Retail Solutions - B&Q aims to reduce shrinkage with mobile markdown monitor

DIY chain B&Q is piloting a mobile markdown label printing application, which is expected to save six-figure sums per store by centralising and controlling ad-hoc markdowns.

At the moment, as is common with many stores, markdowns of slow-moving or damaged lines are left to the discretion of individual store managers. They use handwritten markdown labels detailing large reductions, often promoted as 'manager's specials'.

'We have been unable to establish the margin loss until after the sale is made,' says B&Q senior business analyst Nick Adnitt. 'This type of shrinkage can easily run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.'

The new system utilises the existing wireless LANs in B&Q stores, along with Symbol PDAs, rugged portable Zebra printers, software from Eastman POS, and consultancy and central system from Wincor-Nixdorf.

Staff scan the product code of merchandise to be marked down using the PDA and are given a range of discount options that will still produce acceptable margins.

Once a markdown price has been selected, the label can be printed and, at the same time, central systems will be updated to monitor impact on store profitability and highlight problem lines.

Pilots are running in six stores close to B&Q's Hampshire headquarters - at Hedge End and Nursling in Hampshire; Bournemouth town centre, Bournemouth Castle Point and Poole in Dorset; and Newport on the Isle of Wight.

The aim is to start national roll-out some time after B&Q's seasonal Easter trading peak.

B&Q has also been experimenting with PDAs, developed by Multichannel Retail, for customer service applications at three stores - in Cardiff, Warrington and Stirling - but had been unable to justify the cost of roll-out.