Ken Robinson didn’t know what to do with his business economics degree after graduation. He could go back to working on a fishing boat, what he did every summer since he was 11. But, then what?
His parents gave him an option to make something out of the retail space in a building they’d just bought.
“It was just a gift store, and I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was doing,” Robinson says. “I was really really lucky that I bought the right stuff.”
Sausalito Ferry Co. today serves two customer bases.
“After 36 years we have a substantial local business along with the tourist trade,” Robinson says. “We offer products that tourists want and an eclectic collection that serves the locals. Unlike most of the other stores in Sausalito, we see a second peak during the Christmas buying season.”
The Right Stock
Sausalito Ferry Co. sells a huge range of eclectic, unusual and hard-to-find gifts, toys, games and collectibles, with a focus on Japanese imports, the Tin Tin brand, Funko. Over the decades, Robinson has turned a visit into the physical shop a fun experience, making the presentation of inventory the main ingredient.
“It’s a lens on pop culture. People come in and are delighted and have a good time,” Robinson says. “You have to experiment all the time. You have to take chances and fortunately, the store has a good enough cash flow that I can say ‘let’s give this a shot and see how it goes’. I’ll buy stuff that I know won’t sell very well, but make the store very interesting.”
Robinson has also put a lot of promotional work into social media. He posts original content and images to TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. In late 2015, he moved his website from its five-year-old platform to Shopify, to help beef up the online experience.
“A brick-and-mortar store has to have a vibrant website, because of how people connect to you these days, you just have to have it.”
Better Inventory, Better Fulfillment with Cin7
Sausalito Ferry Co. opted for Cin7 to manage its inventory when it launched on Shopify, and they needed to introduce new efficiencies and lower the cost of their inventory. It keeps stock in store, and in a small off-site stock room.
“We were doing inventory on paper, and that’s a really bad way to do it. And we were devoting inventory to the website that was not housed in the brick-and-mortar store, just so that we would always have stock available for both,” Robinson says. “Cin7 allowed us to connect the brick-and-mortar inventory to the eCommerce inventory so we didn’t have to carry double of the inventory for the same product, one inventory for the website and one for the brick and mortar. Through Cin7 we can see what went out on the website and what goes out of the brick-and-mortar. Before that, it was very awkward and clumsy.”
Robinson says he appreciates Cin7’s “robustness and ease of use” and the ability to easily mine data to help make procurement easier.
“Sometimes our top sellers are things that have proven to be really surprising to me. We’re really good at reordering,” he says. “I didn’t have that full view before. It’s made me a lot more careful about how I order and it’s helped me make better purchasing decisions.”
Sausalito Ferry Co. not only keeps less inventory on hand but with Cin7 can fulfill online orders through its brick-and-mortar stock, if necessary. This has made operations more efficient and cost-effective.
“That way we can use the brick-and-mortar inventory as a backup to the website,” says Robinson. “I would have to hire a full-time employee to get everything scanned, and that savings gained would probably not offset the cost of that added employee.”