As a curator of new and unique brands and styles, Sportique couples multichannel retail with a true sense of philanthropy.
Sportique has grown from a part-time eBay project to a world-renowned multichannel retail business. Selling unique sports equipment and apparel, Sportique is always on the cusp of new trends in the Bay Area.
The company’s founder, Chris Gathright, started on eBay 15 years ago while also working for various start ups. But after some inspirational words from his then boss, Chris made the leap and took the business full-time. He started building a team, rented warehouse space, expanded to additional online channels and created a brick and mortar store. “All of a sudden, we were on Amazon, and then we built our own Shopify website, and then we opened up our own store. It just continued to grow!”
Speaking with Chris, you instantly get a feel for the company’s unique take on multichannel commerce. The company’s vision to “curate new and unique products from across the globe all while giving back to and making a positive impact in the community” manifests itself in all aspects of Sportique’s business model.
Ben LoBue, Sportique’s Director of Ecommerce, explains: “It’s all about finding brands that are doing something unique in their space. Whether that’s with the product itself, the way it’s designed or marketed, or even how the company is giving back to the environment, community or a particular demographic. We also don’t do discounting, which is unique for ecommerce. Everything we’re about is offering high quality products to our customers that people seek out because of the quality and uniqueness of the product. Our customers are willing to pay a premium price because they know they’re not going to run into someone else on the street that has that same product.”
It hasn’t always been smooth-sailing for Sportique. Their founder admits they’ve had to overcome huge hurdles to get to where they are today; the most significant of which was inventory management. “Inventory management was a huge problem. Before Brightpearl, every order went into a spreadsheet. We’d have a mess of columns for picked, packed, paid and fulfilled. Obviously this wasn’t scalable.”
These problems spilled over and had an effect on their customer service levels too. Chris explains: “When we were selling on multiple channels, it was very easy to oversell a product, or sell something we thought we had but didn’t! Managing the customer service side was very difficult before. Not having transparency or the ability to see everything in one place caused a lot of issues.”
When searching for a solution, the challenge became finding which software was the right fit. Chris says: “We looked at other inventory management software, but found that they were just not extensive enough. The biggest challenge was that there weren’t any players out there that offered multichannel management across Amazon, eBay, our physical store and our branded website on Shopify.”
Chris continues: “We needed a responsive platform that could manage all of our different channels and grow with us. But that’s what Brightpearl does – the team there is always innovating and finding new ways to improve the technology. That’s the fundamental belief of everyone here in the Bay Area – innovate and find new ways to improve.”
Chris tells us that without Brightpearl, he felt like he had hit a brick wall regarding business growth. “Without the infrastructure, we couldn’t build. I could have hired more people but I would be wasting money. You can buy and sell more products in an attempt to grow, but ultimately, if the channels aren’t linked up and you don’t have a customer service piece, you’re just spinning the wheels.”
His internal business management was a struggle too, as everyone had to pick up various roles outside of their expertise. Chris admits: “I had to run the business in a way that was scattered. Everyone had to fill in gaps and that was a real pain.”
Maintaining an accurate multichannel inventory and delivering excellent customer service
Making informed and trackable purchasing decisions
Setting the infrastructure in place for growth
Now that Brightpearl is fully embedded in the company’s operations, Chris says: “We’re now able to manage our inventory across all channels. This used to be a major headache in the past because we would spend a lot of time manually amending inventory levels, and we’d end up frequently double selling products at certain times of the year when things got really hot. Now that all our channels are linked, we’re able to sell more on more channels! We can also easily place purchase orders, which enables us to get ahead of products that might be running low.”
Ben and Chris also praised the ShipStation integration within Brightpearl. “It’s crucial. It allows you to streamline everything. You can process shipments quickly from within Brightpearl.”
Because Brightpearl also provided better insight and scalability, Chris attributes their strong growth to the adoption of the system. “We have almost doubled our revenue in the 18 months since taking on Brightpearl. It has given us better infrastructure. It allows us to have everyone in house work in much more focused positions. Now we have one person handling all operations, one person shipping, one person focused on ecommerce, etc. It makes it much cleaner from an organizational standpoint.”
Reflecting on how far Sportique has come in the last 18 months, Chris is ambitious about the future of his company. Refusing to rest on their laurels, Sportique will continue to expand into new channels, using Brightpearl to scale and prevent overextending their reach.
Chris says: “We would like to eventually build our own brands. We work with hundreds of brands and can see what makes them succeed or fail, and we’re learning. When you look at CVS, Walgreens or Safeway… these big brands have everything within them. They learn what products are successful then go out and build their own with much higher margins. I see us doing a similar play.”
Sportique’s unique attitude and success are taking them far, and with his parting words, Chris sends out a message: “We’ve been profitable since day one and we’re not going anywhere.”
Increase in efficiency
Revenue in 18 months