ARMONK, N.Y. — IBM and Sky IT Group are helping fashion and apparel suppliers, like New York-based Theory, to more intelligently take advantage of consumer trends by equipping them with a powerful software as a service (SaaS) offering.

Utilizing IBM's DB2 database software and IBM BladeCenter server technology, Sky IT Group developed SkyPAD, a SaaS-based dashboard for the consumer products industry designed to allow manufacturers, distributors and retailers to view their product sales performance at the store level. It provides statistical, graphical and image views of products sold at retail stores, allowing suppliers and retailers to make production, sales and merchandising decisions based on real-time facts.

For many years, consumer product companies relied on manually intensive reporting techniques, such as spreadsheets, that did not integrate or automatically update information, making it difficult to track sales trends and make business decisions. These methods also have not proven to be cost effective as companies expanded their business.

SkyPAD brings a huge amount of data together from the user's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, allowing sales executives and merchandisers to "slice and dice" information and make informed production, orders and markdown decisions based on real-time product sales performance. As a SaaS-based offering, it eliminates the cost of purchasing and maintaining an in-house solution for its users.

After integrating SkyPAD in less than four weeks, the apparel company Theory used the Web-based tool to increase the efficiency of its business. Theory fully linked its ERP data with that of its retailers to determine marketplace trends. For example, if data indicated that sales of a certain color cardigan steadily increased while sales of another color decreased, the company is able to follow the trend and increase shipments of the more popular color cardigan in a timelier manner.

"Prior to implementing SkyPAD, we had a static service that would be updated only once a week and wasn't readily accessible by all who needed the information," said Keitaro Shigemasa, chief information officer for Theory. "We now have a much more flexible platform where information sharing has improved, we are able to easily integrate data from retailers with our internal ERP data, and our overall running costs have significantly decreased."

With SkyPAD, merchandisers, sales groups and others, are better equipped with information to deal with both customers and retail buyers, and it helps users make more informed decisions on merchandise allocations within customers' retail stores.

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