Epicor Retail Is Back in the Game

May 6, 2014

Paula Rosenblum

Last week I had the chance to attend Epicor’s Insight 2014 conference in Las Vegas. This conference marked an important milestone in the company’s renewed focus on retail, highlighted in the Retail Insights portion of the conference. It gave us an opportunity to catch up with the corporate changes that have occurred over the past six months and to hear executive vision for the future.

RSR has expressed concern about mid-market retailing for at least two years. Our data indicates that a majority of retailers with under $1 billion USD annual revenue have failed to keep up with advances in technology, most especially in the all-important merchandising area (applications like demand forecasting, and merchandise planning, allocation and replenishment). Tech vendors catering to the space seemed preoccupied by an endless round of mergers and acquisitions. We wondered who would step into the breach that had been left by JDA and Epicor.

RSR believes Epicor’s re-focus on its core retail market, in-process product rationalization, and personnel changes are important, not just for its current customer-base, but for mid-market General Merchandise and Apparel retailers as a whole. Let’s take a look at some of what we heard:

1)   The company has a new CEO. Joe Cowen was hired in October 2013. He has a strong pedigree in running companies like Manugistics and Autonomy Interwoven. I can’t call Mr. Cowen a retail expert and neither would he, I don’t think. But he does know how to hire and nurture talent, and that’s important. Some very talented people came out of Manugistics, in particular.

2)   The company has a new head of retail. Noel Goggin actually preceded Mr. Cowen at Epicor by a few weeks. I can say that Mr. Goggin has major street cred in retail. He came from Red Prairie (General Manager of retail strategy), Escalate Retail and Store Perform (yes, the very same Store Perform that had RSR’s Nikki Baird as its Head of Marketing). He’s a no-nonsense guy who has managed to both inspire his troops and give hope to Epicor retail customers.

3)   The company offers a broad set of software deployment choices: customers can choose to go multi-tenant cloud (Epicor ERP only), single tenant cloud or on-premise, and all code is the same.

4)   At last the company is completing its migration to a single POS platform. Over the course of multiple acquisitions, the company found itself with two major POS systems: the former NSB product and the former CRS solution. Both were good products, but CRS in particular had languished.

I ran into a CIO friend in the hallway. He and I talked about the POS issue. He was ready to send out an RFP for a new POS, as he was worn out waiting for enhancements to the old CRS product. Apparently just as this was about to happen, Epicor announced a like-for-like swap: existing CRS applications for the former NSB system. No up-charge, enhancements finally being baked in. Companies who rate POS vendors (we don’t) have consistently rated the former-NSB’s solution highly. The CIO I chatted with was happy. The path of least resistance (and least cash outlay) worked really well for him. As an aside, he was one very juiced guy over Noel’s activities at Epicor.

Those are the high-level observations I made. But they weren’t the only things we heard.

  • The company recognizes they can get a lot more sophisticated with the customer data they have been gathering for their retail customers.
  • Its varied retail user base indicates it can grow with a retailer, with approximately a third in each of tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3.
  • They’re evolving into a “platform” rather than a “product” company. That means integration will be cleaner and easier, even as the system remains open. Rather than releasing individual products, they’ll be releasing suites with many shared services. This is in alignment with what other major vendors like SAP and Oracle are already doing. Epicor definitely has some catching up to do.
  • The company wants to align around customer success. The approach is to:
    • Engage – with customers to engage with their customers
    • Transform – to meet and exceed customer expectations
    • Inspire – to enable customer success

In RSR terminology, I would say they’re dedicated to helping make their customers Retail Winners.

As someone who spent a large part of my career in mid-market retail I can only cheer the statements of direction. For me, it’s personal. There was a time when the mid-market did take the lead in leveraging technology. It was the mid-market that first made use of merchandise planning and allocation. I speak from experience. I was the IT person in charge of getting that done in the US in the 1980s. The mid-market also took the lead in managing distribution center efficiencies. Again, I can say this with some surety as I was the IT Director that first got automated sortation of flat and hanging goods implemented at Hit or Miss with the late (and lovely) Alan Garf, father of DemandWare’s Rob Garf. I enjoyed that experience so much that I joined the company who supplied it and helped move it up market after its initial implementation. It is now pretty pervasive in the industry. But make no mistake its breeding ground was with growing mid-market retailers.

I hope Epicor can make good on its promise for retailers. The mid-market is in need of merchandising leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

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