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Gottschalks links customer service, communications system.

Gottschalks is one of the fastest growing department stores in the nations.

That very expansion, movement, and an increasing number of customers within its hometown--Fresno, Calif.--forced the chain to assess their communications system needs.

In August 1986, Gottschalks hired a consultant to evaluate their current network, connecting the corporate headquarters, three retail outlets, and a distribution center. All were located in a 10-mile radius.

At the time of evaluation, Gottschalks was leasing off-premise extension (OPX) lines from the phone company. The switch had reached maximum capacity and upgrading would have been costly. In addition, the OPX lines were becoming expensive and cumbersome.

The consultant recommended the use of a microwave radio system complemented with a Northern Telecom SL-1 switch.

With radios provided by Digital Microwave Corporation (DMC) of San Jose, Calif., Gottshalks could cost-effectively connect company headquarters to the Manchester Mall, Fashion Fair Mall, Fig Garden Mall, and the distribution center.

In addition, a microwave radio system could grow with the company as they expanded or relocated within the area, a common practice in the retail and wholesale industry.

In a preliminary path analysis, line-of-sight was established between the various locations. It was determined that DMC-23 radios and a switch based downtown, with remote peripheral equipment (RPE) at each store, would best serve Gottschalks' communications requirements.

With headquarters serving as a central hub, the 23 GHz links were established. This involved sending four Tls from the corporate office to the repeater site at the Fashion Fair shopping center.

Dropping two Tls, a requirement of the RPE, the remaining two Tls would be passed to the Fig Garden center.

The distribution center and the Manchester shopping center would each receive two Tls from the hub as well. While 16 Tls were available, only eight would be used, leaving plenty of room for future system expansion.

Based on these recommendations, a microwave system was installed and has provided uninterrupted service ever since. As the transition from OPX lines to microwave was transparent, operator training on the new system was unnecessary.

Gottschalks was able to provide improved customer service through desk-to-desk dialing and conference call capabilities, allowing employees to expedite merchandise requests.

"With quick, reliable service, we're able to put calls through quickly. It's been very effective and efficient," says Virginia Wolverton, corporate PBX manager.

While there has never been a system failure, interference on the line occurred for a short time after the system was installed.

Upon investigation it was discovered that a 100-foot pine tree was blocking line-of-sight between Fashion Fair and Fig Garden. The situation was resolved after Gottschalks purchased the top 20 feet of the tree from its owner, leaving him with a winter supply of firewood as well.

Nearly five years later, Gottschalks has decided to take advantage of microwave radio's portability and ease of installation in a move that will go unnoticed by the general public and many of Gottschalks' own employees.

In October 1991, Gottschalks was relocating its corporate headquarters to another part of Fresno. The new headquarters, serving as the communications hub, will house the switch and make use of the two radio links which had previously connected headquarters with the distribution center and Manchester Mall.

Serving as a repeater site, Manchester Mall will receive six Tls from the new location. At this point, four Tls will be sent to Fashion Fair, which in turn will send two Tls to Fig Garden. This will provide the required interconnection.

The move was scheduled to take place overnight while the stores are closed. Moving the switch, installing radios, and establishing communications between all locations was to be completed before the stores opened for business the following morning.

"Customer service is extremely important to us. Reliable communications have made that service possible," Wolverton says.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Retail & Wholesale
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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