Indigo Contemporary Women’s Apparel

Indigo Contemporary Women’s Apparel

Clothing & Apparel, Gift Stores, RCS Payments, Retail

Indigo Contemporary Women’s Apparel: Relying on point of sale data, honoring relationships and intuition

By John Garvey

Can you make your clothing store an expression of your personality and still have a profitable business? As a retail buyer you rely a lot on data, but sometimes we forget that emotion, in its place, is a valuable decision-making tool as well as your point of sale (POS) system. Mia Vogt, owner of Indigo, a women’s contemporary clothing and shoe store based in Hanover, seems to have a pretty good sense of this.

“Even though I love turtlenecks and wear them every day, they don’t sell well,” Mia admits. Yet she acknowledges that not all her choices make sense from a hard-nosed business standpoint.

A retail business can be an expression of your personality and also be profitable. Sometimes it just requires balancing objectives.

Evolving her business without being at the mercy of guesswork

We’ve been partners with Mia since 1998, when she founded Bella, a casual women’s clothing store which preceded Indigo. Mia opened Indigo as a second store in 2007. Indigo was somewhat experimental in nature, offering higher price-point items. It obviously succeeded or we wouldn’t be writing about it 11 years later.

Inside of Indigo - Shoppers and employeesIndigo moved to a larger location in 2012 and Mia chose to combine both stores. When Bella and Indigo merged, it naturally meant consolidating their offerings as well. One of the things we admire about retailers is that they have to make a dizzying number of inventory management decisions under normal circumstances, so this must have been quite a challenge.

“We didn’t bring every single line over from Bella and from Indigo,” Mia says, “but we were able to figure out what was performing the best from both stores and bring it all into Indigo to make it the best of the best. Often you think you know what your best lines are, but it’s not always the case.”

This is where NCR Counterpoint, a POS platform we offer as a Premiere Solution Provider, really helped. Among other things, Counterpoint provides comprehensive POS information and inventory management, e-commerce capabilities, and dozens of reports so retailers can always make informed choices. For instance, Mia can look up her most profitable items and vendors for any given time period with virtually no hassle.

Coats hanging in Indigo store“The numbers on those reports really don’t lie,” Mia states. “It was very valuable to have that. We had so much history by then and that was really helpful.”

Indigo has roughly 10 thousand SKUs and 250 vendors. Those numbers make my head spin. A good point of sale system and a disciplined manager make it manageable, though.

“You think you know just from working in the store what you’re selling,” says Mia. “But sometimes there are sneaky little things. I’ll look up our bestseller for a certain time period and I’m often just shocked because it’s not a flashy thing that we think about a lot—it’s something that’s really basic. But we’re making a good profit on it.”

What do you most enjoy about retail?

“What I like about retail is it changes all the time,” Mia tells us. “Every day, you’re opening a new box. You know, we don’t sell the same sweater for five years.

Fashion is always changing. It’s not repetitive as far as what we’re opening and selling every day. The merchandising end of it and the buying end of it are a little bit creative.

“I like running a successful business. Trying to keep it going and making money is fun for me, and I get to work with a great bunch of women of all ages.”

“It’s also fun to be independent,” Mia continues. “We can have some fun and shake it up a little if we want to.”

Follow Indigo online:  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Pinterest 

Business in balance: Data, intuition and plenty of personality

Mia - owner of Indigo and employeesFor all the advantages data provides, Mia’s choices aren’t all based on point of sale analytics.

“A lot of it is emotional too,” Mia says. “Counterpoint gives me the information. Then I can decide whether to use it, but it gives me a platform to make decisions off of. I can decide I’m going to get turtlenecks anyway.

“I can get a little optimistic and think I can sell anything. But having that data that says a vendor isn’t working for us even though I really, really like them, I have that data there informing my choices. So if I do make decisions that don’t make sense from a purely business standpoint I know I’m doing it just for myself or because I can’t say no to that vendor.

“So I only have myself to blame.”

Mia’s experience shows that information from Counterpoint POS reports is instrumental in choosing which product lines and vendors to maintain. But data isn’t your boss. As Mia’s favorite brand Patagonia demonstrates, values-based choices that don’t make short-term business sense can become one of the cornerstones of a successful clothing business.

Sometimes it’s just about reading the tea leaves and believing your inner voice.

“I don’t always follow everything. It’s nice to have a little leeway and be able to not have a division looking over your shoulders and saying, ‘You don’t have the money to buy that,’ or whatever. It’s nice to be your own boss and say, ‘I know I’m going to sell that even though I might be a little overbought.’”

