When we think about the retail revolution, the discussion often turns to the likes of Amazon or the massive transformations being undertaken by established retailers like Myer, Woolworths and other familiar brands. But smaller, independent retailers are also important. With small business employing more Australians than any other sector, it's a vibrant and important part of the Aussie economy. Tim Cecil started Modern Classic after a long career in men's fashion. And he has embraced a number of new technologies in order to carve out a successful niche in men's fashion.
Cecil was a buyer for a large menswear retailer but the items he was bringing in weren't the clothes he wanted to wear. In his travels he saw many clothes he liked across Asia and Europe but there was nowhere here he could buy them. He then had an epiphany where he realised that Australia has a relatively affluent and sophisticated population.
"Big Box" retailing, he says, was emerging with a major online presence but lots of gaps were appearing in the market. In particular, while there was a focus on luxury, or "lifestyle" goods in his view, no-one was really delivering high quality goods that were "contemporary but timeless". He wanted to create a more intimate connection with customers and focussed his products on smaller manufacturers to create a highly curated product catalog where ethical supply was also a major consideration.
He compared this with retailers who sell $10 t-shirts that are shipped across the world, noting a completely ethical supply chain is challenging to delver if that's the product you want to sell.
Having come from a larger company, Cecil was accustomed to large ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems but the cost of such a system is "unattainable for a small business" he said. The cost of infrastructure and ongoing system maintenance and development was prohibitive.
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He sought a cloud-based solution that was less expensive, more dynamic and mobile-friendly. And while all that was impossible to attain just five years ago, he was able to do put together a solution that works for his business. His store runs on seven key systems:
- Vend: point of sale
- Dear: inventory management
- Shopify: mobile shop front
- Xero: accounts
- Shippit: for shipping products
- Afterpay: for customer payments
- Tyro: for EFTPOS
One of the key challenges was in making them all work together.
"It was important that we worked with someone who knew what to do. We had an integration partner for the integration and training," said Cecil.
The importance of training was stressed by Cecil. He noted that knowing what systems were capable of and how to take advantage of the capability was something that needed to be taught. It wasn't as easy as installing the software and everything being intuitive and easy to use.
Cecil said there were five crucial lessons he learned through the Modern Classic journey.
- Partnership: You cannot know everything yourself. You need a good partner for integration and training
- Education: Education is critical so you can leverage all the capability you're paying for.
- Data: Make sure your data is as clean as possible. It makes a huge difference in how long it takes to do things.
- Planning ahead: Cecil took a very DIY approach but he says you need a plan for future and know when to ask for help.
- Be dynamic: Be prepared to change things up in response to the market and to continue to improve the service you're offering.