Supporting seasonal demand
Online shopping has transformed the traditional Christmas frenzy. Instead, people are opting for convenience by shopping online and relying on speedy delivery times. This growth is good news for online retailers, but bad news for their IT infrastructure. One such online retailer, Find Me a Gift, experienced this first hand and needed to upgrade its finance software to handle the digital Christmas frenzy, with the help of CPiO.
According to Statista, the average household spent £476 on Christmas gifts in 2016, with 2017 figures estimated to be even higher. The rise in e-commerce means that a large amount of these goods are also ordered online. In fact, a survey revealed that 64 per cent of Christmas shoppers did most of their shopping online in 2017.
Faced with the rise of consumers browsing and buying on the internet, online retailer Find Me a Gift chose to upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to ensure it could be at the forefront of the gifting market.
Find Me a Gift is an online consumer retailer with a turnover of £15 million as of January 2018. The company sells a range of gifts ranging from novelty mugs to paintball experiences and from quirky to high end, with around 8,000 products listed on its site.
The company has experienced a strong level of growth in recent years, achieving 25 per cent growth in 2017. Find Me a Gift employs 60 people permanently and an additional 200 temporary staff every year to cope with the demands of the festive period. Despite this, the company found that the software in place was not able to cope with these busy periods and was not sustainable for growth
“We were previously using, an accounting software package for small businesses,” explained Damon Shinnie, Finance Manager at Find Me a Gift. “I recognised that this software was no longer meeting our needs as a business, both at that time and in the future, and started the process to look for a new system.”
Planning for the future
Find Me a Gift was struggling to perform daily financial tasks with its existing software. During the busy Christmas season, the accounting system often failed at the most lucrative time of the year.
This meant that it was simply not sustainable for the business to continue using its current accounting software, as it became evident that there were discrepancies when reconciling payments for goods made via third party online retailers, compared to payments received within Find Me a Gift’s internal finance system. The business needed to ensure that it had been paid in full for all of its sales and it proved to be very time consuming manually processing any missing orders and reconciling the results to receivable balances.
Find Me a Gift also uses several analysis codes to keep track of which goods are directly dispatched or stocked in its warehouse, or which orders have been placed through Amazon.
“As our small business accounting system lacked any functionality to associate these with the orders, the finance team had to use different Excel spreadsheets to analyse this data,” explained Damon. “The team had to extract the information to Excel and perform a series of VLOOKUPs, IFs, SUMIFs and COUNTIFs on over half million Excel lines in December.”
The previous accounting software used by Find Me a Gift also failed to handle the growing numbers of product codes that the company used. While there are 8,000 live products on Find Me a Gift’s system, it could only handle 14,500 product codes and it did not allow inactive products to be removed.
As the products have a relatively short life-cycle, the company found that it was reaching the product code limit every two years. With growth expected to continue, it was therefore essential that Find Me a Gift had an ERP system that could handle an unlimited number of product codes, to avoid any complications in the future.
Finance manager Damon Shinnie had used Sage software in previous roles and trusted that the software would be a good fit for Find Me a Gift, due to its reliability and stable nature.
Damon found three local resellers to quote for the implementation of Sage software in the business and was particularly impressed by CPiO, a Birmingham-based Sage reseller that specialises in Sage software and development.
“After CPiO had been to visit our team, it was clear that the company’s proposal was specifically based on the needs of Find Me a Gift,” explained Damon. “While other companies tried to make our business fit with what Sage 200cloud could do, CPiO had listened to what we needed for our business and then had shown us how to configure Sage 200cloud to meet these business needs.”
CPiO recommended Sage 200cloud, a fully integrated ERP software package that was ideal for the needs of Find Me a Gift, with the addition of Eureka Data Exchange, to meet the company’s requirements for easy reporting. This allows Find Me a Gift’s website to be fully integrated in Sage 200cloud, so the team do not need to manually add orders.
Sage 200cloud, combined with Eureka Data Exchange, allows Find Me a Gift to view its up-to-date orders as well as their order codes, such as for direct dispatch or personalised goods. Product codes are also unlimited, meaning the company can continue to keep records of products that may no longer be live on the website. With the help of CPiO, Find Me a Gift was then able to export this information for use in reporting.
Reporting was previously very difficult for Find Me a Gift, especially in peak periods. “Processing reports used to take up to three days in December,” explained Damon. “This then meant that preparing management accounts took much longer than required and put the finance department under additional pressure to get the accounts ready. Now, with Sage 200cloud and the integration with Eureka Data Exchange, generating reports is much easier, allowing the finance team to be more productive with its time.”
“Sage 200cloud has also given us a lot more reporting functionality across the business, by using integrated Sage Business Intelligence. We can export the raw data into our own Excel spreadsheet and can analyse this. If we need more detail, we can then see the different transactions that make up the different balances.”
Another example of the increased reporting that Sage 200cloud offers is that the company can now easily view profit and loss accounts for each department and each cost centre.
All these reporting functions allow Find Me a Gift to have a better overview of the company’s performance. This helps the company to stay ahead of the competition and report effectively to its board, even during busy periods.
Training and implementation
As the reporting functions were a priority for Find Me a Gift, it was essential that the staff members knew how to use them correctly, to maximise the move to the new software.
CPiO tailors every training session to each customer, meaning there’s no such thing as a standard training session. The company prides itself on listening to what customers want, but also advising on changing processes where necessary.
For example, reports may have always been printed and filed, because that’s the way it’s always been done, but no one might ever look at the printed reports that have used company resources and time to organise. In this case, CPiO would recommend simply granting access through Sage 200cloud to the necessary team members.
CPiO carried out six full day classroom-based training sessions with Find Me a Gift before the software went live. Instead of focussing on the sales ledger, which was not a key focus for many of the staff, the training sessions focussed on using the Sage 200cloud software to solve the issues that Find Me a Gift had initially identified, which related to purchasing and stock management.
A CPiO consultant also spent two days in the Find Me a Gift office during the implementation of the Sage 200cloud software. This allowed CPiO to resolve any issues with the software immediately and field any queries.
After implementation and at the critical reporting stage in the month, the consultant also spent a further two days with the Find Me a Gift team. This ensured that the team knew how to carry out their reporting duties effectively and meant that a Sage 200cloud expert was on hand to resolve any issues. Had the consultant not been there, the reporting process could have been delayed, which was one of the main reasons Find Me a Gift had moved from its previous accounting software.
The true test
Once Sage 200cloud had been implemented into Find Me a Gift’s infrastructure at the beginning of November, the true test was whether the software could stand up to the demands of the company’s peak period.
“Sage 200cloud coped brilliantly,” declared Damon. “Even though we put through more orders than in previous years, the software stood up to the test. In comparison to our previous software, which failed nearly every December under the pressure of the amount of orders, we were able to continue reporting as normal.”
“In fact, things have gone so well that we are looking to CPiO to help us change the software for managing stock in our warehouse and we’re certainly looking on working on even more projects in the future.”
By investing in and improving its ERP software, Find Me a Gift has modernised its systems, preparing itself for further growth in the business and the e-commerce market in years to come.
While not all businesses may face the seasonal demands of the Christmas period, most businesses do have peak periods. Without improving IT infrastructure, businesses may find themselves left behind in the increasingly competitive retail marketplace. While a new functionality on the website or a new range may attract new customers, CEOs should also consider internal investment to meet the needs of the customers and generate repeat business for years to come.