Canadian jewelry company Dean Davidson has gone from success to success. Launched in 2007, the company creates luxury fashion jewelry inspired by classic and contemporary styles from around the world. Every piece they’ve sold has been proudly designed in-house by founder Dean Davidson, and the brand has won both consumer acclaim and fans including Oprah, Jennifer Lopez, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and Meghan Markle. In 2019, Davidson won the Canadian Arts and Fashion Award for Accessories Designer of the Year.
But, behind the scenes, there’s another jewel in Dean Davidson’s crown: their inventory management system, Cin7.
Dean Davidson Operations Manager, Suzanne Vaughan, says Cin7 has been “a great part of our success.”
Suzanne arrived at Dean Davidson in a roundabout way. After working in sales and marketing in a small company, she took a year off to travel, then went looking for her next adventure. At the time, Dean Davidson, with just three employees, was looking for an intern. Suzanne started working in operations and fulfilment, and quickly realized she had plenty of value to contribute to the business by helping them grow their sales team and setting up their operations for success.
When Suzanne arrived, very little operations data was being collected. There were no reporting capabilities, and there was next to no visibility for management. What’s more, staff were stuck doing manual inventory data entry across several different platforms. This would be troubling for any company, but in a fledgling organization with multiple channels to market, it could choke off growth at the source — or even kill the business.
Cin7’s clean data makes all the difference — and $71k a year in increased sales
It’s especially important to have access to good, clean data and solid reporting when your processes are complex. At Dean Davidson, Dean works with an in-house CAD designer to produce mockups, which are sent to a manufacturer. Finished pieces are sent back to Dean Davidson. Dean then sells direct-to-consumers through online channels, and sells wholesale to major department stores including Saks and Nordstrom. In total, Dean Davidson has nearly 250 unique boutiques that they sell to. They don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, preferring instead to sell B2B via Cin7, and direct to consumers (D2C) via Shopify. There are a lot of moving parts, and it’s easy for things to slip. Before Cin7, the team — using mostly manual processes, including writing out shipping labels by hand — struggled to keep up with orders.
“That's where my skill set came in,” Suzanne says. “I got us set up with QuickBooks Enterprise, which did solve some of those problems, but then we found barriers because there was no integration with any of our other systems. We had all these different arms, but none of them knew what the other was doing. It was a nightmare”
Before Cin7, a really big issue for Dean Davidson was showing incorrect inventory numbers across sales channels. They would constantly show stock-outs even if they had product on hand, which lost them sales. And the opposite was also true —they’d show inventory for out of stock items. This also caused lost sales, unhappy customers, and a loss of confidence in their brand
With the requirement for manual data entry across their system, there were plenty of times when they’d have to let customers buy products that weren’t ready yet. “We’d just deal with the backlash of having to say, ‘Okay, we don’t have the product ready to sell out yet.’”
Suzanne knew the business needed to make major changes to how they managed inventory. After searching online, she was sure Cin7 was a perfect fit. And once it was implemented, the benefits of having correct inventory numbers quickly became clear.
“We estimate the benefit of having proper inventory numbers [across our channels] to be around $71,000 per year in increased sales,” Suzanne says.
But then, just when things were looking good, the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and their traditional market almost vanished overnight.
Pivoting in the midst of a deadly pandemic
The beginning of the Covid-19 global pandemic was a terribly uncertain time for businesses of all kinds. Restrictions on retail trade meant sellers had to find and open new channels, fast. Luckily for Dean Davidson, their fresh Cin7 implementation made it easy to make rapid changes and scale up new channels.
“We pivoted and put all our energy into our online channel when the pandemic hit,” Suzanne says.
The new strategy quickly reaped dividends. Their wholesale went down, but still maintained a good level. And,their D2C sales went through the roof.
“We've sort of figured out a magic formula and it just keeps growing,” Suzanne says.
