WHSmith News is offering key customers access to sales data to improve their efficiency and help spot trends.
The magazine wholesaler and distributor has been taking daily Electronic Point of Sale data on newspaper and magazine sales from its key accounts - including Tesco, Asda and its own retail arm, WHSmith - and sending out sales reports to retailers and magazine publishers.
The service runs via an extranet and is accessible to customers via a subscription service. Access to the information costs from £1,000 a year for small customers.
Richard Webb, business systems manager at WHSmith News, said the reports enable the company to react to sales trends and to help customers with their internal reporting to support decisions about production quantities.
"The Christmas Radio Times and TV Times have just gone on the shelves and we can feedback how it's selling or if there are hotspots for sales," said Webb.
"There's so much data relating to this category - it's about distilling it down to meaningful information."
Already 48 suppliers and magazine publishers have signed up to access information on their products.
"One of the biggest benefits was to visibility to supply chain partners to help the distribution effort. They're interested in understanding the dynamics of their product in the marketplace," said Webb.
"It also shows how we're performing. It's much more of a collaborative approach."
The service forms part of an overall information strategy underpinned by a SAP implementation, an Oracle data warehouse and business intelligence tools from Business Objects.
WHSmith News has slashed £1m in costs in the last year by consolidating legacy systems and using business intelligence tools to streamline its supply chain processes and reduce shrinkage and waste of the magazines it sends out to retailers.
"We had 19 databases across 95 legacy systems that didn't talk to each other," said Webb.
"When a new business problem cropped up we just built another system. We had a real problem with data quality and integrity and we were starting to lose competitive advantage by spending so much time on it."
But Webb admitted that opening up the information to customers had involved a significant culture shift.
"No matter how effective we are, if we get the product late from the publisher this information shows how they fit into what we do and how they could be letting us down."
WHSmith News delivers 53 million newspapers and magazines to 22,000 retail outlets, including newsagents and supermarkets.
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