World’s Largest Christmas Store Wraps Operations Into One Platform with NetSuite

Jenni Moseley, Alliance Marketing Manager

June 14, 2022

Since its founding by Wally Bronner in 1945, Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland has, shall we say, snowballed. The specialty retailer has grown from a 64-square-foot showroom opened in 1954 to become the “World's Largest Christmas Store,” with 27 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds in Frankenmuth, Mich. About 2 million customers visit the company’s 96,000-square-foot main store every year.

“We’re kind of the ‘Cabela’s of Christmas,’” said Bronner's CFO Jill Catterfeld.

The company also sells its 50,000+ trims and gifts through wholesale, catalog and online channels. Ecommerce is one of Bronner’s fastest-growing business segments, and a commercial division sells products to malls, cities and other entities nationwide.

Disjointed Systems Ho-Ho-Hold Bronner’s Back

Until 2019, Bronner’s various divisions were running on separate, legacy software systems. As a result, its financials were disconnected from its e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS) and warehouse data. The company’s consumer, commercial and wholesale sites required unique logins and were managed on different systems.

Bronner’s wanted a complete view of its physical and digital operations — something its legacy technology couldn’t offer. A unified system would help it provide a consistent experience for customers, whether they were shopping online, coming to the store or using buy online/pick up in store.

“We wanted to give customers an omnichannel experience,” said Catterfeld, who also prioritized connecting Bronner’s financial, e-commerce, point-of-sale and warehouse data onto a single platform.

A new multi-state sales taxation requirement was another driving factor behind Bronner’s move to a cloud ERP.

“When the Wayfair ruling(opens in new tab) came out, we had to quickly determine how to implement the changes for our remote sales,” said Catterfeld. “We did some research and ultimately decided to go with Avalara as our tax software company.”

After implementing, however, Bronner’s realized its legacy system couldn’t readily integrate with Avalara, and that the cost to make that linkage happen would be steep. Enter NetSuite, which provided a connector with the Avalara tax system.

“It was amazing when we were finally able to get into NetSuite and have that connector,” said Catterfeld. “The process of reconciling our sales tax would take upwards of three days with our old legacy system.”

Today, that process takes just a few hours.

“That’s been a huge cost savings and really has eased a lot of the sales tax burden for our company,” she said.

Bronner's stocks thousands of SKUs
Bronner's stocks more than 50,000 SKUs.

Wrapping Up Disparate Systems

Around the time it began using Avalara to manage multi-state sales taxes, Bronner’s also started looking for a centralized ERP that could “move with the times,” said Catterfeld.

“We thought NetSuite was the cloud-based system that could do that for us and bring together all of our current disjointed systems,” she said. Those included fulfillment, e-commerce inventory and CRM.

NetSuite’s twice-yearly, automatic updates was another key selling point for the ERP.

“One of the things that attracted us to NetSuite is that it’s always looking at improving the product and staying up with the times,” said Scott Miller, Bronner’s IT manager. “We just knew we’d come to a place where we needed to make a change.”

The Gift of Experience

Bronner’s worked with BTM Global, (opens in new tab)a NetSuite Alliance Partner, on its implementation and found that the provider made the transition smoother.

“Going with an implementer ended up being a no-brainer,” Miller said. “With a project of this size and scope, you really need someone that has gone through it before and that will keep you on task. BTM was a great choice for us.” 

Bronner's Christmas tree selection
SuiteCommerce provides a Rudolph's eye view of Bronner's inventory.

BTM also helped Bronner’s roll out SuiteCommerce, which it will soon use to manage both its commercial and wholesale sites. From an inventory perspective, the challenge is that the company has essentially five businesses running under one roof and accessing the same pool of products.

“We always had a pain point of inventory and inventory control,” said Miller. “Five different sectors competing for that same inventory — different hands reaching into the pot, so to speak.”

NetSuite SuiteCommerce provides better control over, and real-time views of, inventory at any given time.

“So we know where the inventory's flowing,” he said. “In our old system, we never had the available versus on-hand inventory. There was just on-hand, and it was there till it was sold.”

From a business benefits perspective, consolidation of Bronner’s selling channels into one location meant that related data was readily available to decision-makers and easily mined and acted on.

“We also wanted to reduce accounting time to close our books and the amount of manual journal entries that we were doing,” said Miller, who cited how configurable and customizable the company’s new ERP is.

It’s been able to achieve those goals with NetSuite, and more. Today, instead of manually posting inventory on a daily basis into the accounting system, Bronner’s lets NetSuite handle that heavy lifting.

“We've cut down on the time spent doing that while also tying our accounting system into the rest of our operations, which was obviously an amazing thing for us,” Miller said.

One of Catterfeld’s favorite ERP features is the ability to easily update manual inputs.

“We sometimes have a lot of corrections to make within our POS or system as a whole,” she said. “NetSuite is very forgiving when people make mistakes.”

The automated reconciliation of sales tax that's available between Avalara and NetSuite means the finance team can simply push a button and run a reconciliation on hundreds of thousands of items.

“For me, this is just amazing,” said Catterfeld. “Now I can just focus on the numbers that don't balance.”

Learn about the KPIs all product companies should be monitoring(opens in new tab) now.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.