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Sherwin Socaransky MindTree Interview

Sherwin Socaransky MindTree Interview

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Published by Mindtree Ltd
On September 1, 2010, MindTree Ltd hosted Sherwin Socaransky, Vice President of Merchandising and Store
Systems at New York & Company, sat down with journalist Kathleen Kiley at New York & Company’s Manhattan headquarters to discuss the challenges and outlook for retailers. Sherwin, who for more than two decades has been implementing and re-engineering retail technology systems, talks about the strategic role technology plays in positioning retailers for success.
On September 1, 2010, MindTree Ltd hosted Sherwin Socaransky, Vice President of Merchandising and Store
Systems at New York & Company, sat down with journalist Kathleen Kiley at New York & Company’s Manhattan headquarters to discuss the challenges and outlook for retailers. Sherwin, who for more than two decades has been implementing and re-engineering retail technology systems, talks about the strategic role technology plays in positioning retailers for success.

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Published by: Mindtree Ltd on Sep 27, 2010
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09/28/2010

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Argyle Conversations
featuring
Sherwin Socaransky
Vice President of Merchandising andStore SystemsNew York & CompanyHosted by MindTree Ltd.
 www.mindtree.com/retail
On September 1, 2010, Sherwin Socaransky,Vice President of Merchandising and Store Systems at New York & Company, sat downwith journalist Kathleen Kiley at New York & Company’s Manhattan headquarters to discuss the challenges and outlook for retailers. Sherwin, who for more than two decades has been implementing and re-engineering retail technology systems,talks about the strategic role technology plays in positioning retailers for success.
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Sherwin Socaransky has over 20 years of retailstrategy, operations and technology experience.He has extensive expertise within trade, as a Big-5consultant and delivery executive for several leading technology vendors.Sherwin is currently Vice President of Merchandising and Store Systems at New York &Company – a leading retailer of women’s apparel. Over the past several years Sherwin has led ane-commerce launch while overseeing store technology transformation and CRM initiatives.In addition, he has supported several of the company’s strategic initiatives including foreignlicensing/sales and new brand launches.Prior to joining New York & Company, Sherwin was Vice President of Delivery Services atCRS Retail (acquired by Epicor). He was one of the early executives at Found, Inc., a real-timeinventory and order management company and has also worked for SAP (joint venture withIntel), STS Systems (now Epicor) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Sn Socnsky
Kathleen Kiley: Sherwin, I first want to thank you for participating in the ArgyleConversations series. Before we go into detail about how technology has helped New York & Company compete in this challenging retail environment, perhaps you candiscuss how you and other retailers are doing compared to last year. In addition,retailers are already planning for the holiday season. Can you discuss how you thinkthis holiday season will differ from last year and why?
Sherwin Socaransky: I think everybody in the retail trade is still genuinely perplexed andconcerned about what the consumer is going to do, what’s going through the consumer’smind and what the principle drivers are for getting them to part with their hard-earned dollars.Looking back, retailers had what I would consider to be a reasonably successful 2009 holi-day period, starting with Black Friday. People were rushing in during the holiday and retailerswere encouraged about the future based on numbers through February 2010. In response,many players ramped up their plans and when the momentum could not be sustained, theygot overbought into Spring and Summer.Looking ahead, we will continue to generally see tight expense models and limited inventoryin the stores; the unknown is really whether the consumer will respond with a similar level of pent-up demand we saw during the 2009 holiday. At the end of the day, the challenge lies incorrectly matching purchasing plans (locked-in well before the holiday) and pricing/promotionto consumer sentiment.
 
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Now that we have an overview of the retail environment, why is technology key for aretailer’s strategic growth and overall survival these days?
Technology has had a profound impact on produc-tivity, customer service and operational efficiencyfor our business. More than three years ago weembarked on a project to transform both thetechnology and process footprint of our stores. Ihad the privilege to both architect the solution andshepherd the implementation of a multi-milliondollar initiative. We delivered the project on timeand were on budget with a variance of less than0.5 percent. More importantly we audited our ROI(return on investment), functional deliverables andproduct quality and came in on target across theboard. We completely automated the matching of the customer-to-transaction process aswell as the application of promotion and direct marketing coupons at point of sale. Moreover,we moved away from a traditional cash box model to a real-time point of interaction for allinternal processes (reports, hiring, and corporate intranet), customer information and trans-action details. Given the volume of promotions per year in our business and the complexity of deals we offer, our customers and associates have truly felt and received the benefits.
How do you manage these promotions?
We’ve got roughly 600 stores, 2,500 registers. Meanwhile we have price and promotionactivity (into the thousands annually) going on so you want the system to do all the work inreal-time. You have to build some very robust algorithms in terms of being able to dynami-cally offer deals based on the last thing that just got scanned into the basket. In essence, webuilt a “best deal” function into the heart of the register that ties product, price, promotion andcustomer coupons together. More importantly, we moved to a customer-centric retailingmodel. So we decided to increase our ability to match the transaction to the customer byaccretively adding each transaction to her history. When we started this project we matchedcustomer to transaction about 40 percent of the time. Our goal was to double that rate.
So let’s say you know my history. Can you make me an offer on a sweater or denimpurchase that makes me come back?
 Yes. But first we had to have clean data; we netted out to twelve million active customersfrom a much larger universe. Traditionally, the first thing we did was ask for your phonenumber, very basic data elements. After the purchase we looked at your credit card or phonenumber and did some magic behind the scenes. However, phone numbers can change andare shared by members of the same family and sometimes folks pay with cash, check, giftcard or debit. This was not a high yield approach in as much as we were matching after thefact from data that could be confusing.
“I think everybody in the retailtrade is still genuinely perplexedand concerned about what theconsumer is going to do, what’sgoing through the consumer’smind, and what the principledrivers are for getting them to partwith their hard-earned dollars.”

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