“We ran a promotion that boosted us from 1,500 monthly orders to over 7,000 – and the Brightpearl system didn’t change, it worked in exactly the same way. With our previous setup we would have been copying and pasting stuff all over the place; it would have been impossible. We can easily ride out these sudden changes now that our systems can handle it, and focus on what comes next.” — Axel Stelk, CFO at Piglet in Bed
It was in 2017 that Founder of Piglet in Bed, Jessica Mason, launched her online bedding business with only a Shopify website and three colours of linen bedding and pillowcases. In a handful of years the British-born brand has taken off, providing a refreshing wake-up call to the bedding industry and attracting big name retailers on both sides of the pond with its lived-in, English countryside aesthetic.
The company is now the third fastest-growing Homeware retailer in the UK, according to Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 list of fastest-growing online brands – and made the top 25 UK brands overall with an impressive 67% YoY growth.
Axel Stelk, CFO at Piglet in Bed, is appreciative of the chance to reflect on its success.
“Especially right now when the markets are tough and not easy to navigate, it’s encouraging to be reassured that we’re doing things right,” he says.
“Our team works incredibly hard, so to score so highly is super exciting. It feels like we’re really creating something unique and exceptional.”
WAKING UP TO THE FUTURE
When Piglet in Bed launched in 2017, social media was becoming a hotbed for word-of-mouth marketing content, and savvy consumers were starting to shop differently.
“The way we shop has fundamentally changed from previous generations,” Axel explains. “There was a lot more direct input from real customers.
“At that time, some companies had adapted to this already – the makeup brand Glossier, for example, engaged with people on social media to derive exactly what products they wanted.
“That had yet to happen in the homeware space. Traditional bedding brands of the time – they were marketed as crisp, ironed; pressed on a bed in a hotel-like setting. This just didn’t resonate with us or how we thought people wanted their bedrooms to be.”
The idea for a homey, stripped-back product line had legs, as the brand saw instant success – selling direct-to-consumer as well as wholesale to boutique stores across the country. By the beginning of 2020 the brand had just hit the US – but that year brought a few more surprises, Covid being one of them.
“At first we thought we couldn’t handle the Covid effect – but being an e-commerce homeware brand meant we were able to weather the storm,” said Axel. “As we’d worked a lot on our brand identity, we were able to cut through at a time when everyone was specifically searching for our category.
“Our US base grew exponentially, going from zero to now being more than a quarter of our overall sales.”
When the boost in exposure attracted the attention of investors and big department stores such as John Lewis and Nordstrom, Piglet in Bed was able to upgrade its website, marketing and operations across the board. The brand went from Shopify to Shopify Plus, upgraded its CRM and introduced a data warehouse and stocking system.
But as orders flowed in through all channels in both the UK and USA; the brand’s existing solution was causing operational headaches. The team was losing time tracking numerous spreadsheets, and Axel could see that their increasingly complex processes needed a stronger support system.
In search of a solution, he interviewed legacy ERP providers, but had disappointing results.
“None of the incumbent ERPs seemed to work for our business model.
“These were systems built in the 1980s, so generally they felt outdated – and most were way too large, complex or expensive for a company our size,” he says.
“The price never ended up being what you’d pay in the end. There are some features you come to expect, like an easy integration with your accounting software – but they would say, ‘Sure – we can build that in half a year, and it will cost you this much extra’. That seemed crazy.
“It makes you realize that the old ERP solutions, they really aren’t in touch with the current world and how things are done.”
Axel found out about the Brightpearl retail operating system (ROS) through a marketing newsletter, and things started to fall into place.
“It seemed ideal; a centralized system that had specific ‘modules’ to solve all of our operational issues. The pricing model was also perfect because it scaled with the size of the company.
“All things considered, it was exactly what we were looking for.”
A DREAM SCENARIO
After opting for Brightpearl, Axel set ambitious aims to launch with the system in time for Black Friday. Guided by Brightpearl’s expert implementation consultants, Piglet in Bed was up and running in less than 90 days – with plenty of time to spare.
“It was the first time for me migrating an ROS, but we had a great consultant who was very knowledgeable about how the system would work for Piglet in Bed. The back and forth we had with him definitely made it more of a success,” Axel says.
The benefits of Brightpearl kicked in immediately.
With a world-class roster of Plug & Play integrations, the system swiftly connected to Piglet in Bed’s Shopify Plus website, as well as its accounting software, third-party warehouse system and CRM. It can quickly extend to the brand’s online retail apps such as John Lewis and Nordstrom, and any other channels the brand wishes to adopt as it scales.
The Piglet in Bed team may have grown from two to 25 people, but Brightpearl’s powerful Automation Engine means staff are rarely turned towards manual work. The system automates and streamlines time-intensive tasks in ordering, inventory, warehouse, shipping and fulfilment, and Axel was stunned by the transformation.
“Put simply, manual processes disappeared overnight. Very few people in our team work on operations, because anything that was previously a manual process, Brightpearl has solved for us.
It’s increased our professionalism as a company. We still use some spreadsheets, but now they’re the exception rather than the rule.”
With Brightpearl in place as its central source of truth, the Piglet in Bed team has access to 360-degree visibility across its entire business, so receives real-time performance updates and advanced reporting functionality.
Most prominently for Axel, he knows that with Brightpearl, Piglet in Bed can continue to Grow Fearlessly without the operational blockers that were slowing things down.
“Brightpearl gives you more confidence to scale,” he says. “Before, sure, we could try and process twice the amount of orders – but it would be a s***show.
“Now we can do twice the amount of orders, ten times, a hundred times more – and still be fine. The system can handle that and the integrations work, so a marked increase in orders doesn’t mean an increase in work.
“Recently we ran a promotion that boosted us from 1,500 monthly orders to 7,000. With the previous setup we would have been copying and pasting stuff all over the place; it would have been impossible. But the Brightpearl system didn’t change, it worked in exactly the same way.
“We can ride out these sudden changes now and think great, our systems can handle it. Time to take the next step.”
PIGLET GETS BIGGER
During a difficult year for retailers, Axel believes a multichannel approach will stand Piglet in Bed in good stead as the future of retail unfolds.
“We’ve been completely e-commerce, and that will always be our focus – but hopefully people will see our products on shelves soon. Expanding that way during the cost-of-living crisis means we can reach more customers through different means.”
Social media is also a growing hub of activity for the brand, which boasts a cult fan base who love Piglet in Bed’s products.
“Around 30 percent of our customers find us through Instagram, and our TikTok audience grew from zero to 30k in only six months. You simply can’t ignore the potential of these newer channels.”
Finally, as Axel looks back on the smart choices that led to Piglet in Bed’s impressive Lightning 50 achievement, what’s the advice he would give to small businesses hoping to reach the same goals?
“Create a strong brand that gets people excited about you; it’s the only thing that will make you stand out against the bigger players. Make sure that brand identity extends to your products, your customer service, and even saying no to opportunities that don’t quite fit.
“Also, smartly invest in order to be profitable. You’ll be encouraged to spend loads on marketing early on, but also look at your systems and your products, and remember that investing in the technology now could really pay off for you further down the road.”
“That’s what we did when we opted for Brightpearl, and we’re certainly glad that we did.”
Check out the exceptional e-commerce retail brands that made Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 rankings.
Top three fastest-growing homeware brands in the UK
YOY growth rate
Brightpearl implemented in under three months