High fashion went high tech Monday, as 7thOnline.com signed a deal to add EDI-based electronic payments to its roster of services for the fashion industry.
Gearing up for its first big fashion-buying season, 7thOnline said Monday that an alliance with G,E Global Exchange Services will let fashion designers and buyers exchange documents and payments electronically, using GE's catalog system and electronic data interchange network.
7thOnline is designed to augment the traditional fashion show by letting buyers review what they saw and estimate not just how all the merchandise will look together, but how much it will cost, says CEO Max Ma. The centralized catalog will allow suppliers to price and reprice goods at a single location, where buyers can finalize the purchase order and complete their transactions. Saks Inc. has already signed up as the beta customer.
Partnering with the most prominent EDI provider is a tremendous advantage in helping customers reduce costs, Ma says. And 7thOnline's roster of high-fashion insiders, including investors such as the former heads of A&S, Burdine's, and Neimann Marcus, will give GE Global Exchange Services entr?e to the higher end of the fashion industry, a strata that high technology has yet to penetrate. "GE is predominantly in lower-tier department stores such as Target and J.C. Penney," Ma says.
GE's solution will use XML translations to bring the EDI payment system, heretofore affordable only by high-volume customers, to a wider base, says Bob Brooks, GE's general manager of retail solutions. "The whole idea is to take EDI to an Internet-based form and a private-network-based form that allows the small guy who can't afford the integration to play in the game," he says. "The small guy can play with nothing but a browser, the medium-size company can play using our integration capabilities, and large players can take advantage of the existing infrastructure they already have."