Coles may overhaul its ailing liquor store IT systems, the retail giant's chief Ian McLeod said this week.
"Liquor is suffering from an IT platform which is pretty old-fashioned," McLeod told analysts at an earnings briefing. "And that's something we're looking at investing in," he said. The move would affect the Wesfarmers subsidiary's Liquorland and Vintage Cellars businesses, he said.
Coles technological improvements that McLeod reported on during the briefing have targeted the nuts and bolts of retailing, including replacing unreliable cash registers, installing software at its payment devices to support chip-embedded credit cards, and installing systems to monitor refrigeration energy consumption.
"Old cash registers, which were constantly breaking down, have been replaced," he said. Coles will also attempt to catch up with Woolworths' investment in self-scanning checkouts, commenced earlier this year. Coles plans to deploy similar technology at 50 stores by September this year.
In a broader sense, technology appears to have taken a back seat at Coles following its acquisition by Wesfarmers, with McLeod this week reminding investors that any investments in IT would be targeted to assisting store staff.
"We want to make sure the IT programs we're putting in place are there to help the stores do a better job so they can serve our customers better," he said. The comments follow those made by McLeod last October that Coles would put a cap on IT spending, suggesting the retailer would make do with its existing IT systems.
McLeod avoided detailing progress on its $800 million supply chain overhaul, which, last October, meant staff were "ordering products through pen and ink".
McLeod said Coles' store inventory auto-replenishment ambitions would be approached with caution. Current pilots are hoped to be extended to 100 stores over the coming months.
"It's an area I have a personally a high degree of experience in. I know what the pitfalls are and it's not something we are going to roll through recklessly," he said.
He also highlighted Coles' efforts to pare back its distribution centres, one of which McLeod noted had been labelled by the managing director of logistics giant, Toll, as "an outstanding example of paperless technology".