Walmart’s brand new SPARC program is rolling out nationally this month. SPARC, or Supplier Portal Allowing Retail Coverage, is a new app developed by Rockfish which gives suppliers access to backroom inventory via their smartphones.
Before SPARC, suppliers would have to find an associate with a Telxon tracking device and time to help. With SPARC, suppliers will have BYOD access to real-time data.
SPARC was tested with about 20 suppliers in 28 stores earlier this year and will soon be available to all suppliers.
Suppliers can currently use Retail Link to identify stores that have out of stocks or are not performing as they should. With SPARC, suppliers can visit the identified stores and check inventory levels in real time.
If the products are in stock but aren’t on the shelf, suppliers or their representatives can work with the associates to check the back room and stock the shelf. Just as Retail Link allows suppliers to manage their forecasting and replenishment (and gives suppliers responsibility to do so), SPARC gives access and responsibility for some elements of store-level execution.
This functionality — which is called SPARC Lite or SPLite – is currently available to all suppliers at the iTunes store. Log on at www.WalmartSupplierPortal.com, pay the annual fee, get registered, take online training, and you’re set. The app is available for iPhone and Android devices.
Rolling out nationally this month is SPARC 2.0, which will also allow the supplier to print shelf labels if they’re needed, to capture a pick list from the sales floor or the back room, and even to make some stock adjustments. Suppliers cannot order product with SPARC, but they can update the information and correct phantom inventory or errors in reports. SPARC 2.0 will be available initially only to suppliers recommended by a buyer or comparable individual, but will soon be broadly available.
The expectation is that this will increase efficiency. “Kellogg’s is definitely seeing measurable results in those stores,” says Michael Clark, Director of Retail Strategy at Kellogg’s. “The best thing we’ve seen in these stores is the dialogue and conversation between the reps and the store managers.”