Cabinet Maker caught up with AIS Member of the Year Award winning retailer Ena Shaw Home to find out how it went about implementing a brand new software system, and what this has meant for both the business and it customers.

Keith Barlow, retail director at independent home furnishings retailer, Ena Shaw Home is philosophical about the business’ relationship with technology, so it was interesting to hear his take on the latest development for the company – the implementation of a new software system.

This development is designed to alleviate the hassle associated with creating products and corresponding options whilst also integrating the AIS TradeIslands system.

“We’ve never really had systems like this here at all,” he admits, “believe it or not, we were all using paper and pens.” The system is now fully operational following an 18-month implementation period, during which time something of a re-education took place. “One of the biggest challenges,” explained Keith, “was for those members of staff who had previously not needed to be computer literate, so we had to take them through it step by step.” Much of this process as overseen by senior sales advisor/buyer, Jennifer Williams, who took up the story: “We went through the process of teaching the team a department at a time to enable them to Staff can now access every product held, along with prices, almost immediately use the system on a daily basis, which the vast majority can now do with no problem at all,” she said. “We also created a cheat sheet for every single process, complete with screen grabs – even down to the point of asking whether it should say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s fair to say I had to very quickly learn every single process!”

“We decided we had to move forward,” said Keith, “when we were looking at a year’s worth of hard copy invoices. So we began our search for the right system which would offer us both retailer and consumer benefits. A couple of suppliers came to see us and presented their solutions, and we then had to choose between those which met our requirements.”

One of these suppliers was EPoS and retail management systems provider, Swan Retail. “We knew Swan already through the AIS, and other retailers who use the system had told us that they were happy with it. We found that it was simple to install, providing maximum efficiencies at a sensible cost. What’s more, we were keen to integrate with the AIS system, which this does. Now we have the whole product files available for 85% of suppliers.”

“The support is good too,” interjected Jenny, “which has been invaluable to us as a company here, realistically, I’ve been doing it all,” she laughed.

“Yes,” agreed Keith. “The only problem we found was that some members of our team hadn’t previously been computer savvy. But they can now find every product we have, with access to prices almost immediately. It’s all plain to see! Once an order is on the system, it creates a purchase order. The warehouse can see and schedule delivery.

“What’s more, the reporting side is vital to us. If you know where you’ve been, you know where you’re going, so to speak. For example, we can now find out how much turnover is from beds, as opposed to, say, headboards. We can see how each range is performing, and how much space it needs.”

So, how have the changes affected customers? “Well, “said Keith, “when a customer walks in and places an order, we can take their postcode and find and process everything very quickly.” “Plus,” said Jenny, “as the order is printed out, the customer can clarify to ensure accuracy, even if it’s only something small.”

“We have many years of experience,” explained Keith, “but like many smaller independents we have been fairly backwards in the past in terms of retail strategy. Now we have Jenny and a team of other people, and with the new system, we are more up to date with the current climate, and more in line with the big independents.”

“We have a real advantage too, being member of AIS,” adds Jenny, “in that we can easily import supplier catalogues. We simply go to TradeIsland, find the product or company we want and select Format B. Then we format the headings and import into the Swan system. It’s straightforward and takes five minutes – instead of a whole day!”

So, with the new system in operation, and a number of awards – including the AIS Member of the Year Award for retail and a listing in the London Stock Exchange’s 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain – under its belt, what’s next for the company?

“The next step,” said Jenny, “is to further develop the website in order to broaden its appeal and showcase more of what we have in store.” “That’s right,” agreed Keith, “this summer our aim is to make the site more user friendly, and we will be working with Swan and Iconography to achieve this.”

“We also want to try and attract a different generation of customer,” said Jenny. “So we are enhancing our social media presence and we’re getting more interest already. It’s second nature to me now to check it out each day – even if I’m standing in a queue in the supermarket!”

“The key,’ said Keith, “is to make sure we answer everybody. People on social media want information on trends, so it’s important to respond quickly. Doing so also gives you a better rating on Facebook – and our page already has lots of likes and comments. In fact, we have had people come in specifically, having seen our posts.

“We have certainly brought things forward at quite a pace in recent months, but we are not going to stop there. And from a systems point of view, we don’t have to as we’re currently using around 70% of its capacity, which means that it is future proofed.”

With everything it has achieved already, we look forward to finding out what Ena Shaw Home can do with the other 30%!

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