IT extends across numerous areas of the business, making it difficult for retailers to streamline their efforts under one department. However, retailers can simplify IT management and reduce costs if they partner with solution providers that have a vast menu of solutions and services.
Hancock Fabrics, which provides sewing and fabric items, has selected several business solutions from EarthLink to simplify infrastructure operations throughout the company via a secure managed network. The company will implement the solutions in all of its 262 retail locations across the U.S., and expects the deployment to reduce overall IT-related costs by 20%.
Hayes noted that previously, Hancock Fabrics had worked with four companies at once to oversee numerous IT functions. The consolidation of these services went a long way in helping the company save more money.
“For the past 18 months, I’ve felt that EarthLink has become part of our IT team,” Hayes said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We don’t consider them a vendor. They’re our partner, and the agreements we’ve signed with them are long term. Typically, in the IT world, we don’t really want to sign more than a short-term contract because things can change so quickly. However, we understood that the relationship we had with EarthLink needed to be longer than that and we were comfortable making that decision based on the offerings that have continued to improve their product line.”
Hancock Fabrics expects to save costs via the EarthLink Hosted Voice solution, a private internal telephone network that eliminates the need for on-premise equipment. Furthermore, the retailer also deployed the solution provider’s Secure WiFi platform, which is designed to provide a more secure wireless network to help the retailer bolster its social media and business intelligence efforts.
“Right now, in the retail industry, there are three significant challenges that everybody faces,” said Greg Griffiths, VP of Product Alliances at EarthLink. “It’s security, it’s deploying technology to connect with the new consumer and it’s trying to reduce the operational burden on the IT staff so they can shift resources to strategy. Everything we do revolves around having those conversations, and then developing the solutions that our customers need.”
Reducing Transaction Times And Costs
As part of the partnership, Hancock Fabrics will implement the EarthLink Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network to run its in-store applications, including POS, inventory management and employee communication and training.
Using the MPLS Direct Connect service, the retailer also will be able to reduce credit card processing costs and reduce transaction times to as little as two seconds. With the solution, all credit card transactions go from the POS and over the MPLS network to payment processors.
Due to the sudden surge in data breaches across the retail industry, the Hancock Fabrics team decided to shore up its compliance efforts. The EarthLink PCI Compliance Solution will provide the retailer with loss prevention tools in the event of a potential data breach, as well as a variety of other tools and services to ensure PCI compliance, such as: Employee training, security policies, record-keeping and quarterly vulnerability scans.
“Security is job No. 1 for us, and it’s definitely priority for our customers,” said Rick Froehlich, EVP of Products and Consumer at EarthLink. “It’s not just getting PCI compliant; as a retailer, you want to prevent these breaches from occurring. I think us being focused on retail as our primary industry vertical really helps us communicate with customers such as Hancock Fabrics and actually take the time to truly understand the security hurdles they face every day.”