Seattle Mariners Hit A Home Run - InformationWeek

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Seattle Mariners Hit A Home Run

New point-of-sale and merchandising systems are helping the baseball franchise speed fans through checkout lines so they can get to their seats.

Bases were loaded, and it was the bottom of the ninth. The Seattle Mariners American League baseball team's IT department in January decided to install new point-of-sale and merchandising systems from CRS Retail Systems Inc. to speed fans through checkout lines at retail stores. The systems were put in portable kiosks and stores at Safeco Field Stadium and six shopping malls throughout Washington. Jump to April 1 and the season opener, and the Seattle Mariners' new point-of-sale and merchandising systems hit a home run.

The CRS POS and the CRS Merchandising applications are helping the team simplify sales of its T-shirts, hats, jackets, and other team memorabilia--60% of which is sold just before a game. "Between 3,000 and 5,000 transactions are conducted per game, and that's about six hours," says Jim La Shell, senior director of merchandise operations for the Seattle Mariners. "Here in the ballpark, customers can purchase items from one main store with 10 cash registers, and another four walk-in stores, and several moveable kiosks."

Store clerks at Safeco Field Stadium can now scan checks; accept debit, credit, and gift cards; and transmit the information over a 100Base-T Ethernet network connection and through the Internet to receive quick authorization, shaving minutes off each sale. The CRS platforms run on Windows 2000, making the software intuitive for new cashiers not yet familiar with ringing up transactions.

The software is also helping the franchise find the best mix of merchandise and inventory, which includes Seattle Mariners' merchandise and that of the competing team's, at each of the 81 home games scheduled this year. CRS POS provides more details on transactions and available inventory with less effort than before. In the old system, which La Shell declined to name, "we'd run different reports and enter the information into an Excel spreadsheet to get the data required to make purchasing decisions based on what is sold." Now with CRS, the Seattle Mariners in an instant can analyze data for potential sales, accurate inventory count, merchandise cost, gross profit margins, and open purchase orders, he says.

The point-of sale information, which is stored on Hewlett-Packard ProLiant servers, creates better tracking and receiving documentation as products are shipped from the distribution center to stores. When a cashier rings up a purchase for a jacket or a jersey through CRS POS, the information is shared with the franchise's purchasing and warehouse-management systems so employees at its Auburn, Wash., distribution center can track merchandise sold and restock items to the stores by 1 p.m. the next day.

Integration with other applications, including a CRM system from Onyx Software Inc. to monitor season ticket-holder accounts, and an application from Ticketmaster Technologies Inc., went smoothly, says Dave Curry, the Mariners' IT director.

About 55% of total revenue from team memorabilia is generated on the day of the game. Nearly a month into the 2005 season and La Shell is happy with the results from the new software. This is coming from a merchandising manager working at one of the world's most high-tech stadiums with retractable roof, which opened in July 1999. "Overall, we're pleased with the software and think we made the right decision," he says. "We're getting better information on what to buy and when to buy it than in the past."

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