By "Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize-Oracle" on Oct 29, 2014
How does a hometown sporting goods retailer compete with specialty big box giants? The answer is: you exploit their weaknesses. Ohio-based Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters has averaged 30-40% year over year growth since 2010 by doing what the big guys can’t.
Shawn Gilronan, CIO at Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters, was recently an executive customer speaker in an Oracle OpenWorld session devoted to strategies for adopting Modern Best Practice in high-growth organizations. Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by emerging technologies—Cloud, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things, and Big Data—to enable organizations to achieve more, faster and with less resources.
“We have built our competitive advantage by carrying a broad selection of branded firearms and accessories that closely reflect what are customers want to see,” says Gilronan. “We also take pride in our knowledgeable sales associates who are highly trained in programs sponsored by such top tier vendors as Sig Sauer, Rocky Boots, Columbia Sportswear, and Under Armour.”
Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters’ executive team knew that profitable growth could only be sustained by transforming the company from a local mainstay to one that can go toe-to-toe with industry juggernauts. As Gilronan guides the company through a “Crawl/Walk/Run” Oracle deployment strategy over three phases, the company could potentially be a case study supporting this MIT Sloan Management Review research, “The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation”.
Software Selection Via the 21st Century Good Ol’ Boy Network
“We knew we needed to change,” says Gilronan. “The systems we had weren’t scalable, reliable, and couldn’t cope with the volume of transactions. We knew we needed a ERP system with deep and broad industry capabilities to build a foundation on. Plus we also needed a robust front end solution for our cashiers to get customers in and out the store efficiently.”
Prior to deploying Oracle, Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters had no enterprise wide IT platform in place—something not necessarily vital to a company with just four stores, no shared services warehouse/distribution system, and no eCommerce presence whatsoever. Many non-standard processes and procedures were in place, born out of necessity, rather than formed out of intelligent, thought driven planning. High growth quickly exposed the deficiencies in the company’s existing IT systems. The company reached over capacity on system SKU’s. They experienced frequent system outages. The executive leadership team worried that sales revenue was being left on the table.
Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters’ customers prefer quality brands with reputations established over time amongst their friends and peers. Brands like Carhartt, Case Knives, and Smith and Wesson. Likewise, when Gilronan sent out a growth focused RFP, Oracle quickly rose to the top based on the local reputation of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne for finance and distribution as well as the industry penetration and well known ability of Oracle’s eCommerce solutions ATG and Endeca for eCommerce to support sustained growth.
“Oracle rose to the top for a number of reasons,” says Gilronan. “First, the robust distribution management capabilities in JD Edwards align well with our company growth model. Plus, Oracle offers a user-friendly application environment. And finally, our selection was based on a “best fit” approach in terms of using a local partner, the right cost, and the fact that Oracle and our partner aligned well with our company’s morals and values.”
The Outcomes of Digital Transformation
As identified in the MIT Sloan Management research, “Executives in all industries are using digital advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart embedded devices as well as improving their use of traditional technologies such as ERP to change customer relationships, internal processes and value propositions.” Also, “Executives are digitally transforming three key areas of their enterprises: customer experience, operational processes, and business models.” Not by coincidence, Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters’ digital transformation will dramatically impact all three of these key areas.
“Our customers’ experience will be enhanced by Oracle’s state of the art POS system, optimized inventories, and online purchasing options,” says Gilronan. “We’ll be adopting modern best practices for our industry with Oracle’s out of the box capabilities and standardizing training across all operations. Our business model will be radically enhanced by developing a compelling online presence and by tripling our number of stores and moving to building a modern warehouse and distribution facility.”
Gilronan expects dramatic ROI as the each of the three phases are completed. For the first time, managers will have integration between sales, inventory, and financial management. Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters has succeeded by accurately matching their inventory to their customers’ preferences but, without modern inventory best practices, that has resulted in high inventory carrying costs. With the adoption of Modern Best Practice for inventory management they’ll be able to perform detailed analysis to determine profitability at a more granular scale such as store square foot allocation by product and the carrying cost of products at the store level. Gilronan expects to reduce inventory levels by 30-40% even as they continue to grow dramatically.
“Our digital transformation will allow us to continue our organic growth model,” says Gilronan. “We’ll be opening many new locations and exploring new-to-us concepts without being impeded by technology. We’ll be a more formidable and direct competitor with larger big box stores.”