Brick and mortar retail is about experiences, not just great products

“You can get pretty much anything in my store online,” Mia acknowledges. “Maybe not all in one place, but you can find it. So to offer an experience when people come in, I think that’s the only way you’re going to survive. You can always offer something that they can’t get online. And that is often just having a personality and offering a nice experience.

“I think the other thing we do really well with is the mother-daughter shopping experience. It’s fun, it’s something you do with your mom and that’s still a huge part of your business and you can’t do it online.”

Do you have an overarching philosophy about the fashion business?

A lot of Mia’s business ethos boils down to being nice to people and not taking yourself too seriously.

“I try not to take myself too seriously in the fashion sense,” she says. “We love clothing, we want people to buy it, but I’m not going to push people into buying things. I’ll be honest if I think we could get something that looks better on them. You can sort of talk yourself into thinking a fashion trend is a big deal, but at the end of the day it’s just something that should be fun.”

Where would you like to be in five years with Indigo?

“I would like to have more time to do some of the creative things and less of the day-to-day things. Because there’s so much fun stuff that could be done.”

Mia would like to roll out Indigo branded apparel, have more fun with weekly display windows and use tools like social media to express her business’s personality and share offers. We bet all these things will come to fruition. Counterpoint can’t vacuum or respond to emails, but it can save a lot of time elsewhere.

Also, please put my wife down for an Indigo branded turtleneck.

As data-driven as business choices often are, emotion and intuition will always be important in retail management. Relationships matter, and many independent retailers want their businesses to be an expression of their personalities. We honor that and also provide point of sale support to keep businesses profitable.

We Make Data Your Friend, Not Your Boss
Shorter Buying Cycles.
Fewer Stockouts.
Less Surplus Inventory.

Our retail point of sale support services can help you optimize day-to-day and strategic decisions.

Customer Spotlight: Your Healthy Pet

Customer Spotlight: Your Healthy Pet

RCS Payments, Retail

Customer Spotlight: Your Healthy Pet

by John Garvey

A family-owned pet food and supply store in Newtown, Connecticut with a focus on high-quality food and treats, Your Healthy Pet has had a clear sense of purpose from day 1.
Dog food at Your Healthy Pet

“We’ve always had pets, always loved them and we always wanted our own business,” states founder Tom Novak. “I had been in I.T. for 20-plus years and it was the Great Recession about nine years ago and my company closed down. And I didn’t want to relocate so we decided to try our dream and see what happened.”

Prior to opening Your Healthy Pet, Tom lost a beloved cat at the young age of six or seven (all their pets are rescues, so their birthdays are rarely known). Based on his research he believes the cat’s diet was likely a major contributing factor. It’s one reason quality pet nutrition is such a call to arms for him.

“When we first opened, 70 percent of the people walking in the door were asking for food we would not sell,” Tom recalls, “We’re called Your Healthy Pet and we mean it. We won’t sell food unless we’re convinced it’s a healthy food. We don’t sell any of these horrible flea and tick control products with ingredients that are known to cause cancer.”

“There’s not a food in here that has corn, wheat, byproducts or dyes in it. They’re all four- and five-star rated foods.”

Partnering with RCS

After Your Healthy Pet had been in business for about eight years, Tom knew he needed a point of sale system with better support and credit card processing, as well as more up-to-date purchasing, sales and inventory management features.

“Our old system was getting obsolete and was sort of a small company with one or two support people,” Tom recalls. “It didn’t integrate well with a lot of the new credit card processing machines or anything like that.”

It quickly became apparent that Your Healthy Pet and Retail Control Systems were a good match, but some unexpected challenges cropped up.

Per Tom’s interpretation of the contract with his credit card processing company it was near expiration, and we recognized that switching vendors could save his business money on processing fees.

He had a rude awakening, however, when they tried to stick his business with a 12-thousand dollar fee to exit the contract. Tom strikes me as an easygoing guy but you can hear the tension in his voice as he describes the event:

“I’m stuck with a contract that’s going to cost me a lot of money to pull out of and it doesn’t work if I stay with it. … Believe me, this was eating me up. I mean, we’re a small business. A 12-thousand dollar fee is a lot of money.”

Going to bat

Pet leashes and collars at Your Healthy PetIt might have made sense to fold and keep the same vendor, but the problem wasn’t just fees. Having the wrong credit card processing company can be a long-term drag on your business when it doesn’t integrate well with your other systems or provide good customer support. We went to bat with Stu Kehler, our Merchant Services Advisors at RCS Payments.

