Catalog Vet Overhauls Apps 2

Lillian Vernon replaces aging systems and structures; new apps include digital-asset management
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.

Direct Holdings will spend up to $5 million, says Tom Scott, VP of operations and CIO of Direct Holdings

Direct Holdings will spend up to $5 million, CIO Scott says.
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 in place were decades 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 Holdings' businesses, which now include Time Life Inc. music and video direct marketing, are moving to PeopleSoft Inc. software for most back-office applications. 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.

As if the overhaul weren't enough, much of the project was under way as Lillian Vernon was moving its distribution center and data center from Indianapolis to new facilities in Virginia Beach, Va. The move involved relocating 1.7 million units of inventory and 60 different apps and servers.

Direct Holdings will spend as much as $5 million on the IT overhaul, but "on operational efficiencies alone, we're expecting $3 million or $4 million" in savings, Scott says. And, he says, the Evant project and customer database should increase revenue by improving forecasts and enabling better target marketing.

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