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Fighting for space.

A South Dakota distributor employs new technology in the fight for cooler facings

Carlson Distributing, A Miller Brewing Co. distributor, knows the trenches of the war for market share in the beer industry well. They know many battles are not fought during half-time of the Superbowl, but on a daily basis by a national network of wholesalers and distributors. Like football, this war is a game of inches and positioning. A game where the latest technology and equipment are employed to build strength. And, as in football, teamwork between players is critical.

As the third largest brewer in the world and the second in the U.S., Miller wanted to give distributors such as Carlson a broader selection of software tools that was currently available to them. Carlson, South Dakota's largest beer distributor, implemented a solution from Intactix International on Miller's recommendation in June of 1995. According to Carlson managers, the Intactix system has already helped solidify their position at the top of the market.

Carlson selected Intactix's InterCept and InterPad products. They believed the system's scanning capabilities and ease of use would improve productivity and reduce the time necessary to build a planogram. According to Jim Burma, Jr. of Carlson, "We were convinced that these types of service would provide a competitive advantage. If we did not jump on the ball, another distributor would have, and we would have been fighting to catch up. Now we are ahead of everyone."

InterCept for Windows provides Carlson with inventory analysis, business graphics, spreadsheet displays, report writers and "drag and drop" movement of products and shelves on-screen. InterPad adds bar code scanning and an integral keyboard for quickly entering facing and audit information.

Carlson uses the tools the program has to offer to highlight the slowest and highest sellers. According to Burma, "We try to act as the category manager in their store. Now, everyone looks at the whole cooler, instead of just one brand. We've gained space for brands where we were underspaced and have been able to identify and make adjustments for products that are not performing as well."

According to Kevin Doyle, vice president-national accounts & sales for Miller, "In the old days, the sales rep took a Polaroid of the store and sent it to the space management coordinator, who had to try to build the planogram from a picture without clear images or measurements. Now they often build the entire planogram by scanning the store, which greatly reduces turnaround time and improves accuracy."

The InterVision add-on provides a fast low-cost method of viewing sections in near photographic quality, working with product images right on the planogram. Carlson often works with store management on location, using the laptop system. Store manager's suggestions are incorporated on-screen, further involving them and enhancing their comfort level with the recommendations being made.

Key benefits to Carlson are the low cost and user-friendliness of the software. The Windows interface made the system accessible, reducing training requirements that made alternative solutions investigated by Carlson unacceptable. The scanning capability of InterCept and InterPad produces improved productivity, enabling Carlson to build planograms quickly. Intactix's InterVision add-on lets Carlson work with photographic quality planograms. Managers have a color picture of their store that is referenced to make sure no changes occur without approval. In terms of doing planograms for their customers, introducing new products, protecting their space at store level, and providing recommendations for efficient space management, Carlson managers say that the Intactix line provides many important advantages.

Miller continues to serve as a central point of contact on shelf management issues and provides hardware and software recommendations, general information and support to Carlson in addition to the support services offered by Intactix. Miller manages a large library of product data and images using InterCept at their headquarters and maintains a complete product database and image library, which is provided to distributor at no cost.

When asked for additional reasons why Carlson chose Intactix, Burma replied, "Intactix has a willingness to work with customers as partners that is truly unique in the industry. Their technical support has been excellent and they have a BBS and a presence on the World Wide Web for updates and other information that is available 24 hours. I can E-Mail my technical support queries and get answers the same way, often within hours instead of days."

Burma concluded, "There is no doubt in my mind that Carlson will increase sales thanks to the Intactix system. It strengthens our relationship with customers and puts our name in their head first when they make promotional decisions. Sales results from the initial stores using the system will be reviewed in a few months. So far, though, everyone has been really impressed."
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:computerized store display planning
Author:Strunin, Lisa
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jan 29, 1996
Words:785
Previous Article:The impacts of distributor consolidation.
Next Article:Building a presence.
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