The owner of a popular gift shop in the heart of the south Wales Valleys has transformed her business, after taking the decision to invest in an electronic stock-management system (EPoS), enabled by a broadband internet connection.
EPoS system helps boost sales by 33% and modernise stock management
Alison Chapman, who runs Treorchy-based Wonder Stuff, has seen her takings leap by more than a third since installing the system, which has also allowed her to devote more time to other initiatives that have helped to grow the business.
“For the first 12 years of running the shop, we just used a manual till system, writing down all sales by hand and managing the stock manually,” explained Ms Chapman. “I used to place orders for new stock based on intuition, which worked out okay most of the time, but didn’t really allow me to analyse trends or track the lines that were proving popular, and I regularly ended up with leftover products that we couldn’t sell.”
Investing to save time and money
Ms Chapman remembers trialling a number of different EPoS systems, before making a decision to commit to a product from Epos Now, in what was one of the largest single investments she had made since starting the business.
The impact has been transformational, allowing the business to make a 20% reduction in stock management time and reduce the overall amount of stock held on site by around quarter. By analysing trends in the sales of different products, Wonder Stuff has also varied the products it sells – increasing lines of jewellery and personalised greeting cards, while carrying less of the items that were proving harder to sell.
Embracing digital technology
“Because we are now able to pinpoint the stock required, we buy more regularly but in smaller quantities, with the system alerting us when we need to order more of our popular items,” added Ms Chapman.
“The system has also allowed us to make use of other technology solutions, like Amazon’s mobile seller app. We trialled the app as a way to move on unsold stock, scanning in a selection of items and fulfilling orders ourselves. More recently, the app has become an integrated part of our sales strategy and we place additional orders for products that sell particularly well online and use Amazon to fulfil them. The app now accounts for around 3% of all sales and it is growing.”
Some of the inspiration for the investment in technology has come from support and advice provided through the Welsh Government’s Superfast Business Wales scheme, and Ms Chapman has attended an Inspiring Action Workshop, as well as accessing one-to-one advice from a specialist business adviser.
Although a typical Wonder Stuff customer still tends to fall within the older age bracket, the business has benefited from engaging in social media, using platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to the website, footfall to the shop and run special promotions and competitions that have proved to be effective.
“Every year, I like to introduce at least one new initiative that will benefit the business and, increasingly, the ideas are more likely to be driven by technology,” said Ms Chapman. “Seven years ago, we decided to re-use part of the shop to open a small café, as a way to drive more footfall into the store. This year, we upgraded our EPoS system to include a Customer Relationship Management function, which allows us to communicate better with our loyal customers, sending out special offers, such as exclusive discounts on birthdays and at key times like Christmas and Easter.
“Support from Superfast Business Wales has given me the confidence to try new things and make the most of opportunities provided by the internet and new technology. I have also found a way to introduce new ideas that work for my business – it is not about using technology for technology’s sake, but if it makes my life easier and helps me provide a better service to my customers then I’m all for it.”