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Catalog Vet Overhauls Apps

Lillian Vernon replaces systems and structures going back 50 years; new apps include digital-asset-management software.

For more than 50 years, Lillian Vernon Corp. has sold its wares via catalogs, moving more recently into online and retail sales. The retailer today introduces more than 1,700 products a year and, in fiscal 2004, shipped more than 3.8 million packages to customers all around the world.

But its IT infrastructure hasn't kept up, so the company is investing in a major overhaul of its core applications. The project began last year, shortly after Lillian Vernon was purchased by Ripplewood and ZelnickMedia; all the entities were combined into Direct Holdings Worldwide LLC.

"When the new owners took over, they found that most of the systems and structures we had were 50 years old,' says Tom Scott, VP of operations and CIO of Direct Holdings. "It was decided pretty quickly that we really needed to upgrade our IT systems and infrastructure."

All of Direct Holding's businesses, which now includes Time Life Inc. music and video direct marketing, are moving to PeopleSoft Inc. software for most back-office apps. And Lillian Vernon is implementing tools from Evant Inc., including Evant's Merchandise Planning as well as Demand Planning and Replenishment.

A more accessible customer database is in the works, and just last month, the company finished implementing Comosoft Inc. digital-asset-management software to catalog images and data on its Web sites.

Direct Holdings will spend as much as $5 million on the IT overhaul, but considers it money well-spent. "On operational efficiencies alone, we're expecting $3 million or $4 million" in savings, Scott says. Plus, the Evant project and customer database should enhance revenue by improving forecasts and enabling better target marketing.

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