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Posted: 7/19/2012
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Edcon Retailer Cuts Data-Processing Time by 50 Percent, Can Make Better Pricing Decisions

Retailer Edcon operates more than 1,000 stores that sell clothes, shoes, and textiles in South Africa and neighbouring countries. Edcon wanted to increase its database performance in an effort to get pricing information to stores faster and improve overall business efficiency. It implemented a Microsoft database management solution, which has helped cut data-processing time in half. Edcon can get hourly sales data to managers faster and will eventually be able to ensure higher system availability.

Business Needs

Edcon is the leading retailer of clothing, footwear, and textiles in South Africa. Founded in 1929, the company has 10 retail brands and operates more than 1,000 stores in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

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* With our SQL Server 2012 solution, we can process sales data faster and deliver more accurate hourly sales figures…. Now, management can make better decisions, because they can see sales by store or region, for every single hour of the day.  *

Clinton Nason
Contract Service Delivery Manager
Edcon

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To improve business efficiency, the company needed to increase the performance of its 4-terabyte central database, which supports a mission-critical point-of-sale (POS) application. Used by 18,000 employees, the application collects all sales data from all stores and sends that information to a database running on Microsoft SQL Server 2005 software, where it is processed for analysis. “Our merchandising systems rely on up-to-date sales and stock information from stores to ensure optimal stock level per store,” says Clinton Nason, Contract Service Delivery Manager, Edcon.

Edcon also wanted to speed the processing of the pricing data that is delivered to stores during special promotions. “Because of the size of our environment and the number of unique items in the database, it takes a long time to process pricing changes,” says Nason. “It typically takes 20 hours or more to process a change in the database and get it to all the stores. In some cases, stores don’t get the price change in time, so customers can’t take advantage of the offer right away. That means potential lost sales.”

In addition, the company sought to get data to its executives faster. “In retail, having time to act is important,” says Nason. “There is value in exploiting items that sell faster than expected. Furthermore, the ability to act on items that sell poorly is also key.”

Edcon also wanted a more highly available system. “Our POS system is our most critical system, and we need it to be up all the time,” states Nason. “It handles data related to customers’ buying habits, merchandise replenishment, and other important information we need to run the business.”

In late 2011, Edcon decided to implement a new solution to address its needs.

Solution

Edcon chose to upgrade its central database engine to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise. “We have been very pleased with SQL Server, and because of the new features in SQL Server 2012 and the great Microsoft support we had received for a long time, we knew it was the right choice.”

Edcon was interested in the new SQL Server 2012 xVelocity memory-optimized columnstore index feature, which can increase database query–processing speeds by storing data by columns instead of rows. The company also wanted to implement the SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn high-availability feature, which offers readable database mirroring and uses availability groups for supporting multiple database failover.

SQL Server 2012 also contains a new version of SQL Server Service Broker, a feature Edcon had already been using to provide its database engine with native support for messaging and queuing applications. SQL Server 2012 Service Broker offers new functionality, such as the ability to automatically distribute messages across the entire network.

Microsoft Services consultants helped Edcon upgrade its database engine to SQL Server 2012 in December 2011. The new database consolidates all data flowing in and out of the company’s systems, including the POS application. Data is replicated and sent to 1,200 stores using the merge replication capabilities in SQL Server 2012. Replication is done within each store via transactional replication.

At the store level, when a customer purchases an item, a transaction log is generated in the POS application, and SQL Server 2012 Service Broker moves that transactional information seamlessly from any of the 16,000-plus POS terminals to the central SQL Server 2012 database. From there, analytical reports can be processed for use by Edcon analysts and senior managers.

Edcon plans to implement SQL Server AlwaysOn by the end of 2012.

Benefits

With its new solution, Edcon has cut data processing times by 50 percent and can produce accurate hourly sales data for each store faster. The company will also ensure higher availability once it deploys SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn.

Cuts Data Processing Time by 50 Percent

Edcon has already seen database performance improvements in its new SQL Server 2012 database engine, even without implementing SQL Server 2012 xVelocity.

“We have already experienced significant performance improvements by upgrading our central database to SQL Server 2012,” says Nason. “Recently, during testing, we processed 20 million price look-up codes in just over 9 hours. That would have taken us 20 hours previously. With that improvement in processing speed, we can ensure that all of our stores receive pricing changes before a special in-store promotion begins. We expect to improve this performance even more with the xVelocity columnstore index feature.”

Speeds Delivery of Accurate Hourly Data to Management

With faster data processing, along with new enhancements in SQL Server Service Broker, Edcon can get accurate hourly sales figures to its senior management faster than before. “With our SQL Server 2012 solution, we can process sales data faster and deliver more accurate hourly sales figures,” says Nason. “Previously, our figures were off slightly, depending on how far behind the data backlog was. Now, management can make better pricing decisions, because they can see sales by store or region, for every single hour of the day.”

Will Help Minimize System Downtime

When Edcon deploys SQL Server AlwaysOn, it will be able to ensure high availability for its POS application. “Because of the volume of data we process, we can’t have downtime. Even a few hours of downtime means a delay in processing and a delay in getting pricing information to stores,” says Nason. “With SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, we’ll minimize that downtime, which will especially help us during our busy holiday shopping time and at the end of the year. We’ll have the assurance we need that our most critical systems will be always available.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 40000 employees

Organization Profile

Edcon is a fast-growing multibrand retailer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. It operates department stores and other retail stores in South Africa and several other countries in Africa.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Services
  • BMC - Mission Critical

Vertical Industries
Retail and Consumer Goods

Country/Region
South Africa

Business Need
  • Mission Critical
  • Business Critical

IT Issue
High Availability

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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