Linnworks

Plaza Collection: Connecting Brightpearl and Peoplevox for Omnichannel Efficiency

What started 25 years ago as a local cash and carry business in Greater Manchester has, thanks to a dedicated team and some smart tech decisions, become a local powerhouse in the fashion industry. Acting as a supplier to some of the biggest names in the scene, Plaza Collection has simultaneously built out an impactful range of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. 

Home of renowned labels like Maya Deluxe, Anaya with Love and Lovedrobe, we sat down with long-time team members Paul Dyson and Michele Jackson-Pownall to get the inside scoop on how this business has evolved its processes to suit growing demand, handled customer service challenges and future plans for further expansion.

Origins of the Business and First Challenges 

“The business has changed a lot over the years. In the early days, it was pure wholesale, selling in bulk to local businesses. We started doing some made-to-order contract work and developed a bit of a client base. As that grew, and since we had everything in-house to make the clothes, we launched the first brand with a website of its own, selling directly to consumers. But those two sides of the business were totally separate – and both ran entirely manually.

We knew we needed to bring the business together with better systems, and we definitely knew the manual processes we were using in the warehouse were not suitable for the long term. In fact, they were holding us back and stopping us from growing. The whole thing operated on ‘hope’ to be quite honest. Staff were inputting every order by hand into the shipping software, and we had to rely on the numbers sent from our factories.”

Michele Jackson-Pownall, Director

Online Growth Further Highlights Issues 

“As we started doing more D2C orders, we were forced to create a customer service department and hire heavily, because so many things were going out late, inaccurately, and sometimes not at all! All these issues we were creating for ourselves led to an unmanageable number of inbound customer complaints and issues. Not only that, we had also seen an influx of negative reviews of our brands. We knew the customer experience wasn’t where it needed to be. 

In the warehouse itself, managing inventory and picking orders wasn’t well optimized either: everyone was walking around with paper pick lists, and if you didn’t know where everything lived in the warehouse, you didn’t stand much chance of being efficient or productive. 

Overall, it was clear this situation was a bottleneck that would only continue to hold us back as a business.”

Paul Dyson, Merchandising Manager

Taking Action to Turn the Tide 

The business made a critical hire with a clear remit: overhaul the technical architecture of the entire operation. The mission was to build a brand-new tech stack with the best possible providers and partners to create something that would work for Plaza Collection both in the present and into the future.  

Key objectives were:  

  • To reconcile the wholesale and retail sides of the business into one financial operation 
  • To have a much clearer insight into inventory holdings 
  • To pick, pack and ship orders more accurately and faster, without adding headcount in the warehouse 

This would ensure their customer service team could focus on value-adding tasks rather than just dealing with self-inflicted issues.

The Go-To Tech Stack for Multi-Channel Retailers 

Following in the footsteps of Natural Baby Shower, Beyond Retail and FurnitureBox, Plaza Collection opted for a Brightpearl by Sage + Descartes Peoplevox solution.  

“We’ve put Brightpearl in as our ERP – it’s the hub of the business. In there, we’ve got all the sales channels connected in, we manage all our purchasing, finance and invoicing as well. Brightpearl is set up with automation to route orders from those various channels into our warehouse, and that’s where Descartes Peoplevox comes in. 

Descartes Peoplevox is the master of inventory and is where we do all our stock control, sending data on available stock back up to Brightpearl and those sales channels. And then of course, we use the handheld devices to pick and pack the orders.”

Paul Dyson, Merchandising Manager

First Impressions Post Go-Live 

Like any business that has been in operation for multiple decades, overhauling all the systems and processes took a bit of getting used to, especially in a 40 + person team in the warehouse. 

“At first some of the longer-term staff members in the warehouse were resistant to change. They’d been doing their jobs the same way for so long, that anything new felt like a disruption. However, very quickly they started to see the benefits and how we were making their lives so much easier by implementing a warehouse management system.”

Michele Jackson-Pownall, Director

Key Transformation Areas 

Reducing mistakes, mis-ships and inaccuracies 

  • Historically, Plaza Collection did all their picking manually. This meant downloading orders, printing out shipping labels and then going around the warehouse locating the items for one order at a time. It was a slow, laborious process that often led to mistakes, mis-ships and inaccurate inventory. With Descartes Peoplevox, the team are now using barcode scanners with the WMS running on a mobile device. Pick runs are assigned to each device and pickers can pick multiple orders in one go, in a single pass of the entire warehouse and following the most efficient pre-defined route. Picking and packing mistakes are cut out, as the system does not let you pick the wrong item, and that has put an immediate stop to the number of mis-ships going out, remarkably improving the customer experience. 

Accurate inventory information 

  • For the first time, the business has been able to run continuous stocktakes through cycle counting, giving them an accurate view of their actual inventory holding. Previously, they relied on the numbers given to them by suppliers and would occasionally attempt to count everything manually in one go. This would all but guarantee stock listed on various sales channels would be incorrect and never in sync. Now, thanks to the stocktaking functionality in Descartes Peoplevox, Plaza Collection can sell on more marketplaces, like Amazon, with ultimate confidence that their stock is accurate and being kept up to date across their channels. 

Better visibility throughout the business

  • The warehouse is no longer a mystery to the wider business. With manual processes and no centralised source of data, Plaza Collections’ operation relied on a few individuals who knew where everything was supposed to be stored in the warehouse. Moreover, the merchandising and marketing teams had no idea how much stock they could try to sell, what kind of promotions to run, or how much throughput the warehouse could handle. Their main metric for success was gut feel, influenced by how many negative reviews or customer service issues they were seeing. Implementing the Descartes Peoplevox WMS has shone a light on everything behind the scenes in the warehouse. The team now understands how many orders a day they are shipping, and they can clearly see when stock is moving around, by who, and for what reason. This audit trail holds everyone to account and has driven vast improvements in productivity and accuracy day-to-day. Anyone in the company, whether working in the office or the warehouse, can get a pulse-check on fulfilment, as well as look up products, orders and inventory count.  

Overall, the project has been a revolutionary success. Implementing Brightpearl as the ERP and Descartes Peoplevox as the WMS for Plaza Collection has brought vast amounts of transparency, efficiency, and reliability to the business. Pickers and packers are working more productively and making far less mistakes, sales are growing as new channels are added, and customer service has been freed up to focus on value-add areas such as upsell and nurture, rather than constantly having to firefight problems and issue refunds. 

Looking ahead, the team are focusing more on the D2C side of the business with their three fashion brands. More money is being spent on marketing and growth now that they have confidence in their warehouse and operational strength. And the company has even secured an upgraded headquarters with a larger warehouse, which they will be moving into in 2025. The increased capability has encouraged ownership to invest further in the long-term growth of the business and the new site will allow them to do just that, holding more stock and supporting more sales channels as well as a larger headcount.

SEE