May 12, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


In Murphy’s world, this would have been expected. Marshall Field’s is sold to May Department Stores, the company converts to a new computer system and chaos and confusion ensues, with consumers not getting their orders and sales people losing commissions. The question many must be asking themselves, especially the sales people: Will being bought by Federated Department stores mean that more gore is in store?


Reports in the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune say Field’s has encountered problems in its furniture department where computer errors has led angry shoppers to cancel undelivered orders.


Field’s spokesperson Jennifer McNamara did not provide details as to the extent of the problem but said, “We’re working as quickly as possible to rectify it.”


Fixing the problem also includes having to assuage sales people who have been materially hit by the glitches in the system. “We’re taking steps to ensure our team members feel they’re being treated fairly in connection with these system issues on an ongoing and retroactive basis,” said Ms McNamara.


Moderator’s Comment: Are the computer conversion problems experienced by Marshall Field’s common in merger/acquisitions large and small? Do you have
any insights into how significant a problem it has been since May purchased the chain from Target? What’s to be done to avoid a similar situation occurring under Federated Department
Store’s ownership?


The Chicago Tribune piece pointed out that furniture delivery issues were not the only technical problems Field’s faced since it was purchased by
May. “It took Field’s eight months under May to give online shoppers the ability to buy products other than gift cards, meaning Field’s largely sat on the sidelines during the
holidays while most retailers reported double-digit online sales gains.”

George Anderson – Moderator

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4 Comments on "Field’s Shoppers, Sales People Want to Kick the Computer"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago

The merger of Ahold’s Giant-Landover and Stop & Shop supermarket IT departments was scheduled to be finished last summer. Still not done, and not even close according to some sources.

Cingular just took over my AT&T Wireless account. I get bills from both.

And then there’s that saying about those who ignore the past being destined to repeat it. Well, there they go again.

Notwithstanding the astute comments by LucBoardwalk regarding the right way to conduct IT mergers, how many acquiring companies actually do it? Human nature still reigns supreme over computer nature. Wishful thinking and poor due diligence create this uncomfortable situation all the time. However, if two gigantic Internet companies were merging – like Amazon and ebay – their IT concerns would have been completely investigated and solved before signing on the dotted line. Brick ‘n Mortar guys should do the same, since all of their systems are the domain of IT.

Lucius Boardwalk
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Lucius Boardwalk
15 years 9 months ago
May Company, like Macy’s/Federated and other major department store companies, maintains a Merchandise Information department. The department acts as user surrogates and as a facilitator of communication between merchants and IT. It’s the responsibility of Merchandise Information managers to get in front of data conversion issues, and make sure the flow of sales and inventory data isn’t interrupted during a merger. I don’t work for Field’s or May, but I would suspect that the Merchandise Information director is feeling the most pressure to get these problems corrected. Data conversion problems are very common during mergers. Department stores–and even their operating divisions–typically use proprietary identifiers for merchandise departments, classifications, and even vendors. A merger means the acquiring company has to identify the acquired company’s inventory, SKU by SKU, and classify each item within its own data hierarchy. The problem is compounded by the size of the pending orders file. All outstanding purchase orders must also be converted, often by buyers who aren’t familiar with the merchandise ordered. The conversion to industry-standard identifiers like UPCs or other… Read more »
Ed Dennis
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Ed Dennis
15 years 9 months ago

Where is/was management? Oh, it’s not my job! That’s an IT issue.

When will THEY ever do anything right? What a crock. Things like this happen when people don’t pay attention to what is going on. Any idiot knows that blended systems cause problems. New systems have glitches. New systems invite input error. None of this is new; it’s been common knowledge for 10 years. Where was management? Why didn’t they ANTICIPATE that problems might arise and alert store level personnel to verify all orders and inventories. This is a symptom of a much deeper problem – inept management!

EDWARD COLLINS
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EDWARD COLLINS
15 years 9 months ago
Since May Department Stores took over Marshall Field’s and converted to the new POS system, it has been total chaos. A few notes… 1. I guess Marshall Field’s has taken the approach of Lord and Taylor by hiring fewer salespeople on the floor. Sad! 2. With the addition of the new POS system, there are several billing glitches and it is not user friendly. 3. With the new “back of the house” discount, almost 70% of the employees either no longer buy using the MF prepaid card or use cash and forget about the discount altogether. 4. The carrying of several middle to low end brands or items at discounter price points that Marshall Field’s would have NEVER carried in the past. 4. The rude, slow, disgruntled and unfriendly people at May Department Stores credit services, who put you on hold for over 10 minutes and never resolve anything. 5. Marshall Field’s new or temporary charge card receipts that say MARSHALL FIELD’S CARD IS ACCEPTED AT ALL MAY DEPARTMENT STORES, when in reality the Lord… Read more »
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