Soletrader must have the right stock in the right locations at the right times to satisfy demand for the smartest footwear. How could it keep customers happy, every time they step into the store?
Soletrader uses IBM Power Systems servers hosted by CSI to support its mission-critical applications, helping to optimise inventory management, and maintain stock at the most efficient levels.
50 timesfaster core systems, enabling users to work more productively
Optimisesstock levels across stores, meeting customer demand for premium brands
SafeguardsIT service continuity, reducing the risk of interruptions to operations
Business challenge story
Delivering first-rate customer service
When you step into a shoe shop in search of the hottest new brands, you always want to walk out with your preferred size and style. And when you’re shopping online, there’s nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect pair, only to see “Out of Stock” when you click to buy.
For leading footwear retailer Soletrader, ensuring customers can grab the styles they want is the centrepiece of a long-standing commitment to great service. The company, which trades under the Soletrader and Sole brands, maintains a high-street presence with nearly 50 stores offering the very best international brands, together with many online channels including their primary domain soletrader.co.uk.
Marcel Bordon, CEO of Soletrader, begins: “We operate in a highly competitive retail sector, and must have the right stock in the right places at the right time to meet demand and keep our customers engaged. Each of our stores serves a slightly different demographic, and we need to be able to optimise stock levels for every store all year round, especially during periods of peak demand.”
Previously, the company relied on on-premise servers in its local offices to support its business-critical applications, including warehouse and inventory management, sales reporting, purchasing and accounting systems. But Soletrader quickly began to recognise the limitations of this setup.
David Bordon, IT Director at Soletrader explains: “We knew our disaster recovery setup, for example, was not as robust or complete as it could be across our data centre sites, and some backup processes were becoming increasingly tricky to complete.
“As we continue to expand our operations, especially online, we knew that we needed a more resilient, scalable infrastructure to process growing workloads. We started to search for solutions delivering exceptional reliability and performance to keep our systems online 24/7, 365 days a year.”
Deploying best-in-class, scalable cloud servers
To support its ongoing growth, Soletrader decided to deploy IBM Power Systems servers running the IBM i operating system. The infrastructure is delivered as a cloud service by managed service provider and IBM Platinum Business Partner CSI. The fully hosted service includes round-the-clock monitoring of the IBM solutions by CSI’s technical team.
David Bordon elaborates on the selection process: “We already knew about the exceptional robustness and performance of IBM Power Systems, so there was no question of looking beyond them to another infrastructure vendor.
“We also had a long-standing relationship with CSI; they previously managed our on-premise servers and have always delivered an outstanding service. When CSI presented in-depth customer references detailing similar cloud deployments, we quickly recognised the significant benefits of moving to the infrastructure-as-a-service model.”
He continues: “IBM Power on Cloud provides the resilience and scale we need. It enables multiple users from across the business to log in to our core inventory, sales, and accounting systems at the same time, without any dip in performance. At the end of each day we’re processing all our sales log files from our multiple retail channels within our IBM i environment. However great the workload, we know the IBM systems can cope.”
Soletrader also engaged CSI to provide ongoing 24/7 support services for its cloud infrastructure. The engagement includes disaster recovery planning, regular backups, hardware upgrades and maintenance, as well as the implementation of a new Office 365 environment to replace Soletrader’s previous Microsoft Exchange mail server.
David Bordon comments: “Any time of the day or night we encounter an issue we can raise a ticket with CSI, and they will deal with the problem promptly, keeping network availability high and our systems running smoothly. We also receive a monthly report documenting systems performance, helping us monitor areas for improvement.”
He adds: “Working with CSI and IBM continues to be an excellent experience. The implementation of the cloud infrastructure was a smooth, seamless process, and we’re already looking ahead to further initiatives around cyber security and optimising the online user experience. Thanks to our rock-solid IBM infrastructure, we’re planning to digitise more of our services.”
Keeping one step ahead of the competition
With cloud-hosted IBM solutions underpinning its critical systems, Soletrader is achieving its goal of business growth through satisfying customer demand with the sharpest new footwear trends.
David Bordon explains: “Compared to our on-premise servers, our core applications now run 50 times faster in our IBM i environment, enabling users to perform valuable tasks quicker and boosting productivity – a fantastic result.
“For example, we have recently focused on improving the efficiency of our warehouse management. Previously, our systems could not cope with the workload demands of rapid development. Now, however, we have the speed and the processing power to support increased development activity. We have built smarter new solutions that help our warehouses run more smoothly.”
The enhanced scalability and performance of the IBM solutions is also enabling Soletrader to analyse more sales and store data, allowing the company to optimise its inventory management.
David Bordon continues: “Checking stock levels across our store locations was a major drain on our resources with our old systems. With the new servers, we can develop new ways of monitoring inventory levels, making it much easier to optimise stock turnover, and ensure we don’t overbuy a particular brand or style. As soon as we see one store where stock is low, we can act fast and transfer stock from another location – ensuring shoppers can always find the styles they want, and strengthening our customer relationships.”
In addition, the performance and robustness of IBM Power Systems has allowed Soletrader to take on more office staff, performing value-add tasks and contributing to continuous business growth. “We have doubled the number of users and machines on our network,” says David Bordon. “And we couldn’t have done it without the strength of our underlying infrastructure.”
The cloud-hosted servers also boost the level of resilience within Soletrader’s IT setup, with full disaster recovery. “Formerly, our two data centre sites were too closely situated to be fully guarded against disaster. With the IBM servers now securely hosted in the CSI data centres, we can rest assured that we have full protection – it certainly helps me sleep easier at night.”
Moving to the managed service model is helping Twinmar achieve valuable time and cost savings, too. With CSI handling all maintenance tasks for the IBM servers, the company no longer has to devote time and resources to lengthy backup and hardware upgrades.
Marcel Bordon concludes: “Working with IBM and CSI has been very valuable for our business, and for the level of service we provide to our customers. The move to Power Systems on Cloud has helped us stay agile and keep one step ahead of our rivals in this ultra-competitive market.”
Twinmar Group, operating under the Soletrader and Sole brand names, is a leading footwear retailer, offering premium and designer brands for men, women and children. Founded in 1963 and headquartered in Hemel Hempstead in the UK, the company retains an online and high street presence, with 50 stores selling the very best labels such as Hugo Boss, Timberland, Burberry and Adidas.