Wal-Mart Helps Vendors Sort Through Retail Link

Discussion
Apr 21, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Wal-Mart said it will update its Retail Link information system to make it more user-friendly for the company’s vendors. The changes include a graphics update and summary “dashboard” that can be customized to include only the data that suppliers want. The improvements are intended to simplify the process of sorting through and analyzing data to supply stores more efficiently while increasing the effectiveness of marketing programs.


Dan Phillips, vice president of merchandising systems at Wal-Mart, said yesterday, “Today, Retail Link is a little bit difficult to navigate. We’re going to do some things to help with that.”


According to an Associated Press report, some of Wal-Mart’s vendors have equated the current information supplied through Retail Link as being akin to “drinking water from a fire hydrant.”


Mr. Phillips acknowledged the difficulties with the information provided by the current system. “Typically, when someone is first starting to use Retail Link, they’ll spend more time sometimes trying to find things than they do analyzing data,” he said.


Moderator’s Comment: What will the potential improvements in Retail Link mean for Wal-Mart’s vendors? What will it
mean for in-store stock levels and sales if the modifications work according to plan? How are other retailers sharing information with vendors to improve supply chain efficiency
and sales at the store-level?
– George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Wal-Mart Helps Vendors Sort Through Retail Link"


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Ed Dennis
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Ed Dennis
14 years 10 months ago

Suppliers complaining about Retail Link should not be doing business with Wal-Mart. Is it easy? Not really, but the information is there to help the supplier manage HIS business in Wal-Mart. If a supplier doesn’t have enough business with Wal-Mart to go to the trouble to learn how to use Retail Link and take action on the data it provides then the supplier doesn’t deserve the business. Who else in the retail industry gives suppliers this opportunity? I guess suppliers are getting lazy and want the abridged version of their business. When the business disappears will it be because some information was left out of the abridged version or maybe because the supplier got lazy and didn’t pay attention to the data. Based on the number of OOS I see at my local Wal-Mart it would appear that suppliers don’t have enough interest to use the information currently available to them. If they don’t care now, why would anyone expect them to care later?!

Ken Kubat
Guest
Ken Kubat
14 years 10 months ago

Business success within our industry, both at a corporate level and individually, is increasingly driven by our ability to balance collaborative process with competitive pressure. Retail Link has established a noteworthy benchmark, perhaps even a “best practice,” for the process of sharing data (and technology!) to jointly build business and concurrently serve the interests of all parties. A Retail Link “cottage industry” is emerging to do precisely what George has stated above…i.e. “make it more user-friendly for the company’s vendors.” In combination with Wal-Mart’s own efforts to improve Retail Link, this will, no doubt, continue to be a model for the business benefits of data sharing and collaborative analytics.

The value of existing tools for real-time “demand signal” capture, processing, and analysis is slowly being realized. The real power of technology comes into play as companies are able to FULLY integrate and correlate demand signal data with other critical business intelligence (shopper insights, promotion/inventory systems, weather, etc.) to implement predictive business solutions…THIS will happen fast!

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

These changes get to the root of a problem that we see time and time again in our consulting work – the vendor learning curve is affecting more than SKU productivity, it is affecting buyer productivity, resulting in the opposite of “vendor managed.” While some vendors proactively invest in growing the numbers and the expertise of their analytical teams, many others still try to get by on a shoestring and the buyer ends up holding the training “bag.” For vendors managing smaller businesses (from the BUYER’S perspective), this perception of time investment vs. opportunity can be the nail in the coffin. In our assessment work, we find that vendors often don’t even realize the origin of the problem (they assume that someone beat them out on price).

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Many suppliers have dedicated Wal-Mart teams who spend enough time with Retail Link to learn it thoroughly. Like any software, it takes time to learn. Building summary information presented graphically can’t hurt, but the dedicated teams will still need to drill down to the details. Every chain retailer has a lot to gain from sharing data with their suppliers, as long as the suppliers handle the information on a confidential basis.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Hooray! Retail link offers such an incredible amount of data and ways to data mine and data drill to develop a dizzying array of reports that it truly is information overload. Standardizing, simplifying and empowering folks to more easily use this data can only help Wal-Mart. Better reporting of inventories, sales, product velocity and tracking of inventory through the system will give vendors the ability to meet Wal-Mart’s goals, while efficiently managing costs. Effective use of this data will probably also enable Wal-Mart employees to better use the data as well. This is a win/win situation for everyone which is long overdue.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

If making Retail Link easier to navigate means that more suppliers will be able to use the data, learn more about consumer purchases, and create better replenishment processes, the change will only help streamline the supply chain process. In addition, the consumer knowledge should also improve the introduction of new products.

Chad petty
Guest
Chad petty
14 years 10 months ago
In answer to Mr. Dennis: You are correct in saying that RL isn’t the easiest program to learn. Any supplier at WM should take the time to learn the program because it is a truly an awesome tool. To blame all the OOS on the supplier not following RL is just wrong. It is true that some may be blamed on companies not using the tools RL offers to there max but many can also be blamed on WM inefficiencies and RL inefficiencies. “Suppliers complaining about Retail Link should not be doing business with Wal-Mart.” This is an outrageous statement and needs to be more thoroughly explained or else you are opening yourself to criticism. Suppliers that work with RL every day do have complaints about the system. Does that mean they shouldn’t be doing business with WM? Not at all. They just want some of the inefficiencies worked out of the system to make it better for themselves and WM. It is true that no other company offers this type of data to its… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 10 months ago

To csp283

Thanks for your note.

It would appear that you are a great supplier and know your business and I expect that you do enjoy a great relationship with Wal-Mart and your other customers.

The purpose of this site is to broaden our perspective and you have broadened mine. I would hope that my comments and yours have broadened others.

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