August 2014 | Case Studies | I.T. Toolkit

Diving Into Multi-Channel Fulfillment

Tags: Inventory Management, Logistics I.T., Retail, Supply Chain Management, E-commerce

KaiKini Bikinis' integrated inventory control and shipping operations solution brings savings that are anything but itsy bitsy teeny weeny.

Of all the places women might have trouble shopping for swimwear, Hawaii seems the least likely. But that was the case for Taryn Rodighiero, who became increasingly frustrated in her attempts to find a durable, high-quality swimsuit that was both stylish and could withstand the crashing waves of her native island. Eventually, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Despite never having made a bathing suit before—and with absolutely no sewing experience—Rodighiero set out to offer an alternative to the flimsy beachwear that permeated the marketplace. Scraping together resources, and draining her life savings, Rodighiero invested in industrial sewing machines and materials, and taught herself how to sew. And KaiKini Bikinis was born.

Starting an enterprise is one thing, but managing its growth is quite another. When Rodighiero started KaiKini Bikinis in Kapaa, Hawaii, in 2010, she was its sole employee. Within three years, the company grew to a team of six, producing approximately 1,000 pieces a month. Today her bikinis are sold worldwide.

A multi-channel strategy drove the company's growth. Rodighiero sold her products through the company's separate retail and wholesale websites, online marketplace Etsy, and trunk shows in boutiques. As sales increased steadily, inventory control and shipping proved to be a challenge.

"Sometimes we took an order not knowing the item had been sold out," recalls Rodighiero. "We'd scramble to make another piece, or be forced to tell the customer we couldn't fill their order."

A Stitch in Time

To address the problem, Rodighiero considered a range of solutions, and determined that Stitch, a Web-based solution from San Francisco-based Stitch Labs, best fit her financial and business requirements by providing functionality across a range of elements essential to sustain and further KaiKini's growth.

Stitch's multichannel capabilities include real-time syncing to provide access to live product listing details across all sales channels; channel sales reporting for accurate, real-time inventory levels; bulk product listing to push product details to all sales channels simultaneously; and stock-level management for accurate tracking of stock represented in each sales channel.

The solution also tracks order status from one location, supplies historical order information and consignment tracking, and manages wholesale operations and contacts. Finally, Stitch offers analytics tools such as cost tracking and interactive reporting.

"The data we gather from Stitch is invaluable," says Rodighiero. "We now know where every piece goes in the sales channel, and we never take an order we can't fill.

"Also, we are now able to produce more efficiently based on detailed information, such as which sizes are most popular," she adds.

Before Stitch, KaiKini was unable to accurately track where its inventory was sent. Today, inventory is live and up-to-date, preventing stockouts. KaiKini can even segment data based on individual variants within each swimsuit style.

"We produce in small batches," explains Rodighiero. "In the past, when items moved through various channels, it was challenging to maintain accurate inventory levels, and to plan for production. Stitch eliminates this problem."

Moreover, by speeding and simplifying access to past orders, Stitch helps KaiKini manage channels more proactively, making reordering easy, and allowing the company to target new products to vendors.

The Perfect Pairing

The company has integrated Stitch with an e-commerce shipping fulfillment tool from Austin, Texas-based ShipStation. The cloud-based solution compares all shipping options with real-time rate information, and manages all U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and DHL orders from a single source, eliminating the need for multiple log-ins. By automating all shipping tasks, the solution saves KaiKini time, and minimizes the risk of error.

"We're in Kauai, one of the smaller islands in Hawaii, so shipping can be problematic," notes Rodighiero. "Cost and execution are significant concerns.

"Integrated shipping has proved a real advantage, providing options, alerting us to discounts, and helping control costs while assuring that customers receive what they want when they want it. Integrating Stitch and ShipStation was one of the best business decisions we made."

KaiKini implemented the solutions in early 2013. "The systems integrated well with our operations," says Rodighiero. "It made for an easy transition."

Building on Benefits

KaiKini's business has grown 50 percent since it implemented Stitch and ShipStation. The company is currently building an 8,000-square-foot warehouse. KaiKini's operations will occupy about 1,000 square feet, which more than doubles its current storage capacity, and Rodighiero expects to rent out the rest.

KaiKini currently produces approximately 1,000 pieces per month, which it expects to double once the new warehouse space is ready. At any given time, the company sells up to 60 products on its websites, with separate stockkeeping units for retail and wholesale items.

This growth is possible thanks to the efficiency the Stitch/ShipStation solution delivers. "It used to take our staff one day to complete tracking and management tasks; now they accomplish the same tasks in only one or two hours," Rodighiero says. This allows her to allocate personnel more efficiently to handle other value-added tasks and respond to emerging customer needs.

KaiKini recouped its investment in Stitch and ShipStation "almost immediately," according to Rodighiero. Now she can't imagine running the business without the tools.

"When I started KaiKini, I didn't envision how rapidly we'd grow," she says. "It was challenging to accommodate growth without compromising the customer service levels and business relationships we built our brand on. These tools were essential, not only for running the business, but also to achieve the vision that drove us."

By uniting its inventory control and shipping in an integrated, automated solution, KaiKini has been able to move forward quickly to sustain rapid growth, meet changing business requirements, and keep customers happy. That's a significant accomplishment, because keeping one's business on track in today's global marketplace is anything but another day at the beach.