Business analytics is a dominant theme in the retail industry these days. New 2011 research on retail technology spend trends from IHL Group and RIS News shows that providing store associates with better tools rose to the top of retail priorities for store systems. Better BI tools lead to smarter store-level decisions as employees gain easier access to current information and consumer insights.

One such retailer that has already taken those steps to empower employees - creating both dashboards for more effective decision making and updating to highly scalable databases - is Florida-based Stein Mart.

As a large department store chain that pledges "more fashion, less price," Stein Mart relies heavily on its BI strategy to get the right information, to the right people, at the right time. To support its growth strategy, the retailer needed a way to give both its store management and executive management access to end-to-end business intelligence. This also included faster data reporting and new analysis capabilities to improve sales and bottom line productivity. 

Stein Mart switched from an IBM-based business intelligence system to a solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 built on HP technology platform. The solution also includes Excel Services in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. 

As a result, store managers now have in-store performance dashboards at their fingertips. The technology does the heavy lifting -analyzing millions of rows of data - and delivers the right information to support actionable decisions that can improve sales that very same day. "This technology gives us the ability to be more fact-based as a company, according to Stein Mart's Director of IT Ilan Wajsman. "We can make business decisions based on demonstrated sales history."

Weekly sales reports are now processed in less than three hours, compared to 14 hours with the previous system and new reports can be deployed in a matter of minutes. With the new system being so much easier and less expensive to maintain, Stein Mart has experienced a 70 percent performance improvement and is saving $600,000 a year in technology costs. "The timing savings helps us focus on business and customer challenges, rather than technical ones," says Wajsman.

For more information on Stein Mart's technology deployment and to hear directly from the Stein Mart team, watch the video. To read about the announcement, click here.