Charming Shoppes, Inc. is a leading multi-brand specialty apparel retailer primarily focused on plus-size women’s apparel. The parent company of four distinct store brands – Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines Plus Sizes and Petite Sophisticate Outlet, as well as Figi’s Gifts in Good Taste, has a continuing Mission to serve the lifestyle apparel needs of women wearing plus sizes with the very best service, fashion selection, value and fit.
Charming Shoppes was faced with the challenge of an expense management vendor change. Their prior vendor had been acquired, and Charming Shoppes anticipated that they could potentially face the need for “upgrades” to different solutions and higher fee and transaction costs.
Joe Coulter, Charming Shoppes’ Director of Cash and Disbursement Services, decided this was the ideal time to research his alternatives. Of key importance to Joe was a flexible vendor, with a full solution that would provide his internal customers with “state of the art” functionality to meet their needs and that could be implemented quickly and at a good value. Value and speed were of key importance because Charming Shoppes wanted to implement their chosen solution quickly. And of course, being a value-driven retailer, keeping costs low was a key.
Joe contacted InterplX Expense Management, a vendor with whom he had become familiar through the IAPP. Joe’s call to InterplX came on December 30th. After deciding that InterplX provided the functionality they required, Joe asked whether InterplX could implement their full solution by February 1st.
Joe wanted a full-function, web-based solution that would integrate with his corporate card vendor, provide easy receipt imaging options, reimburse users and their corporate card accounts and provide third-party audits on selected expense reports. With nearly 1,000 users, Joe wanted to ensure the system was robust, yet easy to use, so conversion would be as painless as possible. Fortunately, InterplX had experience with conversions of this nature and their implementation team swung into action.
The key to any expense management implementation is defining the organizational structures including cost center data, approval workflows, expense categories and related general ledger coding. The InterplX account implementation team worked on-site with Coulter and his team to define these structures and build the account configuration in a matter of two weeks. With several different brands and departments within these brands, the flexibility within the InterplX organizational structures was key. In the end, there were 14 policy groups and nearly 1,000 users, ready for processing their first expense report by January 26th, one week ahead of schedule.
“I won’t say there weren’t some anxious moments,” Mr. Coulter said. “And we contracted with InterplX for some highly tailored routing requirements, which they developed and implemented for us after the initial launch. But we were truly amazed with the speed and professionalism of the InterplX team. They had us up and running on time and on budget. Our users are happy and the conversion was viewed by all here as a big success. Oh, and by the way, at a lower cost.”
Today, Charming Shoppes’ various business units are all set up with specific business rules and travel policy parameters. Users submit their expenses via the web. They attach their receipts by scanning them into the application, faxing them in or mailing them to InterplX. Once receipts are attached, managers are alerted to approve them, the payments are generated and a feed to the Charming Shoppes general ledger is electronically sent. Charming Shoppes also utilizes a feature of the InterplX system allowing for freeform comments to explain policy exceptions prior to report submission.
Mr. Coulter and his staff are very pleased with the implementation of InterplX’s ExpenseNet® Solution. “We were very pleased that InterplX delivered on their commitment to have us up and running within five weeks. They are really attentive to the client’s needs and their pricing was very competitive.”
I guess you could say, “In expense management, value, service and fit are keys to excellence, just like in women’s apparel.”