Like many industries, the furniture retail sector has experienced its fair share of business fluctuations, economic swings and shifts in consumer preferences over the last 10 years.
The shift to online shopping combined with demand for more customization and modularity in furniture designs has pushed more furniture retailers to rethink their internal business systems and invest in enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.
Making the Switch
Founded in 1940, Brown Furniture of West Lebanon, N.H., has been through many business ebbs and flows over the last eight decades. When Owner Brad Nelson acquired the furniture dealership in 2018, he knew immediately that it needed new business management software.
At the time, the company was using an aging, industry-specific software solution to handle costing, inventory management, product variations (e.g., fabric, finish and nail heads for the furniture) and other business activities. “It was clear that the system hadn’t been updated in at least 20 years,” said Nelson, “and that it was grossly outdated.”
After researching the ERP marketplace, Nelson decided to work with Bresatech, a NetSuite Alliance Partner, to implement NetSuite, a solution that he was already familiar with and that he trusted to not only manage his current operations, but also scale up with Brown Furniture’s growth. In less than one year after deciding to make the move to NetSuite, Brown Furniture is already realizing these benefits:
- Differentiating products built under the same product ID number. In the past, anything made by La-Z-Boy was identified as *La-Z-Boy, whether the product itself was a made-to-order recliner or a special ordered power-reclining sectional. Bresatech developed a customization in NetSuite that includes a base core item for each manufacturer. Rather than changing the item ID to identify a different fabric or finish, they are recorded as configured attributes within the core item. This tells the company how many of each item it’s selling on a monthly or quarterly basis regardless of how many different types of fabric are sold.
- Displaying variable price points as they change. Like most furniture showroom operators, Brown Furniture also needed to be able to create special price tags that not only would display a product’s current sales price, but also the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). Bresatech customized NetSuite to allow the company to insert a new value in a field. “That’s been a huge benefit,” said Nelson.
- Consolidating purchase orders. With NetSuite, Brown Furniture can quickly review all outstanding POs that haven’t been placed yet, group them onto a single PO, and then place a bulk order with the vendor. This helps the company simplify the procurement process and save on freight in an environment where transportation costs continue to climb.
- Attracting customers and selling more products. Brown Furniture now has unique identifiers (i.e., stock numbers) for every item that it receives and sells — a capability lacking in its previous system. Using NetSuite, salespeople can accurately identify style trends that are happening in real time. “We can also easily create reports, determine which fabrics we should carry, and revise our showroom floor to display what customers are buying the most of,” said Nelson. “This, in turn, drives people's attention and appreciation for the pieces we have and also drives sales.”
- Standardizing accounting and finance processes. Nelson also likes NetSuite’s faster month-end close process — which used to take at least 10 days to complete, and now takes at most three days — and the system’s standardized financial structure and rules. “It’s not a one-off as you go along. It’s built on GAAP financial principles, which is exactly what I wanted in my business,” Newton said. “That makes it easy to manage and maintain; I don't have to touch anything or make any fixes.”
Last of its Kind
As one of the last independent furniture retailers in its region, Brown Furniture plans to expand into new physical locations and upgrade its ecommerce storefront. The company is equipped to leverage new business opportunities and well positioned for another 80 years of success.