“To give you an example, in Q4 of 2019, we shipped 600 packages. In Q4 2020 we shipped 2,600 packages. That’s a huge increase for us. We have two websites, one for the US and one for Canada. One was up 215 percent and the other one wasn't that far behind. There’s been lots of growth there.”
The company says they’d been so focused on the wholesale business, with its cycles of traditional trade shows and in-person meet-and-greets, that they’d become stuck. Covid-19 was the nudge they needed to take the company in another, more profitable direction.
“It really just opened our eyes. The pandemic, actually, was able to shift us in a direction where there’s way more opportunity. And Cin7 has been a great part of our success — operationally, we would not have been able to accommodate the volume we had at the end of 2020. It wouldn't have happened.”
From manual data entry to $50k worth of effortless fulfillment
Before Cin7, Dean Davidson’s staff were handling many processes manually, including shipping. Now, with Cin7, they’re able to run the whole fulfilment operation much more efficiently — and that’s a good thing, now that they’re dealing with so much D2C channel growth.
“Before Cin7, we were manually entering every single address,” Suzanne says. “With 600 packages a month that was fine, but with five times that volume, I think somebody would quit!”
In 2019, Dean Davidson needed four people to manage fulfilment. Cin7 cut that requirement in half.
“This year we did it with two,” Suzanne says. “We were able to manage that because it’s a really good system, together with the automations. It couldn't have been smoother, in my opinion.”
Dean Davidson are now in the happy position of expecting to realize decreased variable costs and increased sales from the Cin7 implementation.
“Just the basic automation alone will save us $55,000 (CAD) a year in labour savings, now we’ve eliminated manual entry of sales orders, purchase orders, shipping labels, and we’re no longer doing manual inventory on our websites, and manually creating reports.”
Knowing exactly where they are means Dean Davidson knows where they’re going
Having inventory sorted and effortless automation are just two of the benefits of Cin7 for Dean Davidson. Cin7 also gave them increased clarity of reporting, allowing staff to make informed decisions right across the board. The ability to see what is and isn’t in stock allows their marketing team to create profitable sales campaigns, which in turn helps clear up space in the warehouse.
“The visibility is incredible.” Suzanne says. “The marketing team knows what we have, know what we can sell, and they know when we are understocked or overstocked. They can then make adjustments to their calendar to push what they need to push, to help clear out the inventory where it is.”
Dean Davidson’s sales staff also benefit, with Cin7 set up to give them detailed information about how wholesale sales are going. And their own staff buyer is also using the system, utilizing Cin7 to manage all their buying and product creation.
The books fare better as well, with a direct integration between Cin7 and QuickBooks Enterprise. And, of course, Suzanne gets the visibility and powerful reporting that every operations manager needs.
“Our accountant is getting his reporting out of Cin7. I get all of my reporting out of there, for anything that we're doing and we'll continue to do. I can look at the business eight million different ways, and that all comes out of Cin7,” Suzanne says.
“To see the data I want to see without having to clean it, manipulate it — which is what I had to do before Cin7 — is huge.”
With pain points turned into skyrocketing sales, Dean Davidson looks forward to the future
“We have only just scraped the surface of Cin7, in my opinion,” Suzanne says. She’s focused on continuing to learn and utilize Cin7 to its fullest potential. “We haven't even started to use Smart Buyer, but when we do, that part of the system is going to change our business again. That will show us how our forecasting and procurement works, on a much more sophisticated level. So that's our next step.”
She lists the pain points that Cin7 has already alleviated as visibility into operations, across inventory, and all main channels.
“It's so important for us. Cin7 has alleviated a lot of those pain points — just knowing when products are coming in, for the team to be able to see that is huge. Shipping is solved. Reporting has already been big for us, but it’s going to be even bigger,” Suzanne says.
She says she’d recommend Cin7 to any small to medium sized multi-channel business looking for an inventory software solution.
“I would highly recommend shifting over to Cin7, for sure.”
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