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   W hat happens when one retailer (with four stores, an outlet and an
ecommerce business) decides it’s
time to streamline the inventory management process? She reaches out to
some of her top vendors to build a solution. For Alison Anderson, owner of A.Dodson’s in Su olk, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA, and the newly opened P.O.P (Power of Play) toy store, also in Norfolk, getting new product information into her POS system has been
a challenge. Often, data from suppliers was incomplete, which meant extra e ort to secure images, UPC codes, product dimensions and/or descriptions.
When Anderson had gathered all of
the information, uploading each detail individually took a substantial chunk of time, sometimes as long as 15 minutes per product. If that doesn’t sound too bad, times it by the thousands of products Anderson carries in her stores, and the variations needed for the website. It adds up quickly.
WITH PRODUCT FASTLANE, ALL OF THE INFORMATION IS IN ONE PLACE. IT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST TIME SAVER. — Alison Anderson, A.Dodson’s
    FINDING A SOLUTION
Anderson decided this was too much, and took matters into her own hands, or more accurately, to the minds of some of her major suppliers—Mud Pie, Creative Co-op and Evergreen among them. Partnering with web solutions company Whereoware, Anderson and team have created Product Fastlane,
a program that provides participating exhibitors with a portal for entering all pertinent product information, including images. The process standardizes the information supplied and o ers a destination where retailers can download everything they need within a matter of minutes. The information comes as an excel  le, which then makes it easy to upload speci c product information into most POS systems in one upload. Images come via zip  le and are
named to streamline coordinating images and descriptions.
“With Product Fastlane, all of the information is in one place. It has been the biggest time saver,” Anderson said. “It’s in Excel because that program works with just about every POS system, and it allows you to manipulate the data to your speci c needs.” Along with a select group of retailers, Anderson has been the primary beta tester for the program, which is set to roll out formally in January.
BETTER DATA
Also in beta test for Product Fastlane is
the ability to send order/sales information back to vendors so they can get  rsthand input on sell-through and make informed reorder suggestions for their organizations
and retailers. “We don’t always know what’s selling out,” Anderson noted. “And vendors are buying blind o  what we’ve decided to sell in. This will help everyone know in the  rst 30 days what should be reordered.”
The o cial rollout of Product Fastlane is just weeks away, and it’s free for retailers. At presstime, there are already 50+ vendors signed on, including Mud Pie, Evergreen, Creative Co-op, Demdaco. Ganz, Primitives by Kathy, and many more. Join us at the January Total Home & Gift Market for an educational DMC Retail Roundtable about Inventory Management challenges and solutions, and learn more about Product Fastlane. Check your January Total Home & Gift Directory for the date and time.
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