In these exceptional times, while we are all being urged to stay at home, the retail sector has been hit hard. Government guidelines mean that only grocery stores and outlets selling essential goods can remain open. So, retail sales have plummeted. And while emergency relief via government loans will assist many, in the longer-term the bailout may prove insufficient for others.
With reduced or non-existent sales, administration is a real threat for those that cannot swiftly pivot and continue trading online. However, one company is determined to avert that sort of scenario – and thanks to its business software, it has been able to do just that.
White Stores is the UK’s foremost garden furniture and outdoor living specialist. It operates six showrooms across the country, which with its inbound telephone sales account for around 40% of the company’s business. The remaining 60% comes from online sales and other sources, like trade shows.
With the government-imposed closure of non-essential shops, White Stores was forced to shut its six showrooms. It has furloughed a small number of showroom staff, but has been able to deploy most of them to other operational tasks. They have been able to work elsewhere within the business, working from home, or visiting the offices in rotation.
This loss of a large proportion of the business could have proved disastrous for the company. But with online retail business still encouraged, and the telephone ordering lines still fully operational, the company acted quickly to pivot towards running an entirely remote sales operation.
White Stores launched a live chat service on the website, allowing them to communicate immediately with prospective buyers. Customer service operations can continue through this service, and also via the ticketing help desk system. Some inbound calls have also been rerouted to staff at home, and this has made the customer communications a seamless operation – for both customers and employees.
A lot of the office staff are working from home, perhaps just visiting once a week to collect something they need. The company has about 40 staff that use its NetSuite system. Because NetSuite is true cloud-based software, the staff can access it easily from home just using their email address and password. This has helped order processing and accounts functions to continue unhindered. The Accounts department has been about to run almost 100% without needing staff to be in the office.
Says White Stores Director, James Oxley, “We’ve been able to run our whole operation through the Magento store, which is connected to NetSuite. Although we’ve had to close our showrooms, we haven’t had to stop trading. We were able to still use NetSuite as we changed our business model overnight, and we can continue to run our business and provide customer service support.”
NetSuite: the True Cloud ERP Platform
Because NetSuite is a software-as-a-service platform (SaaS), there is no need for the customer to manage the underlying infrastructure, such as the servers, network, operating systems, storage and upgrades. With an on-premises solution, any major pivotal business change like White Stores has made, could require an overhaul of the system. This could mean lost business time with employees needing to stop work so that an upgrade to the system is made – for example, adding a new field such as an option for a no-contact delivery.
NetSuite can also be accessed from anywhere. There’s no need for additional equipment, or reconfiguration of devices and servers. It can be called up on any device, without using a VPN or other intermediate special software to access servers.
Perhaps the most important benefit of a true cloud system like NetSuite is that the information is always up to date. With multiple users accessing it from home, it is vital that data is accurate and delivers true inventory visibility. Being able to react quickly and change business model to adapt, as White Stores has done, is simple. The NetSuite system allows for a helicopter view of the overall business, and changes can be modelled very quickly. The dashboard-driven system presents live data. This allows senior executives to see a consolidated view of the business, with real-time analytics – rather than extracting data and modelling it in other systems.
A Successful Transition to Online Sales
White Stores has been able to use the agility of NetSuite to continue to trade successfully. Confirms James Oxley, “We’ve seen a shift in our business. Customers are still coming to us, but they are buying by telephone and the web.”
It’s not hard to see why sales are continuing. People are spending more time at home, and the money they are saving by not going out, or not going away on holiday, is being diverted into doing up their homes. The weather has been good too, which has encouraged more people to think about working or relaxing in their gardens.
Says James Oxley, “With the garden furniture marketplace significantly reduced – garden centres have all closed, along with most of the big superstore DIY shops – the market has pretty much shifted entirely to online sales.”
It is thanks to White Stores’ proactive approach to changing its business model, and the ease with which NetSuite enabled that, that the company has been able to capture a large proportion of those sales, and continue to trade, without losing out.
James Oxley endorses this view. “Without cloud-based software, I think we would have been severely disabled, in terms of the number of orders we can process and the backlog of customer services matters. It would have massively hindered the business if we couldn’t have facilitated the number of sales we are making, or dealt with the additional customer service enquiries.”
Oxley continues, “NetSuite has allowed our employees to continue to work – just from home. Without it, the operational side of the business would necessarily have slowed right down, payments to suppliers would have been affected, and we would have had a huge backlog of work once travel restrictions are lifted. It has facilitated us to carry on with business as normal as much as we can and has enabled the shift to online sales that we have achieved.”
While total retail sales fell by 4.3% in March 2020 – the sharpest decline in 25 years – White Stores has been not been affected to the same degree. NetSuite has allowed the company to get through this transition period and to rapidly pivot its operation, proving its credentials in providing agility and business continuity. The infrastructure easily adapted, facilitating the change in business model.
If you want your business to be able to pivot in the future with the same agility as White Stores has done, get in touch.