In the age of digitalization, data is absolutely essential for a company, even in the sports industry. The confusion of different formats is just as great in the industry as the costs of conversion.
“There are even some larger brands that are still working with paper. But principles like never out of stock (NOS) still only work if the data quality is right. Thus, some of our members came up with the idea to share the costs for data conversion and establish a joint interface for data exchange,” explains Nicole Espey.
She’s the chair of the Federal Association of the German Sporting Goods Industry (BSI), under the umbrella of which the so-called “BSI Sport Clearing Center” was built. The fact that the data interface was built right here has several advantages: On the one hand, the association is impartial for both sides, with members from industry and retail; on the other hand, as a registered association, it only has to cover costs.
This saves all participants money. That flat-rate annual cost is 7,000 euros for BSI members and 8,000 euros for non-members – which include unlimited data exchange with an unlimited number of retail partners. Transaction and volume fees are not charged. Participation is free for retail partners.
Retailers (and manufacturers) only have to pay to have their own in-house format mapped into the BSI format and for the software package for secure connection to the BSI Sport Clearing Center. But at roughly 5,000 euros per year, this is still relatively inexpensive. On the retailer side, Intersport, Sport2000, Sport Scheck, Markant, Dehner, and RAWare also involved.
“We’re in the process of contacting several smaller retailers and connecting them on request,” reports Espey. So far, Adidas, Fashy, Fibertec, Joola, Lowa, Marmot, Nordisk, Ortlieb, OSC, Scippis, Tatanka, and Zangenberg have put their trust in the new interface. “The more join in, the cheaper it could absolutely be for everyone in the future,” Espey promises.
Aside from the cost savings through joint financing of the EDI software converter, the other benefits are obvious: The data quality is improved, the overview of the availability of goods increases, and thus production and warehouse planning can be taken to a whole new level.
By reporting sales figures and the resulting deliveries of new goods, retailers can effectively manage NOS systems. In the future, the BSI even hopes that data exchange and trend analyses will enable collections to be developed in line with the market.
The participants in the BSI Sport Clearing Center have agreed on the EDIFACT format as the uniform standard, as it best depicts retail requirements as they stand. Nevertheless, that can change in the future. Many smaller retailers rely on XML for cost and comprehension reasons, for example.
“Naturally, we will be constantly further developing the data exchange. And the members will decide together what’s best for everyone,” says Espey. In general, there are no limits to the optimization of the value chain in the sports industry through better data exchange.
“Warehouses and logistics specialists could also be integrated in the future,” hopes Bastian Tielmann, EDI specialist at the BSI. He points out that, in 2020, only electronic invoices will be accepted by all government agencies such as the German federal government, the federal states, and local authorities. For that reason, the exchange of data for invoices in PDF format could likewise be processed via the BSI Clearing Center in the future.
The aim of data exchange is to make the digitalization of the supply chain in the sports industry – where there are still retailers who fax or telephone in their orders – a reality.