IBM and Epicor Software are attempting to fill a niche in specialty and department store retail management with a new partnership announced on June 30, 2008. The two companies are developing what they refer to as a “total offering to centrally manage and support point-of-sale (POS) hardware and software via IBM’s Remote Management Agent (RMA),” as described in a recent press announcement.
“From where I sit this is a net-net good deal for both companies,” says Scott Langdoc, VP, Research & Business Leader, Global Retail Insights, an IDC company, “though as with any ‘announced partnership’ you need to see how it actually plays out in the minds of retailer prospects and the specific offerings.”
The expanded relationship may be of particular benefit to Epicor, Langdoc notes. “This helps Epicor’s brand positioning in retail. Lots of acquisitions (CRS, NSB) and definite industry investment have given Epicor something to work with…but I can’t say their brand name is the best known in this industry. Having the market share leader in store selling technology want to spotlight your offering in their portfolio for specialty retailers can only help if the story is told right.”
“Epicor and IBM are both committed to serving the needs of specialty retailers — from regional chains to multichannel global brands,” notes David Henning, executive vice president and general manager of Epicor Retail. “Expanding our existing alliance demonstrates the added value that Epicor and IBM bring to the specialty retail market, with tailored software, hardware, services and support that provides a solid technology platform for retailers to streamline operations, enhance the customer experience and improve the bottom-line.”
Centralizing a decentralized retail segment
Langdoc believes that “The move to centralize management of highly decentralized small specialty retail store technology is well-timed. The last three years have seen a marked increase in persistent network connectivity for small box specialty retailers, giving them a technology platform on which to do both real-time customer and merchandise management, but also to exchange data and to do better remote administration where at-store IT support is limited. We have done some interesting research this year that shows the measurable value of manageability (as part of a store systems TCO evaluation) on such factors as lower energy costs, faster software upgrades, improved uptime, and better transaction efficiency.”
The combined offering is designed to provide specialty retailers with the ability to remotely monitor, configure and track hardware, software and applications in one store or multiple store locations, from a central point.
• Epicor provides a full set of solutions for retailers comprising integrated POS, cross-channel order management, CRM, planning, sourcing, merchandising, replenishment, store inventory, warehousing and financial systems.
• IBM’s RMA is part of an end-to-end systems solution designed to empower retailers to manage their store environments more competitively, enabling them to perform remote configuration, software distribution, proactive remote monitoring, asset tracking, diagnostic and problem determination down to the device level.
A number of specialty retailers already are on board with the Epicor/IBM combination, including The Hudson Group, a privately held corporation that operates more than 500 newsstands, bookstores, cafes and premier specialty retail shops in 70 transportation terminals and airports throughout North America. “We believe there will be significant value add to our company as IBM and Epicor align more closely in delivering software, hardware and services as a complete package,” says Gary MacRae, vice president and CIO of Hudson Group, in a recent press announcement.
IBM must manage partner network
Because IBM currently maintains an extensive partner network for applications, Langdoc says the company must “be delicate when focusing on any specific company. It will be interesting to see if IBM further defines its application and technology partners along industry segment lines (e.g. Retalix in grocery or convenience?). Since IBM itself does not appear to want to be directly in the retail application marketplace it will have to make sure not to alienate any other vendor partners who see this kind of Epicor deal as threatening.”
Nevertheless, IBM is committed to a continued partnership with Epicor. “Our expanded relationship with Epicor demonstrates our joint commitment to providing retailers fully integrated retail management products — hardware, software and services — with a one-stop shopping experience,” says Juhi Jotwani, vice president of marketing and strategy, IBM Retail Store Solutions business, in a recent press announcement. “Retailers will benefit from lower total cost of ownership and a central point of contact for service and support.”