We’re a traditional brand with a long family history and most of our value is in the in-store experience – but the future is online, and changes are fast and constant. We felt strongly that given the pace of technological change, a flexible and scalable tech stack is the way to go. —William Coes, Managing Director at Coes
The world of retail has taken on an entirely new identity in the last two years, as the pandemic-fuelled online shopping surge sent e-commerce into a state of rapid evolution. As a result, there’s been a mounting pressure on retailers – especially those who have historically built a reputation on exceptional in-store service – to evolve their business or get left behind.
Coes is one such brand to have honourably taken on the challenge. A proud British formal wear company with a century-long history, it has recently explored how a traditional brand such as theirs can benefit from a flexible, future-focused tech stack and adapt their business model to the Hyper-Scalable Era.
Seeking a Modern Fit
A true example of ‘family run’, Managing Director William Coes’ grandfather opened the first Coes store in Ipswich in 1928. The formal wear merchant became a community favourite, renowned for its first-rate garments, tailoring expertise and personable in-store service.
Today’s Coes, run by William Coes and his father, employs 130 staff across six UK retail outlets, with its original flagship store in Ipswich now spanning 36,000 sq ft. The business more recently operates online via the brand’s Shopify Plus-powered website.
“We’d relied on manual warehouse systems for decades,” William explains. “It was only in 2016 that we installed an ERP – Microsoft Dynamics – for the first time.”
Coes’ focus on the in-store customer experience had built them a gold star reputation, but the nature of retail was shifting. By the time Covid hit, William knew the brand needed a stronger online strategy and a total overhaul of its operational infrastructure in order to keep up with increasing consumer expectation.
“During the pandemic our business was hugely impacted as we’re all about tailored garments for events – proms, weddings, Ascot. We also pride ourselves on the service we provide in store, and obviously the stores were closed.”
In addition, MS Dynamics wanted to push an unsuitable upgrade onto the team. As is frequently the case with ERP, the ‘all-in-one’ nature of the system, and the lack of customization over how Coes could use it, was causing the brand more issues than solutions. William wasn’t convinced it would sufficiently support their future direction.
“MS Dynamics wasn’t the right fit for us – it was too bulky and complicated for our needs, and there’s no option but to install the entire thing,” he said. “The stability and development of the platform was also an issue – in our view, it wasn’t really heading anywhere.”
With its current provider, the multichannel fashion brand was seeing growing issues around sales visibility and stock accuracy, and an over reliance on manual workflows and unreliable integrations was also proving to be a pain that needed fixing – and fast.
“What we needed was an agile, scalable tech solution to carry us forward with only retail-focused features that would benefit us,” William continued.
“We were already impressed by Shopify Plus, its usability and seamless customer interaction; so our main goal was to find a solution that would easily link to it.
“We started asking around and Brightpearl came to us through word of mouth.
“In terms of moving Coes forward, it ticked almost every box.”
Made to Measure Support
Brightpearl’s implementation was lightning-fast at only 120 days, when legacy ERPs can take up to two years to install.
William said the unparalleled 24/7 customer support, during implementation and since, has blown the service of their former provider out of the water and made Brightpearl well worth the investment.
“With other ERPs you’re somewhat left to your own devices,” he says, “Whereas with Brightpearl there’s a willingness to have dialogue on a regular basis.”
Brightpearl’s round-the-clock customer support includes a dedicated account management team and regular check-ins, which has been a real benefit to Coes as they adapt to the system.
“The support team has a desire to seek improvement, to assess what challenges we have and see what can be done. That collaborative element really stood out to us as a reason to choose Brightpearl.”
Since adopting Brightpearl’s retail operating system (ROS) to supercharge their processes, the merchant has seen countless improvements to how the business is run – most significantly in inventory management and increasing visibility across its sales channels.
“As a company with over 100,000 SKUs, we’re seeing great efficiency gains in how we handle stock,” William said. “Ordering and warehouse management is now much quicker and more connected; receiving and processing stock is easy, and shipping options are much more integrated than before.”
Brightpearl’s built-for-retail features include the Demand Planner tool, which provides Coes with data-driven sales forecasting so they can make more informed purchasing decisions and boost profits. Their formerly manual transferring of invoices has also become seamless, thanks to Brightpearl’s advanced accounting functionality.
“The automation has been great,” William explained, “Our day-to-day is so much easier.”
As a business built for decades on manual systems, Coes has found Brightpearl’s powerful Automation Engine – which streamlines and automates time-heavy manual processes such as ordering, warehouse, shipping and fulfilment – to be a new and rewarding experience.
It’s been a big cultural change for us as a primarily offline business, but having used Brightpearl for a year now we much prefer it, as we can get on top of issues as they arise – unlike before when everything was manual, and we were constantly playing catch up.
For an ambitious, omnichannel business such as Coes that wants to move on from its clunky ERP setup and embrace the more agile future of e-commerce, adopting a combination of Brightpearl’s scalable Retail Operating System (ROS) and a best-in-class ecommerce platform like Shopify Plus has proven to be a powerful move for the scaling fashion business.
William believes that by signing up with both tech partners, they’ve formed the foundational tech stack that will align Coes with the biggest players in retail.
“We’re a traditional brand with a long family history and most of our value lies with in-store customer service,” he says. “But the future is online, and the changes are fast and constant. We felt strongly that given the pace of technological change, a tech stack of flexible and scalable partners is the way to go.
“You want to know what your customers are going to do, and have the ability to link in and see that action as it happens – an ERP is simply too big and complicated for that.
“With Brightpearl as our central source of truth, these functionalities are so reliable and give us exactly what Coes as a business needs to grow.”
A Long-Lasting Vision
William believes that with Brightpearl’s scalable ROS in place as their central source of truth, in combination with the timeless nature of Coes garments, the brand has continued longevity.
“The coming years will certainly be challenging for traditional retailers like us, and some won’t survive – but the ones left will have a bigger stake in a smaller pie,” he said.
“Those brands that have recognized that sustainable, long-lasting products are the future, and have prepared their business for the oncoming shifts in consumer demand – they’ll be the ones ready to step up when the time comes.
“For us, choosing Brightpearl and Shopify Plus over an ERP was the right decision. We’d never go back to an ERP. There’s simply no substitute to getting the right data, in real-time, across all channels. It informs your customer relationships, processes, stock requirements – everything.”
The year Coes was founded
The number of SKUs the team has