Brightpearl is a multichannel game-changer for
San Francisco’s Sportique
As a curator of new and unique brands and styles, Sportique couples
multichannel retail with a true sense of philanthropy
increase in efficiency
revenue in 18 months
employees and growing
The multichannel background
Sportique has grown from a part-time eBay project to a globally renowned multichannel retail business. Selling unique sports equipment and apparel, Sportique is always on the cusp of new trends in the Bay Area.
Speaking with the founder, Chris Gathright, 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 is designed or marketed, or even how the company is giving back to the environment, community or a particular demographic.”
“We don’t do discounting, which is unique for ecommerce, because everything we’re about is offering very high quality products to our customers that people seek out because of the quality and uniqueness of the product.” Ben explains that Sportique’s 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.”
Chris started on eBay 15 years ago whilst also working for various start-ups. He began creating a niche of curated products from around the world that were very new and very design focused. But one day, everything changed: “Five and half years ago my then boss grabbed me and said ‘hey you gotta go out there and build and grow for yourself.’”
Taking the leap, Chris created the Sportique brand and formed a full time company. 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!”
Despite their impressive growth, social consciousness has remained fundamental to their vision and mentality. As well as carrying a handful of brands who ‘give back’ in some way, they give back directly themselves too. Ben explains, “when Chris opened the store in San Francisco, a big focus for him was to do the philanthropic work. Every 3-6 months he would find a local charity or organization to support. We would host events at the store for a night around particular organizations, and all the proceeds from that night at the store would go to that organization.”
The inventory management challenge
- Maintaining an accurate multichannel inventory and delivering excellent customer service
- Making informed and trackable purchasing decisions
- Setting the infrastructure in place for growth
It has not always been smooth-sailing for Sportique. Their founder admits they’ve had to overcome huge hurdles to build 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, fulfilled. Obviously this was not scaleable.”
These problems spilled over and had an effect on their customer service levels too. “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, and the ability to see everything in one place caused a lot of issues.”
When searching for the solution, the challenge became finding software which was the right fit. “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.”
The other options were bleak. “Pre-Brightpearl you only had huge enterprise management software, a somewhat archaic technology that’s meant for a much bigger scale. For a small and medium sized business you need a really responsive platform that can manage all of your different channels and can itself grow” Ben starts, “but that’s what Brightpearl does, the team there is always innovating and finding new ways to improve the technology and that’s the fundamental belief of everyone here in the Bay Area - innovate and find new ways to improve.”
Another huge problem Sportique experienced before finding Brightpearl was around receiving products. “You would get a PO from someone - but how do you notate whether they shipped everything properly? Whether it matches up with the invoice? Whether they shorted us or over shipped? Did we receive it on time? Do we know when it’s coming in?” Ben recalls, “those were the big challenges.”
Chris tells me that without Brightpearl he felt like he had hit a brick wall with 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 much more scattered. Everyone had to fill in gaps and that was a real pain.”
“Essentially the big hurdle early on was not having a ‘Brightpearl’. If Brightpearl existed in the US a couple of years earlier, that would have been huge for us. We could have got to where we are now two years sooner.”
The integrated solution
After Brightpearl secured funding and expanded into the US, Chris was quick to rejoice.
Gone are the woes of double selling and mismanaged inventory, “now we’re 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 year when things got really hot. All of a sudden then you’re chasing product and wasting time.”
“Now that all our channels are linked we’re able to sell more on more channels! We can also easily place POs which enable us to get ahead of products which might be running low.”
Ben and Chris also praised the Shipstation integration within Brightpearl. “It is crucial” Chris admits, “it allows you to streamline everything. You can process shipments quickly from within Brightpearl” saving time, cutting down manual errors, and making customers a little bit happier.
Not only has linking channels alleviated pains around customer service, purchasing and double selling, but it has also been instrumental in the recent growth of the company. Chris explains, “linking our channels has been crucial for growth. You simply cannot scale otherwise.”
Because Brightpearl 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.”
Diving into the heart of Brightpearl, Chris explains why he thinks this is: “Brightpearl 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.”
“We’re hiring our tenth full-time employee, but before Brightpearl we couldn’t scale for growth or hire more people in a full-time capacity.”
“In two words, I’d have to describe Brightpearl as a ‘Game Changer’. It is going to increase your efficiency by 200% easily, and ultimately allow you to scale your business to the level your company should be at.”
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.
But that’s not all, Chris plans on taking Sportique to the next level. “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.”
Studying the techniques of larger businesses, Chris continues: “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.”