How retailer The Works revolutionised its omnichannel inventory management

When UK and Irish discount book, games and toy retailer The Works set out to improve the accuracy and efficiency of its inventory management across its stores it turned to Zebra Technologies to revolutionise its back-end management system.  

The Works chose Zebra’s Workcloud Inventory Visibility solution because the retailer wanted to sustain a precise and correct inventory stock record and reduce any surplus within that record. Equally importantly, the retailer had built a growing online business which brought with it a challenge: how do you accurately monitor inventories available in individual stores and for online customers, who expect products to be easily available across either channel? 

Dave Pardoe, head of profit protection at The Works, says that in today’s omnichannel age, consumers expect products to be available immediately. As any retailer should know, an out-of-stock – online or in-store – can risk driving them to purchase a product from a competitor.  

“Customers want immediate fulfilment. If they see something online, they want to purchase it here and now. They want to be able to go into a physical store and purchase it – they want that choice. They want stock availability offered to them with fantastic customer service.”

With simple out-of-the-box deployment, Zebra’s Workcloud Inventory Visibility solution typically delivers savings as high as 50 per cent through empowering retailers to better manage shrink and increase sales.

“Retail associates know their stores better than third-party vendors – they can conduct faster, more accurate stock counts,” explains Mike Finch, retail director at Zebra Technologies. 

“Zebra’s Workcloud Inventory Visibility provides accurate custom analytics and reporting, allowing retailers to gain critical insights and quickly take actions to proactively address areas of loss. 

“Taking back control of stock counts offers new opportunities for retailers to maximise profit protection and provide the business with valuable data to help with decision making,” he concludes. 

Zebra’s solution allows retailers to take control of their inventory events, scheduling them on their own terms and timelines – with their own team members driving the process. By managing the entire process in-house, changes can be scheduled when needed without enduring the inconvenience and complexity involved when using third-party services.

“Our system puts the inventory counts in the hands of employees and automates data capture which ensures more accurate stock counts, better in-stock ratios and faster fulfilment rates,” explains Finch. “Your workflows will be more efficient and your sales will increase.”

Another major feature of Zebra’s solution is a reduction in costs. By using in-house teams to manage the entire process, retailers can save money on third-party fees. There is also a significant reduction in the redundancy of checking third-party work because retailers can deploy their own labour for physical inventory counts. 

How The Works improved accuracy 

After implementing the Workcloud Inventory Visibility solution, The Works reported an improvement in the accuracy of stock files, leading to more efficient replenishment and improved customer service.

The Works’ store staff can now trust an accurate and robust stock file that helps ensure accurate replenishment of stock across each channel. With individual stores empowered to perform their own stock counts the retailer has experienced improved customer satisfaction through ensuring immediate order fulfilment and the ongoing visibility and availability of stock. 

“We realise as a leading retailer that it is absolutely paramount to our business’s effectiveness that we have an inventory stock file correct and accurate and that any waste within that file is completely minimised,” says Pardoe. 

Across a whole year, every The Works store will undertake a full manual stock count. Stores that sit outside an acceptable outlier will perform a minimum of two full stock counts per annum.

“That’s been a complete game changer because previously we have been a retailer that has relied on a guy to cycle count… It is only the Workcloud Inventory Visibility process that has given us the confidence to empower store colleagues to perform their own stock counts.

“A key by-product of the Workcloud Inventory Visibility is that every store is in a position to drive accurate replenishment and obviously that is absolutely critical to fulfilling customers’ retail demands,” he continues.

“Workcloud Inventory Visibility has provided us with an accurate, robust stock file that can confidently drive replenishment which means that the fantastic products that we promote are available on hand in that store on demand.”

Pardoe says he can confidently predict that the stock counts of the stores previously considered outliers will show a minimum improvement of 25 per cent in terms of variance. 

“A fundamental part of actually landing the approach that we have taken to Workcloud Inventory Visibility has been the support that has been offered to us by Zebra. This has been a completely fresh, new journey for the organisation and without Zebra actually taking the time to get to know our store, our store colleagues, and our retail offer, I don’t believe we would be at the stage and maturity we are at now.”

He says the implementation of Workcloud Inventory Visibility has driven a change of culture within the company. “We are promoting effectively the fact that colleagues today will treat stock differently to the way they did yesterday. 

“To me, there is no greater accolade I could offer.”