The Woolery is based in Frankfort, Kentucky and has been serving the global spinning, weaving, and fiber arts community for almost 40 years.
The Woolery is an omnichannel retailer in Frankfort, Kentucky that’s been serving the global spinning, weaving, and fiber arts community for almost 40 years. “We began as a roadside stand out in farm country,” Wave McFarland, President at The Woolery told us. “A woman and her husband had a sheep farm. She decided to utilize some of her talents and try her hand at selling some small items made off the farm and one thing led to another,” Wave explained. Before they knew it, they had sold the farm and made the transition to a full retail business.
Initially producing printed catalogs to advertise their product lines, with the event of the internet launching in the 90s, The Woolery moved their catalog online. “We were one of the first stores in our retail space to do that,” Wave told us. “We used to have both, but it’s just not cost effective in today’s marketplace.”
For The Woolery, ensuring that their website – now their single product catalog – is fully up-to-date at all times is vital. “The corner of the retail world where we operate is very niche, so without it, a store of our size couldn’t survive on foot traffic. Even if we moved to Piccadilly Circus in London, we would not generate the volume we need in foot traffic!” Wave told us.
The Woolery’s ‘think global, act local’ philosophy towards customer service is at the heart of what they do. “If you’re starting a health and fitness routine, if you got to Amazon and type in ‘running shoe’ you’d probably get 5000 search results,” explained Wave. “Since you’re just starting out, you don’t know what kind of running shoes you need so you’re more inclined to go to a local sporting goods store and get some expert advice. That’s the way we operate.”
“Our customer service team have a very high level of technical competency and are very knowledgeable about the products we sell so we can make recommendations. People want to be able to go somewhere, ask the questions, get good answers, and their orders on time,” explains Wave.
“We were using a single count point of sale system; a single register like you would find in a single hardware or toy store,” Wave recalled. “It was fine at the time, but as we grew over the years, the business had put more requirements on it and it was just a matter of time before it broke down,” said Wave. “We were putting a lot of pressure on the system and it just wasn’t designed for that. There were a lot of workarounds, patches, and fixes.”
It wasn’t just that The Woolery were using a solution that couldn’t scale with them as they grew; it was also actively holding them back. “We needed a smooth, seamless shipping integration,” Wave explained.
“We had a customized bridge that required all of our shipping labels to be manually typed in every day so we were manually entering in anywhere from 500-1500 orders per week. There was a real lack of automation,” Wave recalled. “Many of the products we wanted to use just weren’t compatible with what we were using. We were doing our predictive order patterns modeling on spreadsheets which was working, but we knew we could do better. We knew we would never win the race, if our attention wasn’t to keep our car on the track.”
- A solution that would scale as they grew
- A smooth, seamless shipping integration
- Intelligent inventory planning and forecasting
So The Woolery went out to the market to see what the alternatives were. “We found that there are lots of technical solutions out there, but not a lot that are truly geared to the true omnichannel retailer,” explains Wave.
“A lot of them are designed for companies that are doing a lot of outsourcing and they’re managing data, not actual products. What they sell, they don’t see or touch and in some cases they don’t have their own website; they market exclusively on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay,” Wave tells us. “We’re somewhat unique in the fact that we take possession of our inventory, pick, pack and ship it all ourselves. There are very few business functions that we outsource and so we needed something that would support us with that.”
“We made a priority list,” Wave recalled. “The first priority was being able to handle multiple sales channels; if it didn’t have that we ruled it out straightaway,” said Wave. “Then it needed to be a full ERP package that could integrate with ShipStation or Shipworks, have point of sale capabilities, barcode printing and scanning, be on the cloud, have an integration with PayPal, and all at an affordable price.”
“We considered RetailOps, Freestyle, Tradegecko, Fishbowl, and Saleswarp,” Wave recalled. “We approached it logically and put them through a war of attrition and Brightpearl came out on top. It was as simple as that.” So The Woolery began using Brightpearl.
“The biggest impact that Brightpearl has had on our business are the integrations,” stated Wave. “Under our old system, it couldn’t integrate with Amazon so every order had to be manually entered in directly – that was half of someone’s day – every day. The other half of another person’s day was spent typing addresses into the shipping system. There were a lot of manual processes, entering the data in different places,” Wave recalls. “Before, we could only offer two shipping options. Now there’s no limit on the amount of carriers we can offer our customers now. We ship to 80 countries worldwide so it’s important for us to let the customer decide what service they want,” Wave told us.
“We really took advantage of the Inventory Planner app too,” added Wave. “The other options available were either ridiculously expensive or plain just didn’t work! Inventory Planner is an affordable, elegant solution that has helped improve our inventory and purchasing. We were doing our predictive order patterns modeling on spreadsheets before. Inventory planner takes that to another level, with elegance.”
“With Brightpearl, it all just flows from one end of the system to the other. It cuts down on errors, speeds things up, and has allowed us to expand our business without needing to expand our payroll,” explained Wave.
- Two-way marketplace and shipping carrier integrations
- Retail automation saving them from manual processes
- Intelligent inventory planning and forecasting
Fast forward 12 months to the second half of 2017, and although Brightpearl was meeting all of The Woolery’s initial requirements, they began suffering from a different problem.
“Our orders were backing up overnight,” Wave told us. “A member of our staff needed to look at the order and send it through to our warehouse as they came in, so overnight they were bottlenecking like a pig going through a snake,” said Wave. The Woolery got in touch with their Customer Success Manager at Brightpearl who suggested they take a look at extending their automation one step further with the Brightpearl automation app.
It was an instant success. Since using the Automation app, The Woolery has reduced its shipping times from an average of five days, to less than two. “Now, with the Automation app, two thirds of our orders drip through to the warehouse team automatically as they come in without anybody needing to touch them. We needed to touch every order before. We manage by exception now,” Wave explains. “We went from needing over three employees, to just two.”
“The combination of using the Brightpearl platform, adding the Automation app, and the Inventory Planner module has been the key to our success – it’s optimized us,” explains Wave.
“We’re carrying less dead products, more of what is actually selling, and we’ve largely said goodbye to stockouts. It’s great for the business and the customer experience overall. Plus we can get orders out over 70% faster,” said Wave. “Most of our customers are repeat buyers; many that have been buying from The Woolery for 20-30 years,” Wave told us. “They remark at the speed at which they receive their orders. They’re just astounded that we have whatever they need on hand and that they receive their orders much quicker now. It’s this that helps set us apart from a lot of our competition.”
“We love that The Woolery is a fun business,” Wave tells us. “The products we sell; they don’t cure cancer or save lives, people buy them because they bring them joy. We’ve had folks from all over the world come and visit us in Kentucky. To see the excitement on their faces when they come in to The Woolery; some of them start hyperventilating! They just can’t believe it! To know that your business brings that much joy brings a lot of satisfaction.”
We asked what the future looks like for The Woolery. “We’ll continue to keep the brand alive, build the business and serve the needs of the fiber arts community which has come to need us and rely upon us,” Wave said. “In the back office, we’ll continue to scale up the business without expanding our headcount. We want to become even more efficient in purchasing, shipping and processing. We’ve addressed a lot of the big pieces, so we’ll be refining a lot of the smaller ones. The more we can automate and streamline the back office, the more we can grow.”
The Woolery’s following from longtime and repeat customers will stand them in good stead when competing with giants like Amazon. For what Amazon lacks is The Woolery’s trump card: product knowledge fueled customer service and unparalleled brand loyalty. Combine that with an automated, streamlined, back office operation and The Woolery’s future looks guaranteed.
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