Retailers are potentially missing out on millions of pounds in savings because they don’t have a strategic roadmap for voice and data convergence, according to a report.

By upgrading the infrastructure between head office, stores and distribution centres to Internet Protocol (IP), retailers can run their data and voice traffic on one network. This ensures that they do not have to pay a telecoms provider for internal calls.

A survey from convergence specialist Omnetica showed that although retailers scored almost as highly as other vertical markets in their commitment to at least one element of using convergence technologies, they scored higher than base on call centre applications, but surprisingly low on worker productivity solutions.

Omnetica has launched the survey as it agrees a deal with leisure chain Sports Soccer for a converged voice and data network for about 150 stores.

Omnetica strategic director Alex Beck said: ‘We found that, unsurprisingly, contact centres with a multimedia environment are higher on the list for retailers than any other industry.’

Beck estimated that a retailer with about 200 stores typically spends up to £5 million a year on conventional trunk calling. ‘The majority of calls made within a retail company are between stores or to the head office,’ he said.

Beck suggested that this expense could be stripped out after the second year of a converged voice and data upgrade.

However, he explained that the real savings are made when such a network is used for video as well.

‘There is a real business case for IP-based video surveillance. A 200-store retailer might spend up to £175,000 on a CCTV system for every store, but they also have to employ someone to watch it all. If you have an IP network, you can get someone to do that centrally,’ he said.

‘You can also hook your CCTV up to your in-store wireless network, so that if someone is spotted trying to steal something, their face can be downloaded on to a shop worker’s PDA and the thief can be caught before they’ve left the building.’