Epicor Aims for Specialty Retail with NSB Acquisition

The company will integrate NSB's merchandising and marketing technologies with its own enterprise platform.

Epicor Software is trying to become a market leader in the specialty retail segment through its Feb. 7 purchase of NSB Retail Systems.

By adding merchandising and marketing technologies from NSB and store and corporate systems from the previously acquired CRS Retail Systems to its existing enterprise platform, Epicor officials intend to offer specialty and apparel retailers an end-to-end solution.

"Purchasing NSB allows Epicor to move into assortment planning, merchandising, procurement, mobile technology, sales analytics and loss prevention," said John Hiraoka, Epicor senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "Retailers traditionally purchase single applications or best-of-breed applications from different vendors and then integrate them together. We now have an integrated solution from the store to the back office."

Hiraoka said Epicor will integrate the NSB Connected Retailer concept, which utilizes mobile and Internet technologies to tie enterprise systems together, into its .Net-based global platform.

"This will help retailers interact with customers and build loyalty in-and especially out of-the store," Hiraoka said.

In particular, he said Epicor sees value in Tier II and III specialty and apparel retailers, both in established markets and in emerging regions such as the Middle East, China, and Central and Eastern Europe.

"These are retailers who are rolling out many stores with one to two registers," he said. "Specialty retailers need to broaden their reach and update POS [point-of-sale] and merchandising capabilities. Those companies are ultimately interested in a solution from a single provider."

In addition, Hiraoka said NSB also has strength in the large department store format, where there may be 50 stores with 500 to 1,000 registers per location. "It's a different model. How do you tie the systems of a mass merchandiser with a large footprint together?" he said.

According to Sahir Anand, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group, Epicor is not the first vendor to offer specialty retailers an end-to-end solution, but the company is taking some steps in the right direction with its purchase of NSB.

"Both companies have strong credentials in the areas of POS and merchandising," Anand said. "In terms of pure merchandising, the whole emphasis on having a unified view of the customer will be very big in 2008."

Anand said that both companies also have good credentials in the areas of CRM (customer relationship management) and business intelligence.

"Specialty retailers need to improve in these areas further," he said. "The combination of POS, merchandising, CRM and business intelligence will drive value. Other elements [in Epicor's end-to-end specialty solution] were not missing [from existing systems for specialty retailers], but this is a very good move. It offers specialty retailers a broader choice and more price competitiveness in the systems marketplace."