“Marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay and Etsy are becoming a more important part of our business. We struggled to make the most of the opportunity before ChannelUnity but now they make a really important contribution”.
Ashley Salt, Tech Team Member at Terrys Fabrics Ltd
Terry’s Fabrics is a retail business based in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire. The company started life as a market stall holder in the 1970s, which expanded into bricks-and-mortar retail operation. In recent years the company has opened a large, modern showroom and also transformed itself into an online business, and now has approximately 50 employees.
Marketplace Manager Ashley Salt joined the business full time in 2015. He’s responsible for a small team taking care of operations on Amazon, Ebay and Etsy using integrations provided by ChannelUnity. The business prides itself on customer service and has a team of CSRs who use Shopify as their main day-to-day system. The company has a separate back-office order management system, controlling purchasing and logistics, and also a 3PL service operated on the same order management platform.
Before implementing ChannelUnity, Terry’s Fabrics had implemented and worked with two other solutions for marketplace integration.
Until 2017, the business used heavyweight solution from the reputed global leader in marketplace integrations. This had fairly high running costs but did not perform as expected.
There were issues updating stock levels due to an hourly batch-mode update of figures published to Amazon, resulting and orders for items that were out of stock. In addition, Amazon introduced a number of new data requirements for the product categories used by the business. “Suddenly we were getting meaningless error messages and it was difficult to get any useful support”.
Terry’s Fabrics then turned to the vendor of their back-office system, who had started to offer marketplace connectors for Amazon and Ebay. “It solved or stock-out issues, but struggled with the complexity of our product ranges and the massive range of size/colour variants we sell, especially our curtain ranges. And the marketplace feeds were also fairly unreliable”.
ChannelUnity – Reducing Complexity and Coping with Change
ChannelUnity was implemented in November 2019. The solution has solved all of the issues experienced with earlier platforms, allowing Ashley Salt to increase the range of products offered on Amazon and Ebay three fold, whilst adding the Etsy marketplace channel to the line-up.
“We’ve gone from 79 master products, each with hundreds of variant SKUs, to 258. This takes less resource to manage than we ever had before, and our marketplace business levels have more than doubled”.
From a ChannelUnity perspective, the issues which the solution overcame are typical of new customer implementations. Matt Ross, ChannelUnity’s Technical Director, comments “Marketplaces all have different ways of representing variant products, and to make the shopping experience as simple as possible for the customer, it’s important to be able to create a single marketplace listing with options for size, colour and other attributes, factoring in stock availability, price points and item sizes/weights for shipping.
And marketplace integration requirements do change over time. If it wasn’t our main business focus, it would be impossible to stay on top of it”.
Another significant benefit experienced by Terry’s is ChannelUnity’s flexible rules on shipping, especially for the Ebay channel. For example, curtains have a typical weight/size/cost profile, and can be shipped anywhere in Europe. However, the physical dimensions of curtain poles limits the range of parcel carriers which can be used economically, and thus the available options by marketplace. Terry’s Fabrics also offer cut fabric and low-priced samples, with free shipping. The business is able to group its products into different categories and apply a rules template at the category level, reducing the maintenance effort in controlling the marketplace offer. These templates govern the available destinations, shipping options and charges on the marketplaces.
Ashley’s experience of ChannelUnity’s support service has been excellent. “We normally log tickets via ChannelUnity’s online portal, and at first we were concerned about getting any requests prioritised. But they always get back to us in an hour, and if anything is more complicated it’s fixed the same day. We can’t fault the response at all”.
Coping with Coronavirus
The Coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020 caused greater interest in craft-related products, and being an online retailer of fabrics, Terry’s was well placed to supply the needs of consumers under lockdown.
Ashley Salt comments “We were in growth mode already but Coronavirus has accelerated that by 12-18 months. I’m so glad we had ChannelUnity up and running, otherwise that demand might well have passed us by.”