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Posted: 3/7/2012
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Stein Mart Retailer Drives Nationwide Selling Strategy and Cuts TCO by $600,000 with BI Solution

Stein Mart, a nationwide department store, needed better access to business data to set prices each week. By implementing a Microsoft data warehouse and business intelligence (BI) solution, the company can manage information more efficiently and cut reporting time from hours to minutes. The solution is easy to use and manage, and the company has cut its total cost of ownership by more than 60 percent.

Business Needs

Stein Mart is a nationwide department store with 265 locations across the United States. It offers discount brand name merchandise including clothing, shoes, accessories, and home décor. To design the most profitable pricing strategy and allocate inventory for each store, Stein Mart executives required current performance information. However, cumbersome reporting tools slowed access to data.

* It can take up to three hours to aggregate data from billions of table rows …. But with xVelocity in SQL Server 2012, it takes 45 minutes to update the index, and then reports can be run on-demand with subsecond response. *

Kevin Cornett
Senior Manager of Business Intelligence
Stein Mart

The company worked with multiple BI applications, including a reporting tool from MicroStrategy and a data warehouse from IBM. At the end of each week, the IT team began preparing reports that were supposed to be ready for executives on Monday morning, so they could plan the week ahead. However, extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes and data aggregation were time-consuming tasks, and the team struggled to meet its service level agreements. “It took a long time to process and load all of the sales data from every store,” says Kevin Cornett, Senior Manager of Business Intelligence at Stein Mart. “Information often wasn’t ready until late Monday afternoon, but executives needed to have it in the morning to make forward-looking decisions.”

The company also sought a more affordable solution than managing BI products from multiple vendors. “We knew we needed better performance,” says Ilan Wajsman, Director of IT at Stein Mart. “And the other driver was cost—it required more than $1 million each year to run the existing solution.”

In addition, Stein Mart wanted to offer reports that could be easily created and distributed by anyone in the company. Wajsman says, “Our priorities are driven by executives who want an information-based culture.”


In July 2009, Stein Mart decided to replace its existing BI environment with a solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software and SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse reference architecture. In October 2011, the company began an upgrade to SQL Server 2012 Enterprise. The Microsoft solution had the capabilities Stein Mart required, and it would also be easy to implement and use.

“We believed the solution would offer a high return on investment,” says Wajsman. “It’s easier to find people who can work with SQL Server than it is to find a skill set for multiple Oracle or IBM products.”

Stein Mart turned to systems integrator Pragmatic Works for help converting existing ETL jobs written in COBOL code to SQL Server 2012 Integration Services data packages. Pragmatic Works is a Microsoft partner with a Gold Business Intelligence competency and extensive expertise in SQL Server technologies. Stein Mart will soon be using SQL Server 2012 Integration Services to quickly connect the data warehouse to multiple data sources, including financial, point-of-sale, and inventory systems.

The company simplified deployment by running the solution on existing HP ProLiant 785 G5 server computers with the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. Stein Mart plans to finish upgrading its BI solution in May 2012. In particular, it looks forward to using the xVelocity memory-optimized columnstore index in SQL Server 2012 for query acceleration.

Users will be able to run reports with Power View, an interactive web-based tool in SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services that they can launch from Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. The company is also creating multidimensional cubes with SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services that can be worked with in Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet software. Stein Mart estimates that approximately 500 employees will use the BI tools.


Stein Mart is using a Microsoft BI solution to deliver reports faster, improve access to information, and cut costs significantly.

Cuts Reporting Time from Hours to Minutes

With SQL Server 2012, Stein Mart can get information to busy users faster. As a result, the company can design effective selling strategies more quickly. ““It can take up to three hours to aggregate data from billions of table rows, and another three hours to run and cache some reports,” says Cornett. “But with xVelocity in SQL Server 2012, it takes 45 minutes to update the index, and then reports can be run on-demand with subsecond response.”

Improves Access to Business Data

By working with BI tools in familiar Office programs, Stein Mart executives will be less reliant on IT and will have access to mission-critical data when they need it. “SQL Server 2012 BI tools are improving productivity,” says Cornett. “They are easy to use, and we can offer reporting capabilities that combine all the information the executives need in one location. The solution will help users save time in their day-to-day workflow.”

Now, Stein Mart can realize the potential of both its data assets and its business analysts. “With a Microsoft BI solution, we gained functionality that we lacked in the past,” says Wajsman. “We’re a retailer, not a software developer, so it’s good to know that we can deliver the information that our executives need to run the business.”

Reduces TCO by $600,000

In addition to improving productivity for IT staff and business users, Stein Mart is cutting costs by taking advantage of affordable licensing and simplified management. “The alternative solutions considered would have required purchasing separate reporting, ETL and integration, and database management tools. We’ve reduced our total cost of ownership about $600,000 with a Microsoft BI solution,” says Wajsman. “And we’ve not only cut costs, we also have a new system that performs better.”

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

Organization Size: 16000 employees

Organization Profile
Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Stein Mart is a discount fashion retailer with 265 stores across the United States. Its products include brand name clothing, accessories, and home décor.

HP ProLiant 785 G5 server computers

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Excel 2010
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
General Merchandise

United States

Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

IT Issue
Data Warehousing


Microsoft Services Pragmatic Works