Wal-Mart Leads In Information Technology

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been cited by two national magazines this year as a leader in business information technology for its use of the Internet to provide detailed sales information to the thousands of companies that sell their products to Wal-Mart.

Known as Retail Link and found on the Wal-Mart home page (www.wal-mart.com), the service gives each company a store-by-store, product-by-product, and day-by-day accounting of its products sales. The companies use the information to adjust inventories in individual Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.

Computerworld and Smithsonian magazines have listed the service as one of the top five innovations in business information technology.

“We often get recognized for being the first and doing it best,” says Dale Ingram, director of public relations for Wal-Mart.

The service is free to all Wal-Mart vendors, but each company must complete one of the two-day training classes, which are held at Wal-Mart’s home office in Bentonville or regional sites around the country, to learn to use the software. Wal-Mart also provides continuing individual help to companies who have completed the course.

Retail Link was started in 1990 and operates with a program known as Decision Support System. The program allows participating vendors to retrieve, organize and interpret market information quickly. The information helps vendors save time and money in planning their production and distribution, which means they can offer their products to Wal-Mart at a lower price.

“There is no guesswork, no estimates,” Ingram says. “It’s been a key tool in the relationship between Wal-Mart and its vendors.<