When La Senza parted company with the Ryman group in 2006, the separation agreement involved a two-year contract for Ryman to provide La Senza with a managed IT service. However, with the La Senza business increasing on all fronts, La Senza needed it's own system - the solution was to find a replacement before July 2008.
Ian Newton, IT director at La Senza explains: "I joined La Senza with a remit to replace the company's central systems by July 2008. The system we shared with Ryman was 10 years old with limited ongoing support, we required a more robust support model than this which meant we had 11 months to find a solution.
The task facing Newton was to gain detailed knowledge of systems available in the market and decide those most applicable to La Senza and then review potential suppliers, draw up a shortlist, set up a tender process and select a supplier.
In Newton's words: "There was little chance of completing the project in house within the required timescales, so the solution was to find a consultancy to handle the process. Importantly, they had to understand the retail market and know the key suppliers. Three consultancies were contacted and evaluated and of these PMC put forward the proposal that best met our requirements. It was the most cost effective, they recognised what we had to achieve and understood fashion retailing. Importantly, they had managed the tender process many times before for other retailers."
PMC began with a series of analysis workshops across the whole business to identify La Senza's business requirements. PMC allied consultants to key areas of the business – buying, merchandising, finance, payroll, franchise, IT, e-commerce, property and distribution. Directly skilled in each of those business areas, the PMC consultants spent time with the La Senza team from each key area from director level to the people at the sharp end.
Newton continues: "From that start they mapped out all our current processes to understand how La Senza operated as a business. PMC then held requirements workshops with the same teams to identify their specific needs. Out of those meetings they created a comprehensive document of requirements. Then from that 'wish list' they identified the 'nice-to-have', 'necessary-now' and 'future-development' criteria to select a supplier."
With La Senza's needs identified, PMC drew up an Invitation to Tender (ITT), and issued it to nine relevant suppliers that matched La Senza's selection criteria. PMC then refined that selection down to a shortlist of four and managed their presentations to LaSenza.
"PMC put together the ITT which detailed who we are, what we are trying to achieve, what the system had to achieve, our time-frame and the relevant experience each supplier needed," states Newton. "Once we had seen the presentations, we selected Retail Assist as our supplier of choice with their real-time multi-outlet, multi-channel solution, Merret."
The Merret system has to cope with all of La Senza's current retail needs but also it's aggressive growth plans. Currently, La Senza has 176 stores in the UK and Eire, plus several franchise outlets across Europe. Over the next two to three years the company aims to increase the number and size of stores.
Newton closes: "We need a system to fit our budget and we need a supplier with a good cultural fit to ourselves. The Merret system can cope with our franchise business and accept multiple currencies, which is important to us as we buy worldwide. It also offers more flexibility and better management reporting. We wanted a product with proven functionality that we could use straight out of the box. We didn't want to spend months customising and redeveloping it to fit LaSenza - Merret ticked all the boxes."
"PMC enabled us to short circuit the selection process. With their help we planned and completed a nine-month process in 10 weeks. Without PMC that would not have been possible. The value in using PMC and their expertise is evident in the success of the project."