Pine Apparel finds Cin7 the perfect fit
Hitting the first profitable quarter is an impressive milestone for any business, especially in the current global climate. Pine Apparel reached that milestone this year – and credit for this feat is largely due to Cin7, according to Director of Operations Elise Ellis.
“It’s changed our whole operation and gave us that visibility,” she says, adding that the recent success wouldn’t have been possible without Cin7. “If I didn’t have a solution like this I don’t think we would have seen what we have right now.”
Pine Apparel founder Michael Edwards started the company by selling dresses out of his car. But, years later, he continued to view the company as a “small business”, despite shipping apparel orders to boutiques throughout the United States.The systems in place before Cin7 reflected this mindset: Inventory was recorded on Excel sheets, and entire processes were recorded in Google Drive. Sales were manually deducted when they happened and then, as Elise says, “the team would rush”.
“They’d actually go and look for [the stock in the warehouse] because it wasn’t organized. And they just knew [one thing] was in the third aisle, and something else was in the eighth aisle…”
When Elise first joined the team in 2019, she was tasked with “bringing the company into the current century.” After finding better ways to organize the warehouse, the team’s inventory and accounting systems were the next major step. In previous roles, Elise had integrated big ERP systems like SAP, so she knew exactly what she was doing. The only problem was that she didn’t know what sort of inventory solution would best suit the business.
“The big challenge was, how do I find a software solution? It wasn’t only having inventory management, but we knew it had to tie into our financials. We knew we had to tie it into shipping. We knew in the end we wanted to also have an e-commerce site. So, the number one focus was starting with the end in mind.”
Elise ultimately chose Cin7 over competitors for a number of reasons – the ability to work with Shopify, the seamless functionality with often-specialized apparel industry requirements and, as Elise admits, the all-important number on the back page of any proposal – the price. It’s a decision she hasn’t regretted.
“I love the journey that we’ve had with Cin7,” she says. “I love that we’ve got my one source of truth with Cin7. I’ve never had to question it, because it’s always been spot on with the integrity of our inventory.”
For an apparel wholesaler, that trust in inventory systems is vital. And it can be a tricky industry in that sense. Items are sold generally as bundles, but single stock items also need to be recorded. The same item will have a range of colors and sizes, and even one kink in the chain can bring sales to a halt. This is where Cin7 has saved significant stress and heartache for Elise. For the first time, she now has complete trust in their inventory and systems. And she knows what’s available, in real time, across all systems and platforms.
Looking back before Cin7, Elise says the difference is substantial. The company signed a contract with Cin7 in January 2020. Before that, she says she was flying blind in terms of accurate stock counts.
“I had no idea what my inventory was,” she says. “It was the first time in 36 years that we actually went through the warehouse and counted item by item to know what we own.”
Despite her complete faith in the systems and the data Cin7 provides, Elise found herself switching to Cin7 at an especially difficult time. She had initially hoped to go live with Cin7 by Superbowl Sunday, but not long before that day the Warehouse Manager resigned, leaving Elise to organise and fill in over 50,000 inventory data points. Then, Pine Apparel’s sales slowed considerably when COVID-19 hit the US in March 2020. Despite all of this, Elise says what impressed her and made the transition stress-free was the “hand-holding” and onboarding provided by the Cin7 team.
Elise says the team were still there through the set-up to answer questions and help make the transition easier – something that other systems didn’t really accommodate.
“I think in terms of the onboarding and then that implementation, that hand-holding was what was so important,” she says. “A company like SAP – they don’t offer service like that.”
And ultimately, that’s what won Elise over.
“I just think all of that – [the help with] onboarding and the implementation and then ultimately having Premium Plus support is really one of the keys to our success.”
Elise says Cin7 has made Pine Apparel’s growth manageable and simple for two reasons: It’s reliable, and provides true visibility right across the business.
“I have confidence in our numbers,” she says. “It’s really just the integrity. I have the real time data – with our goods going to Shopify, and then a Shopify order coming back in real time showing our inventory and what’s available to sell.”
Pine Apparel makes use of Xero, Shipstation and Shopify Cin7 integrations, and the entire team has access to and utilizes the software daily – everyone from Sales Reps to accounting and warehouse staff. So having total faith in the accuracy of data is vital to the success of the company.
“That’s what our whole strength is, it is that I’ve got that one source and I know it connects,” says Elise. “If I look at Xero, I see the same number in Xero that came from Cin7. I look at Shopify in that sales order and I see that here, I go to ShipStation and I see that same order. I’m not seeing different data.”
“That’s what makes you sleep at night,” Elise says.
Confidence in numbers is imperative to the smooth running of an organisation that sells direct to boutiques all across the United States. In the wholesale industry, items are sold as bundles, rather than one-offs. And Sales Reps are selling to various boutiques across the country. It’s important to have a clear and precise indication of available stock in real time. This is why Cin7 has made life so much easier for this business. The visibility allows Elise and her team to have real-time, accurate sales and inventory data, and they’re able to react to it.
Ultimately, what it comes down to for Elise is the fact that Cin7 has seamlessly integrated with the company and unlocked its growth. Where she was once unable to keep track of what was selling and what was in stock, she can now know immediately what’s on hand – what sells quickly and what is popular right now. These things allow her to keep on track with orders and demand. And perhaps more importantly, she can trust what she sees.
And finally, what does the implementation of Cin7 mean for Elise and Pine Apparel?
“We can make money,” Elise says. “Why are you in business? You’re in business to make money, not just because you love to sell clothes to people.”
Cin7, she says, has enabled the business to get past its struggle with problems arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, bring on more staff, and even increase its pre-pandemic sales numbers.
“Before the year is half over, we’ll have recorded sales over our 2019 numbers, which is a huge victory,” Elise says. “So that’s a major acceleration.”