Preppy at work: A look at Tommy Hilfiger Japan’s intelligent system

Tommy Hilfiger Japan’s solution puts the power of the Internet of Things on the sales floor by connecting mobile thin-client devices to corporate infrastructure and peripheral devices.

A hallmark of men’s fashion since the 1980s, Tommy Hilfiger’s colorful yet confident “preppy” look has become an icon of yacht clubs, golf courses and casual Fridays the world over. Though no longer owned by its famous namesake, the Tommy Hilfiger Group remains a leading retailer of high-end clothing and furnishings with more than 1,000 stores worldwide and annual revenue of $4.6 billion.

The company’s Japanese subsidiary, Tommy Hilfiger Japan Corp., operates 170 stores with 1,000 employees. Along with acquiring prime locations for its stores, says to Takashi Ogo, chief financial officer at Tommy Hilfiger Japan, technology is high on the company’s list of priorities as the Japanese subsidiary works to align with its parent company’s successful brand image: “We wanted a companywide solution that would help store employees work more efficiently and easily while providing excellent customer service.”

To share and manage information more efficiently and securely, Tommy Hilfiger Japan leveraged the potential of the Internet of Things, implementing an intelligent system based on Microsoft’s Windows Embedded that connects mobile thin clients with peripheral devices as well as centrally managed applications and data. The solution includes the Windows Embedded, Windows Server, and Windows operating systems, Microsoft SQL Server software, Hyper-V virtualization technology, and Active Directory Domain Services. The company also uses Microsoft System Center products for centralized management.

“The new system is a real ‘big bang’ in terms of the change it brings to the way we do things at Tommy Hilfiger Japan,” says Ogo. “The system has a degree of flexibility that can only help us achieve our aims.”

Ogo says the company considered several options, including Apple and Android devices. In particular, Tommy Hilfiger needed a solution that would be secure, easy to customize, and provide the connectivity required for peripheral devices such as barcode scanners. The device would also need to reliably stream video and other media content from the corporate network. 

“After testing a tablet running the Windows Embedded operating system, we knew this was the right solution for connecting mobile thin clients to the corporate infrastructure and peripheral devices,” says Ogo. “The new solution is enhancing customer service and brand identity, strengthening security, improving manageability and cutting costs.”

Although the system brings new efficiency to internal processes, it also provides an overhaul to the way individual stores are able to serve customers. To check stock and inventory, the company formerly used laptop PCs in each branch, which were typically tethered to a desk in the back room to avoid theft. Employees would have to leave the customer alone to research questions on item availability, a time-consuming process that also occasionally led to a disgruntled shopper.

Today, each store is equipped with a Windows Embedded thin-client mobile device that employees use to check prices and inventory. Because of the componentized structure of Windows Embedded, the company was able to eliminate any functionality not needed on the shop floor, reducing the tablets’ attractiveness to potential thieves.

The thin clients can be controlled with the touchscreen or with a keyboard and mouse connected to a docking station. The devices also connect to barcode scanners and a terminal that employees use to check stock levels and other information.

“Employees can provide timely service to the customer with mobile devices running Windows Embedded, regardless of where he or she is standing in the store,” says Takashi Kuroda, senior coordinator at Tommy Hilfiger Japan. “It’s much more efficient.”

Because its parent company is publically traded in the United States, Tommy Hilfiger Japan also needed to comply with financial regulations that include guidelines for protecting the security of corporate information.

“We are subject to strict guidelines for corporate governance, including IT security,” says Kuroda. “With a solution based on Windows Embedded, we can centralize information management instead of storing data on local devices, and, as a result, better protect corporate data.”

Management has also been improved. In the past, the company relied on an external vendor to travel to each location to maintain computers. Now, the company can manage a single, centralized infrastructure that employees connect to remotely, greatly reducing IT costs.

“By taking advantage of a mobile thin-client solution based on Windows Embedded, we have cut maintenance costs by a third,” says Kuroda. “Instead of installing software separately on computers in 170 stores, we can centrally update our virtualized environment overnight. With an intelligent system anchored by Windows Embedded, we can continue our workflow without interruption.”

The tablets can also be used to stream videos offered by the company, allowing associates to show customers the latest Tommy Hilfiger videos and fashion shows, such as the recent “Preppy at Work” campaign, which further helps the company strengthen its brand image.

“Because our Windows Embedded devices display videos and other rich media in addition to product information,” says Ogo, “they play an important part in getting our brand message across to customers.”

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Microsoft News Center Staff