- Rick Scofield, Co-owner
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We interviewed Rick Scofield, co-owner of The Workwear Store, to hear what unified commerce looks like in their supply chain with Retail Pro. Darwin Husa, project manager for one of our Authorized Retail Pro Business Partners, Retail Information Systems, shares more information on their Vendor Connect technology behind the operations. Here's what they had to say.
RP: Rick, tell us about The Workwear Store. What is that all about?
RS: We supply flame resistant, protective, and high visibility workwear and footwear to businesses, government entities, and individuals nationwide. Because this is a niche industry, it makes a difference for a customer to be able to come to one place to get everything they need. Today we run one brick and mortar store and two ecommerce websites.
RP: What is your role at The Workwear Store?
RS: I'm co-owner of the store, and I work primarily on the IT side, getting all our technologies integrated together to support our business processes.
RP: When did you start using Retail Pro in your business?
RS: We've been using Retail Pro POS since 1999, and we've built our business operations on this software. We're moving to a newer version of Retail Pro this year, so we look forward to gaining new functionalities, ease of use, and quicker data access. We're also going to be able to import our suppliers' product images to Retail Pro, which will make replenishment tasks easier for our sales associates.
RP: How are you using Retail Pro to unify commerce for The Workwear Store?
RS: We work with 20 to 30 suppliers and it just became difficult to manage our suppliers' master data – attributes like product code, description, price, size, etc. These catalogs would come to us in many different formats and we would have several dedicated full-time staff members weeding through catalogs to manually reformat and enter all the data.
We needed to put together an efficient process to normalize our suppliers' product data so we could get new product in front of customers faster and more efficiently. Today the process looks like this:
Our suppliers will also send us hard copies of catalogs, so even if we don't have a particular product that a customer wants in Retail Pro, we can add it within minutes and then create a sales order and a purchase order to get the customer what they want.
DH: Vendor Connect streamlines the exchange of product information, product availability, purchase orders, and shipment information with a retailer's brands. It literally takes three clicks to import the data into Retail Pro. The Vendor Connect dashboard lets them synchronize changes made on the vendor side, like new products added to the catalog. The cloud service stores and updates their catalogs, the retailer picks items they want to bring into Retail Pro, and the data gets formatted for import. Alerts are built in to let the retailer know if something went wrong in the automatic import so you're never flying blind. The technology streamlines the process so you don't have to manually enter inventory data.
RS: We populate our ecommerce with inventory available in Retail Pro, plus the inventory quantities we get from our suppliers, so customers can see what we have available. We set up the system so we never allow customers to order what we cannot fulfill.
Everything we carry in the store goes up to the website. Our ecommerce is a subset of the products we offer in the store. The goal is to keep blurring the lines between our ecommerce and brick and mortar store.
RP: How is the normal order fulfillment process helped with the Vendor Connect technology, Darwin?
DH: Vendor Connect lets them import current Available to Sell quantities from their suppliers into a "vendor" store in Retail Pro. If an item is available at the supplier, an EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) purchase order can be created with the customer's address. These EDI purchase orders are delivered to the supplier who picks and ships the order directly to the customer. The supplier sends back an EDI advance ship notice (ASN) when the order is shipped. Retail Pro is then updated with the tracking number for the shipment.
Store fulfillment purchase orders created in Retail Pro are delivered to the supplier by EDI also. When the purchase order is shipped by the supplier, the supplier sends an EDI ASN with shipment quantities and package IDs. The ASNs are imported into Retail Pro. When the shipments are received, the package IDs can be scanned into Retail Pro using bulk receiving to quickly receive the products into the Retail Pro inventory.
RP: Rick, how do you use that connected data for communicating with customers?
RS: We use an integration to our ecommerce called Red Oxygen, which allows us to send SMS notifications to customers with details on their order status. We can notify the customer whether they place an order online or in the store.
Also, when someone places an order for clothing or any additional embroidery or heat transfer for logos, we update the website with those sales orders so customers can check their special order status online, regardless of whether they ordered it in store or online. That's one way we blur the lines between our online and brick and mortar store.
RP: What are some of the staff benefits to having your data connected?
RS: It's a big savings in human hours spent! We used to employ 4 full time staff members to format, import, and babysit the data because it was all done manually. Now we're down to two employees, and because the data work is done automatically, they can focus their energies on adding and creating catalogs, so our customers have more options. They don't have to worry about the tactical work of transferring data.
DH: Right – and because there's no more manual data entry, you're never sending an order with an invalid UPC. It's always accurate. Vendors can automatically import those orders too, so they can fulfill the order faster.
RP: So far these sound like primarily operational benefits to having unified data. How do customers benefit from this?
RS: It gives us multiple avenues to get information to our customers. Customers can check their order status online or get an SMS notification with the status. Sometimes customers call in to get more detail. Because the order status is also in Retail Pro, our in-store sales associates can look that up for customers using the technology they have right in front of them at the store, rather than having to spend the customers' time while they log in to a different, disconnected platform to check on the inventory or order status. It saves everyone time.
Plus, some of the businesses we work with give their crew an annual allowance for their gear. We help companies manage that by creating branded purchase cards loaded with the allowable spend, and bill the company with what is actually spent.
DH: Service is the key. You want to make sure you deliver on your promise to customers and you need accurate information on the backend to do it. You're building trust with a customer because ten out of ten times you were able to get them what they needed. Even if you didn't have a product in the store, but you know the product is available at the supplier and can be shipped directly to them, you reinforce in the customer's mind that you are reliable. They can trust you to get them what they need.