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NRF Conversations – Bill Brewster of Gerber Technology

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In the final instalment of our series of exclusive vendor interviews from NRF 2013, our Editor talks to Bill Brewster, Vice President of Global Sales & Marketing at Yunique Solutions (a Gerber Technology business), about his predictions for the coming year.

Ben Hanson: We spoke separately about the way that you chose to position Yunique Solutions’ ideation event (that interview can be found here), but I was curious to find out how, outside of that show, the last year was for you?

Bill Brewster: 2012 was great for us.  We actually doubled the size of the business from a revenue perspective, and nearly doubled the size of our team.  So we have a lot more talent within the company now, a lot more scale, and we continue to grow.  We’ve gone live with some of the most prominent global brands in retail and fashion this year, and we’re extremely excited and proud of that.

BH: Brands like?

BB:  Brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Fruit of the Loom, and we’re continuing to work with those brands as well as others – some of which we can mention, some of which we can’t – to build the best products we can.  We’ve also expanded geographically in the past year, and signed our first two customers in China.  We have been building a team over there, and one of our new customers – Icicle, which is a beautiful company in the Shanghai area – has gone live with the solution.

BH: How about Yunique Solutions’ plans for the coming year?  What do you see as your main focus in 2013?

BB: For us, 2013 is going to be primarily about the product.  We have really stepped up our product management team, and put a lot of focus on innovation – on really enhancing and expanding the capabilities of PLM.

Although the enhancements I’m talking about are pretty far-reaching, there are two or three key areas in which we’re really enhancing the product.  One is in sourcing and supply chain management, bringing the customers’ processes and product development closer to their supply chain, and helping them streamline the processes of collaborating and communicating as they bring their products to market.

[quote]…if a retailer truly wants to deal in “fast fashion” they have to make sure that they’re capitalising on the information that they’re gathering through all of these different channels.[/quote]

The other area we’re focused on is continuing to enhance our already industry-leading adoption by the design community.  Having a system that not only is attractive and graphical and interactive in a way that’s intuitive, but also further integrating PLM in with the tools that they use to do their job.  This includes a very, very deep, two-way integration to Adobe Illustrator, meaning that designers can actually work within Illustrator, doing their job as they do today, and actually working within PLM without even knowing it.

One more area that we’re going to enhance this year is our whole calendar and task management capability.  Once this is done, very soon, we’ll have true critical path management, much more visibility into the entire process, significantly enhanced workflow capacity and much more.

BH: Outside of Yunique’s work, are there any other key trends that you see emerging over the coming year?  Either in terms of software, market forces, or driven by anything you’ve seen on the show floor here at NRF.

BB: We’ve had a lot of discussions with our customers and other industry figures about the impact of the “omni-channel” trend, and we know that a lot of retailers and brands are still trying to get their arms around it.  No doubt it’s a huge opportunity and one that’s driving a tremendous amount of change in the industry, and when I think about it from the standpoint of where we’re coming from at Yunique Solutions, PLM becomes even more important in the omni-channel future than it has been up until now.

When you think about it, what e-commerce and omni-channel commerce present you with is immediate access to information about how styles and products are being perceived by the marketplace.  So, if a retailer truly wants to deal in “fast fashion” they have to make sure that they’re capitalising on the information that they’re gathering through all of these different channels.  Retailers looking at performance information need to have visibility back into their product development, to see which existing designs can be put very quickly through the development cycle, for example, to allow that retailer or brand to come to market incredibly quickly with what’s hot right now in its various channels.

BH: I suspect this is another of those situations where individual staff members and executives almost want to be working in PLM without realising it: what they want in that scenario is the confidence that the product development visibility they’re being given is accurate and up-to-date.

BB: Exactly, so it becomes possible for retailers to gather information at the point where consumers are actually shopping, and then analyse that and use it to tailor your pipeline of new products in a way that permits you to accelerate the production of those products that will create the most value and are the closest to trend.  If you don’t have a PLM solution, though, I don’t know where you would get that kind of management information – you’d be making those decisions blind.

Plus, I think that gathering that information – from ERP and from other e-commerce applications – and leveraging it back in the development and sourcing cycle is going to be a very important opportunity in the near future.

BH: I think this is one of the strongest indications that PLM really belongs at shows like NRF.  It might not be as immediately attractive as something like a flashy point of sale solution, but without it so much else of what’s on display here simply wouldn’t be possible on an enterprise level.

BB: Precisely.  For me, retail is all about the product; you could have the best inventory management system in the world, or the best e-commerce engine in the world, but if you don’t have the right product on shelves, at the right time and at the right price, none of that matters.  And that’s really what I think we’re providing with our PLM solution and with the other solutions that integrate with it.

Ben Hanson Ben Hanson is one of WhichPLM’s top contributors. Ben has worked for magazines, newspapers, local government agencies, multi-million pound conservation projects, museums and creative publications before his eventual migration to the Retail, Footwear and Apparel industry.Having previously served as WhichPLM’s Editor, Ben knows the WhichPLM style, and has been responsible for many of our on-the-ground reports and interviews over the last few years. With a background in literature, marketing and communications, Ben has more than a decade’s worth of experience, and is now viewed as one of the industry’s best-known writers.

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