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Warnaco Asia bets on virtualization

Sheila Lam | March 6, 2013
POS virtualization takes Warnaco Asia on a rapid expansion path. Warnaco Asia, the retail distributor for Calvin Klein, took a bold move five years ago--it virtualized the POS system.

POS virtualization takes Warnaco Asia on a rapid expansion path.Warnaco Asia, the retail distributor for Calvin Klein, took a bold move five years ago--it virtualized the POS system.

Like the heart of a human body, the POS (point-of-sale) system is vital for any retailer. It handles sales transactions, collects customer data, supports different customer loyalty programs and discount campaigns. If the POS system goes down, the store becomes paralyzed.

Five years ago, when desktop virtualization remained a new technology, Patrick Lamp, information technology director of Warnaco Asia, decided to convert the company's POS system to a desktop virtualization architecture. For Asia, this was a pioneering deployment.

"But if I hadn't made that decision," said Lamp, "we wouldn't be where we are today."

A web of problems

Lamp said that when he first joined the company: "the POS implementation was a mess."

There were multiple issues, including lack of support for users across the region, confusion with data integrity and complexity of upgrades. Under the previous POS architecture, each retail store hosted its own POS software, database and hardware. Lamp said maintaining this de-centralized architecture was costly and challenging.

Warnaco had retail stores across Hong Kong, Korea, Australia and China. "We needed external consultants to maintain the system and support the users, but that support was limited," he said. "If the POS system had problems on a Sunday, on a peak shopping day, no one was able to help--we had lots of complaints."

Another major problem was data integrity. On every sale, data needed to travel both ways between the store's local POS system and the central database in Hong Kong to verify customer profiles and promotional data. By month-end, the sales data between the stores' POS systems and the centralized database often did not match. Lamp's team had to spend weeks or months investigating.

"Lost data could happen anytime within the month-long period, and the cause could be the network, the POS system or a database issue," he said. To ensure a secure and high performance network, the company was also spending heavily on network infrastructure.

"There was so much finger-pointing," said Lamp. "We spent a lot of money, but users were still frustrated."

On top of the maintenance issues, another headache was supporting new store openings. Each POS installation required hardware and network experts to set up the machines, POS experts for software configuration, and database administrators for data integration.

Business innovation

Although the hardware and software could be set up centrally in Hong Kong, Lamp still needed to ship the equipment and send his team or outsource an IT pro to install them at the location. This became a nightmare for Lamp when Warnaco Asia decided to transform its business model from distributorship to direct retail.


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