Fat Face was formed in 1988 by Jules Leaver and Tim Slade after spotting a gap in the market for selling t-shirts to holiday makers in the ski resort of Meribel. From these early beginnings the company has grown rapidly to be a leading retailer of watersports and snowsports fashion and accessories. It now has more than 113 retail outlets as well as a Web-based store and an extremely successful catalogue.
By having a mixed High Street and activity-based portfolio the company has developed a unique brand. The nature of its target audience also carries with it inherent benefits - the average age of customers is early 30's, with an even split between men and women. Because people at this age are often professionals, coupled with the fact that watersports and snowsports and generally enjoyed by people with more disposable income, it has allowed the company to be comparatively recession-proof.
Coping with the problems of growth
Such rapid growth can bring problems to the infrastructure of a geographically dispersed organisation. In particular, fast and easy communications between the head office and stores are vital in a retailing environment, where there is a need to maximise profitability in what is an aggressive and fast-moving market.
Fat Face had realised the value a Wide Area Network (WAN) could bring to the management and control of the organisation many years ago, and had invested in an ISDN communications infrastructure to support this.
While this proved satisfactory in the early days, in 2004, the management of the company realised that maintaining this type of network was becoming less cost-effective. Like all organisations operating in a highly-competitive market place, Fat Face were conscious of their cost base and the need to keep infrastructure costs in check.
With the increasing availability and reducing costs of Broadband, Fat Face decided to trial an ADSL solution based on BT’s NetEquip system. However, this proved to be a tremendous drain on internal resources, with an experienced member of the technical support team having to be dedicated to keeping it operational.
Secure and cost-effective communications infrastructure
As a result of the trial, Fat Face decided on a different approach for a 20 store pilot that was implemented in mid 2005 and approached Stockport based Vodat International.
Vodat are the only communication solution provider specialising in retail environments. Their innovative and cost-effective solutions enable retailers to utilise Broadband technologies to add value and deliver real bottom-line benefits to their organisation. With over 20 years experience of providing solutions to the retail sector, they are now the largest supplier of private, managed Broadband networks to the UK retail market, overseeing communication systems in thousands of stores across the UK and Europe.
The Vodat strategic managed communication platform provides fixed-cost technologies that not only enable information to be shared between locations, but also offer the capability of additional profit-enhancing applications. Such as:
- Free telephone calls between stores
- On-line training for staff
- In-store TV marketing
- Video conferencing
Stuart Nelmes, IT Director at Fat Face explained the reasoning behind their decision:
“We chose Vodat because their specialist knowledge of the retail sector meant that they could readily understand our concerns and meet our requirements. In addition, their project management, technical knowledge and support skills both during and after the installation ensured we had a relatively trouble-free implementation that did not impact on the stores ability to trade profitably.”
The broadband communications infrastructure implemented by Vodat is a managed platform which Fat Face can use to meet their future information system requirements. Stuart Nelmes commented:
“With the Vodat managed broadband network in place the system we are using is like an intranet. Communications between stores and the head office are securely carried out through broadband lines. The end result is much quicker and considerably cheaper than picking up the phone.
The results of the pilot have been excellent and exceeded our expectations. Vodat were able to implement the network with minimal involvement of our own IT staff – leaving them to free to focus on mission-critical tasks. We are now looking to roll it out across the entire chain during early 2006.”
The new managed broadband network not only provides a new technology platform, but ultimately saves money over previous solutions such as ISDN. Vodat are now working closely with Fat Face to implement a Voice over IP (VoIP) solution. VoIP is a system for transmitting telephone calls over data networks, such as those used that make up the Internet. It will enable Fat Face to enjoy free calling between all parts of their estate and greatly simplify and consolidate their existing voice and data networks.
They are also working on an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) trafficking system that will link in with Fat Face’s Chip and Pin requirements.
Stuart Nelmes concluded:
“The smooth running of a reliable WAN network is essential to our expansion plans. Vodat has proved its ability to understand our needs and we consider the relationship between us a true partnership that will develop further as we enhance the capabilities of our manage d network.”
For complete details about Vodat's managed network and communications services for retailers including free telephone calls between retail stores, online training for staff, and in-store TV marketing, please call Vodat International on 0161 406 1820 or contact us by e-mail.< Back to Case studies