PLANNING & ASSORTMENT VENDOR
From its home office on the Northeastern seaboard, Stonewall Kitchen reaches virtually every corner of the globe. Its approach successfully blends home style and high style; finesse with friendly. Shoppers experience Stonewall Kitchen’s cozy and comfortable feel across its stores, catalogs and its online store. The retailer’s Web store is clean and classic, resembling a country store stocked high with eye-pleasing foods, sauces, kitchen wares and more. Across these retailing channels—plus one café/bistro and the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School—Stonewall Kitchen manages thousands of different products across all channels simultaneously. According to Andrea Hall, information systems director at Stonewall Kitchen, it’s a complex challenge.
“Planning, buying and merchandising have grown increasingly complex as we’ve grown, added stores, catalogs, online sales, even a cooking school,” said Hall.
“What used to be a functional and reliable approach to inventory management and assortments was soon becoming obsolete.”
• Since 1991, the company grew from one storefront to 10.
• Stonewall Kitchen began with two employees—its two co-founders, Jonathan King and Jim Stott, and now have over 250 full-time employees.
• Online sales have skyrocketed since the store first began its Web store in 1998.
• Product variety exploded. In 1991, the retailer sold just a few specialty products. Now, Stonewall Kitchen has 13 departments, thousands of products and numerous customer touchpoints. It also sells to more than 5,000 wholesale accounts nationwide and has international distribution.
• The mixes of product assortments change constantly, as do the mixes of private-label products.
“On top of all of these, we deal with seasonal products, plus those that sell individually and as part of our customized gift baskets,” said Hall. “Factor all of these into a planning approach that depends on spreadsheets and the process ultimately became too cumbersome.” The compound effect of multiple planning spreadsheets being created, shared, updated, revised, tabulated, compiled, e-mailed, updated again, compiled again, then shared, was “the writing on the wall.” Stonewall Kitchen knew a new approach was needed.
Madness, Momentum & The Marketplace
The cross-functional team began their quest to find a way out of the spreadsheet quagmire. Could any existing software really fit Stonewall Kitchen’s brick-and-mortar, catalog and online retailing approach?
“While at the National Retail Federation Show, our merchandise planning team spent most of their time scouting solutions,” said Hall. “They left the show armed with all types of solutions—and excited vendors,” she said with a smile. “We just had one big question. Is now the time?”
THE QUICKASSORTMENT TOP 7 BENEFITS
1. Visibility into planning and buying
2. Adds “magic” to markdowns.
3. Master margin management.
4. Delivers actionable data
5. Connects merchandising with finance.
6. Drives overall corporate performance.
7. Yields a Real Return on Investment.
Hall reports that during the nine months leading up to the launch of this project, Stonewall Kitchen delved deep into the process to make sure the entire company understood what was needed, and how it was to be used.
“In retrospect, it was critical to our success that decisions, discussions and the process took as long as it did,” she said. “We had strong, vigorous debate among our cross-functional teams—people from merchandising, finance, information technology, operations, manufacturing, logistics and others. They were instrumental in digging up questions and issues that weren’t just merchandising specific.”
Once consensus was reached, solution requirements, software and vendors were defined, dissected, evaluated and narrowed, said Hall. The company identified 18 specific business needs and an equal number of technical requirements.
The Ultimate Decision: How and Why it Was Right
The team met with four finalists, all well-respected retail technology vendors. Each was required to demonstrate critical capabilities focused on planning inventories among the multiple channels. The vendor presentations were “microscopic in detail,” said Hall. “Each had to demonstrate delivery, not just promise it.” The team decided quickly. It chose TXT MAPLE LAKE.
“Ultimately, the decision didn’t fall squarely on software specs, features or functions,” said Hall. “It was holistically evaluated—the vendor, the consultants, the rapport and relationship and, of course, the software, costs, service levels and more.”
“We were impressed with TXT MAPLE LAKE’s QuickAssortment software and their business approach,” said Hall.
“They had experience working with retailers deep in the trenches, getting their hands dirty and knowing what planners and merchandisers want, need and expect. Unlike so many providers, they don’t try to fit us into their mold or methods.”
They work alongside us, with an attitude that mirrors our company culture and approach. They’re young, aggressive and fun. That’s partnership. Our vendor decision was definitely on target.
So, Let’s Talk Results
Stonewall Kitchen selected TXT MAPLE LAKE, with the retailer’s 11-member merchandising team being the first users of QuickAssortment. Today, all types of users access QuickAssortment.
“In the days of spreadsheets, we always had a forecast. But updates and version control were laborious,” said Corey Fogarty, a Stonewall Kitchen merchandise planning manager. “QuickAssortment eliminates this problem as all the data are centralized; it combines our plans and reports back in easy to see actual vs. forecasts; be it store A or store B, our catalog, online store or all the above. Bottom line, we have meaningful data and an accurate picture of all our retail channels,” said Fogarty.
Today, Stonewall Kitchen continues its success and growth. It is a company that believes in quality, innovation and growth, said Hall. “With QuickAssortment, we now have a merchandising system in place that can match our demands and effectively deliver information to further drive our growth,” she said.
For more information about TXT MAPLE LAKE, QuickAssortment and other software and services for specialty retailers, visit www.maplelake.com, call (905) 513-7480 or send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Company Founded: 2001
Head Office: Toronto, Canada
Satellite Offices: USA, UK, Australia
First Client: Roots Canada