February 9, 2005

New Retail Pricing Standards Released

By Evan Schuman, eWEEK

As retailers prepare to migrate from bar codes to RFID, upgrade POS systems and accept wireless input from a wide range of new payment devices, it's critical that they know that data points mean the exact same thing at all points on the supply chain.

With that goal in mind, a key retail technology standards group this week unveiled a series of new schemas for retail pricing data consistency.

The new IXRetail XML schemas from The Association for Retail Technology Standards, or ARTS, are intended to help retailers "use common methods and maintain consistent and accurate data for all systems that create, manage or consume item and price data within the retail enterprise," said a statement the group issued Tuesday.

Although all standards efforts can be complicated, politically sensitive and glacially paced, ARTS officials were especially vigilant in avoiding areas where other standards groups are focusing.

"When retailers and their software vendors asked ARTS to develop an Item and revised Price schema to complement POSlog, we proceeded carefully to avoid conflict or duplication with other standard groups working in the business-to-business space," said ARTS Executive Director Richard Mader.

Another official involved in the standards sessions—Tim Hood, vice president of solution architecture for Triversity Inc.—said one of his key objectives was making sure the new standard was sufficiently comprehensive.

"Item information is at the very heart of most retail systems, and a great deal of research was required to ensure the schema contained all necessary data," Hood said.

Another complicating factor is the increasingly global nature of the typical large retail supply chain. Officials with ARTS and the Uniform Code Council Inc. worked together to ensure the Item schema incorporated worldwide standards, including UCC's basic identification numbers, the GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) and the GLN (Global Location Number). Use of the GTIN and GLN enables a retailer's internal systems to communicate effectively with trading partners.

"Through our cooperation, a retailer can use the ARTS Item schema for internal operations and generate records that can be used for data synchronization," said Al Garton, director of general merchandise/retail at the UCC. "This is a practical example of how standards groups can work together to enable a single implementation to serve multiple functions."

The Item Maintenance schema can be used to create, update or delete item information held within store systems such as point of sale, inventory management, layaway management and returns processing.

Version 2 of the Price schema complements the Item Maintenance schema by adding the downloading of prices and price rules to Version 1 that was limited to Price Lookup capabilities. Price Version 2 supports special and promotional pricing based on basket, customer, time, location and other retailer established criteria.

Participants include representatives from IBM, Datavantage, PCATS, Microsoft, Target, Soft Solutions, AccessVia, SofTechnics, El Corte Ingles, Blockbuster, Retek, Soft Solutions, Datavantage, and Clicks and Mortar Consulting.