Boardsports firm Billabong has begun a European rollout of new retail technology aimed at catering for its growing international needs.

The company has so far opened a showcase store in Plymouth, England, as part of the implementation programme which features retail management and point-of-sale software through Vcstimeless.

It has also integrated the Colombus head office solution with Billabong's existing financial system, running on an IBM AS400 platform.

From next month, stores throughout Europe will be linked to the system, giving them instant access for up-to-the-minute information on stock availability, replenishment, forecasts, sales and promotions.

"Our existing IT solution wasn't geared towards the international needs of our growing business," said Steve Hazell, retail manager at Billabong.

"Given that we operate in several different countries, in multiple languages and some with unique taxation requirements, we needed a proven system which was easy-to-use, multi-lingual and fully automated."

In the UK, for example, the system needs to deal with there being no tax on childrenswear, and buyers often need to add information on products from other suppliers, sometimes remotely using their laptops.

Hazell said that the new solution gives Billabong the necessary management tools to run the business more efficiently, such as instant visibility of stock levels and performance across Europe, access to full customer or supplier details, and the ability to control supply lines more accurately from its new 80,000-sq-ft. distribution centre.

"One of the key drivers for this project was the ability to offer better customer service at the point-of-sale and a fast queue-busting facility for busy periods; not to mention a more accurate stock information and efficient query system. On all counts, Vcstimeless provided the level of solution we were looking for," he said.