Now in its third generation as a family business, E.W Sinton has built its success on constantly adapting to customer demand, and now uses Abel® to target faster sales and get a single, simple view over 4500 separate imported product lines.
No matter how old they are successful family businesses all move with the times. In 1929, when Edward William (Ted) Sinton founded the hardware business that still carries his name, he made customer calls on horseback cutting paths through the bush. The company has since moved from building supplies to homeware; and more recently included safes and home security equipment. But Phil Sinton, its Managing Director, says a founding core principle has endured: “As granddad always said, the quicker a product can be got out on the shelves, the quicker it can be sold and you can get the re-order.”
Today the company is New Zealand’s largest supplier of kitchen knives. It supplies homeware to national retailers like Stevens and Living and Giving, and distributes leading international brands, including Zwilling J.A., Henckels, Kitchen Craft, Stellar and Davis and Waddell. Growth has required meeting increasingly sophisticated customer demand, and managing wide ranging international supply chains. Showing a visitor around the alleyways of shelves at their 5000 square foot warehouses at St John’s in Auckland, Mr Sinton says they now stock 4500 different imported product lines.
Competing against huge global chains, the company’s competitive advantage is the service it offers, and its ability to understand and quickly meet customers’ needs. In a recessionary environment, retailers want wide product ranges while carrying little stock. It is vital to know where every shipment is and how fast any one item is moving – and to foresee and plan for seasonal trends (like when demand for preserving homeware will suddenly peak and then ebb away).
Because their legacy system only tracked goods once they landed, finding incoming items still en route meant tediously scanning invoices and inwards goods lists page by page. Every foreign currency calculation was done individually. And when stock arrived, particularly with numerous very small pieces, keeping track of it all was an increasingly fraught job in itself. Says Jay Marshall, the company’s Marketing & Purchasing Manager “When you are dealing with this many products there’s a lot of room for things to fall through the cracks.”
They wanted a better system. But while their incumbent supplier offered a significant upgrade, they also insisted E. W. Sinton adjust its business process to meet the parameters of the vendor’s technology. “Abel were flexible, they wanted to help us get to where we wanted to go,” Mr Sinton says. “The result is that we now have got much better visibility over stock, which is the lifeblood of an importing company.”
Using Abel to run the entire business, they see all their orders and shipments at a glance. They can see how ranges are selling in a single view. Currency calculations are done automatically, and Abel’s Bin management automatically steers them towards precisely where every single item is stored.
Abel Financials also tracks all activity and presents reports specially designed to be most meaningful for the importing decisions they need to make. It also provides much more useful intelligence on market trends, identifying, for example, whether an order for 100 items at a trade fair came from just one or two customers or reflected a much wider trend spread across smaller stores. Handheld scanners, linked directly to Abel, automatically track all inwards and outwards goods.
“Abel means we have more time to focus on growing the business,” Mr Sinton says. “You need to be able to give a new product the best chance in the market to establish itself. Abel allows us to very quickly add new products and very quickly get them up and running.” Granddad Ted would have approved.