Stu spent many innings going back and forth between different parties in the ensuing weeks. He was ultimately instrumental in getting the credit card processing company to drop those charges.

“Stu was a bulldog,” Tom states. “He just didn’t give up. If there was a setback he’d keep going and finally, [the vendor] dropped the charges. So I’m just a happy camper.”

“I was just really happy with the way Retail Control Systems really kept at this and got this all worked out. I’m really happy with the system itself, too.”

Front of House

“Once we teamed up with Retail Control Systems, the up-front part—scanning of items, ringing customers out, the printing of receipts—became a whole lot faster,” Tom says. “The front end of the system is really easy to learn, easy to use.”

“We have a treat bar, for instance, and there’s no UPC codes on the treats. So we used to have a piece of paper with the UPC code and you’d have to find a piece of paper and scan it. With NCR Counterpoint, you could create buttons. The button could say ‘Treat Bar’ and you click on the button and see, ‘Bully sticks, 6 inches,’ ‘Bully sticks, 12 inches,’ ‘pigs ears,’ ‘tendons,’ whatever you want.”

Much like other features in our POS system, NCR Counterpoint, the ability to add buttons to front-of-house touchscreen devices saves a lot of time and hassle.

We’ve discussed the advantages of Counterpoint’s POS features in greater detail here.

Inventory and Purchasing Tracking

Dog treats and toys at Your Healthy PetTom estimates that his business saves three to four hours a week on manual data entry thanks to our inventory management system, which helps track purchases and deliveries as well as preventing stock-outs and spoilage.

“We get deliveries every week—a lot of deliveries. How easy is it to get into the system? You certainly don’t want to have to scan each individual item and type in the amounts. You want to get the invoice into a format that we can just format into retail Control Systems.”

“So instead of taking an hour and a half or two hours to scan everything we can do it in five minutes. That’s a big benefit.”

Margins

If you have a lot of SKUs to manage and don’t have the means to closely monitor price changes on individual items, your business can be severely harmed.

“This system makes it easy to see what’s underpriced,” Tom explains. “It looks at what it costs us, what our margin is and what that equals for our sales price.”

With NCR Counterpoint, you can set your desired margins and the system will take the guesswork out of pricing based on cost of goods. So to hell with manually updating everything in Excel.

“We got into this business to try to keep pets healthy.”

“There’s a whole lot of natural products out there that you can use but you have to look for them,” Tom states.

“We have a great customer base and we spend a lot of time educating them about the value of nutrition. If a new customer comes in we could spend 15, 20, 25 minutes talking to them about why we don’t sell the food they came in to buy and why we won’t sell it.

“We got into this business to try to keep pets healthy. What you see on TV, the advertisements you see are usually the worst foods made. And all you have to do is look at the back and read the ingredients to find that out.”

What else lights you up?

Tom’s household includes two dogs and a cat—all of them rescues.

“We work with a lot of rescue groups. There’s a lot of puppy mills out there that people don’t know about and there’s plenty of dogs and cats that need a home without buying them and supporting puppy mills.”

Shorter Buying Cycles. Fewer Stockouts. Less Surplus Inventory.

Our services can help you with security, digital marketing, inventory management and other needs.

Vantiv and Worldpay Merger

Vantiv and Worldpay Merger

RCS Payments

By Stuart Kehler & Leland Bolleter

In August of 2017 the US company Vantiv agreed to acquire Worldpay for $10.4 billion. The combined company will be valued at $30 billion. The new company will keep the Worldpay name with global and corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. Worldpay’s London offices will become their international headquarters. The acquisition was completed on January 16th, 2018.

Person using a calculator with a pad and penPayments processors value add, is that they bring to the market correct information on approvals in a matter of seconds. Worldpay is considered a financial-technical (fin-tech) company. If one word can describe how many fintech innovations have affected traditional markets, it’s ‘disruption,’ as financial products move toward mobile devices or simply away from large, entrenched institutions. Worldpay routes transactions from retailers to banks to allow sales via credit and debit cards.

Worldpay will extend services to 146 countries and will be the world’s-largest-payment processor that handles over $1.5 trillion in transactions per year. Worldpay’s future goals include, understanding consumer behavior to drive competitive advantage for customers/retailers and help obtain maximum transaction acceptance rates. Lastly, Worldpay is working to optimize transaction costs through efficient routing to be able to offer the best rates to customers.