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NRF Conversations – James Horne of Centric Software

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In the ninth in our continuing series of exclusive vendor interviews from NRF 2013, our Editor talks to James Horne, VP of Marketing for Centric Software, about his company’s plans and his own predictions for the future of our industry.

Ben Hanson: With the new year already off to a busy start, I wanted to ask how the last twelve months have been for Centric Software.

James Horne: 2012 was the best year in Centric’s history. We saw several key trends.

Customers that had purchased Centric 8 came back to invest more. These investments were motivated by three primary factors. First, with the initial successes of their implementations of Centric 8—the improved efficiencies, reduced errors, enhanced supplier collaboration, and so on—customers are looking to expand their brands and product categories. Second, our customers are winners in their categories and their businesses are growing organically. Third, we’re getting reference sells from one business unit to another.   So, as customers use Centric 8 and gain value from it, they’re coming back to re-invest, confident that there are additional savings to be found through expanded PLM usage.

We’re also seeing confirmation of a development reported earlier by Gartner. Namely, a number of PLM customers in the market are looking to replace existing failed PLM implementations. Centric 8 has come to be viewed as one of the top alternatives in the market when customers are considering such a next step.

[quote]Consumers want to find value in the products they purchase. In my opinion, there isn’t enough attention placed on this product-value issue at NRF.[/quote]

Another factor that contributed to our success is Centric’s increasing traction with large companies in the retail, apparel, footwear, luxury and consumer brands markets. Recent purchases by retailers like PetSmart and Systeme U validate that Centric 8 scales well to work for very large companies as well as smaller firms.

Finally companies love the fact that we easily support multiple product categories.  Lets face it. There are very few companies in the market that focus solely on apparel.  Almost all offer a full range of accessories. The Centric 8 solution is excellent at managing category-specific product specifications, attributes, calendars and sourcing strategies.

BH: And, aside from the developments on show here at NRF, how do you see the company developing over the coming year?

JH: Centric started its fiscal year on Feb 1st. We have an solid pipeline and are forecasting strong growth in 2013 in Europe and the US. Customers are attracted to Centric based on a number of factors, including the velocity of our product development which we believe is the strongest in the industry.  This innovation is driven in both our core Centric 8 platform and in dedicated mobile apps that solve very specific end-user problems.

BH: Innovation has to come from inspiration, though, so how does Centric gauge customer demand?  From shows like NRF, from direct feedback, or both?

JH: Just like our customers watch for trends and opportunities to delight the consumer, or take inspiration from customer feedback, Centric works very closely to draw ideas from our customers and feed those back to the development team. Centric is the only PLM vendor focused on retail, apparel, footwear, luxury and consumer goods and located in the heart of the Silicon Valley. This location enables the company to hire some of the best and brightest talent from leading high-tech companies like Apple and Google.  With a wealth of experience in the development of enterprise software and mobile apps, Centric doesn’t need to train its developers in how to build best-of-breed software or mobile apps. When our talented team addresses the challenges faced by our customers, the outcome is software and mobile apps that reflect fourth- and fifth-generation thinking. That’s what experienced talent can do for a company and its customers.

In practical terms, this has enabled Centric to release three patent-pending mobile apps for Centric 8 PLM, plus a Mobile App SDK to allow Centric customers to more easily develop their own branded apps. Our next mobile app is due to be announced in a few weeks. Others are slated before mid-year—and all of this while we continue to add modules and functionality to the core Centric 8 system. Like most of our customers, a key area of emphasis has been—and will continue to be—innovation.

BH: Beyond that commitment to innovate with your products, what other facets of the business do you feel set Centric apart from other vendors?

JH: Centric is zealous about customer satisfaction.  The whole organization is kept up-to-date on the state of satisfaction within our customer base, which customers are doing well, and which customers are experiencing a blip.  Face it. No one has a customer base with 100% satisfied at all times. What distinguishes Centric are the built-in business processes that help to identify customer issues and work to resolve them before they get out of hand.

BH: Now that we’ve both had the opportunity to walk the expo floor, are there are any particular trends (either on display here or from your own experience) that you think will influence the near-term future of the industry?

JH: Consumers want value, and value can be found in two areas. One is the retail experience. Does the consumer get value from her/his retail experience—regardless of whether it is in a store or on the web?  Most of NRF seems focused on this aspect of the value issue. The other aspect of value relates to the products that are presented to consumers.  Consumers want to find value in the products they purchase. In my opinion, there isn’t enough attention placed on this product-value issue at NRF. Certainly PLM vendors such as Centric and the others covered by WhichPLM bring this product focus front and center, but there is a surprising lack of attention to this problem presented by other vendors at the show.

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.