Fink's Jewelers Chooses NetSuite vs. Microsoft, Gets Empowered Employees, Automated Processes and Painless Upgrades

Rosalyn Impink, NetSuite Contributor

September 1, 2022

Fink’s Jewelers(opens in new tab) knows a thing or two about timelessness. The family-owned business has served the Southeastern US for over 90 years, purveying quality pieces from engagement and wedding rings to watches and bracelets that become keepsakes for families just like theirs. Fink’s puts a premium on building customer relationships, also offering custom design and repair services.

Fink’s saw exceptional growth as discretionary spending trended toward hard goods during the pandemic. This year, the business is on track to see 60-70% more revenue than it did two years ago. It has also seen growth in its ecommerce and consignment businesses, plus an uptick in custom orders. These have fueled faster inventory turnover, requiring a strong inventory management system and the ability to log new inventory in that system with minimal administrative burden.

Get an overview from the Fink's team, then read into the details below:

Spotting a Gem: NetSuite vs. Microsoft

Fink’s operated for decades on a platform specifically designed for the jewelry microindustry. When its software provider of 30 years closed shop, Fink's sought a new solution. After two rough years on a system from Mi9 Retail, Fink’s Vice President of Information Systems Todd Stafford and President Matt Fink turned to other providers. They narrowed it down to two options: NetSuite and Microsoft.

Fink’s wanted to work with a vendor that had significant resources to support its software. And while both NetSuite and Microsoft brought stability as large, public companies, Fink’s leadership determined that NetSuite was putting some of its best talent into product development.

“Microsoft is a technology company that has an ERP system, whereas NetSuite is primarily an ERP company that also is a technology company,” Stafford said of his thought process.

The IT team also found that jewelry businesses using Microsoft Dynamics had worrying reports of “shifting sands” and a lack of stability on the platform.

“As an IT person, that unnerved me a bit,” Stafford said. By contrast, “NetSuite had the cloud figured out.”

To him, NetSuite offered an adaptable system whereas Microsoft had a restrictive, hard-to-configure product. For example, like many jewelers, Fink’s labels and tracks its products using tiny, barbell-shaped tags. When the team described its process of entering product details and printing tags to Microsoft, representatives couldn’t figure out how to support the process in Dynamics, Stafford said. That “was the biggest showstopper” in his ERP decision-making.

Other jewelers recommended NetSuite, selling Stafford on a system that could easily coordinate inventory between Fink’s 10 retail locations, equip store associates to take orders from the floor with tablets connected to the ERP and much more. Fink’s didn’t want to use the same Microsoft system as its competitors, thus missing the opportunity for a competitive edge – but it didn’t want to pay exorbitantly for a bespoke ERP, either. Stafford said the team found the best of both worlds in NetSuite: a base system that would be easy to expand to fit its needs.

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Fink's Jewelers has served the Southeastern US for over 90 years.

The Crown Jewels: Easy Development and Automatic Updates

Fink’s implemented NetSuite ERP(opens in new tab) about two years ago. The implementation proved Stafford’s “easy to expand” theory: For example, Fink’s worked with a partner from NetSuite’s SuiteCloud Developer Network(opens in new tab) to develop a solution for the tagging conundrum Microsoft was unable to solve. It’s now the best tagging system Fink’s has ever had, said Stafford, and it speaks to NetSuite’s ability to attract strong development talent.

“A system with great potential attracts great outside partners,” he said.

With Fink’s previous vendor, system updates required a months-long process and physical installs. In NetSuite, automatic updates twice a year provide “hiccup-free” integration of new functionality. With each release, Fink’s makes its processes more efficient. For example, when the business first started using NetSuite, it created separate sales orders for each jewelry repair. If a customer brought in three pieces for repair, the team would create three sales orders in the system. Two years ago, NetSuite debuted invoice grouping functionality(opens in new tab). Now, Fink’s rings out multiple repairs in a single transaction at its point of sale, saving critical time with the customer.

Dazzling Its Customers: A Real-Time View of Inventory

Fink’s has used NetSuite(opens in new tab) to boost the customer experience in other ways, too. The cloud-based system connects stores with the ecommerce platform, so staff can offer in-store customers a more precise representation of available inventory. Staff use tablets while out on the floor, interacting with customers and conducting transactions. And, now freed from an on-premises system, managers carry devices between stores while remaining connected to the ERP.

NetSuite compresses a massive amount of data into digestible insights, allowing staff to easily access customers’ past purchases and analyze trends – thus understanding which new items shoppers might want and maximizing customer lifetime value. This newfound efficiency is helping Fink’s stay lean by distributing product to the right place at the right time. On its old business system, Fink’s in-store vaults would be overpacked with product around peak sales times in November and December. Now, vaults are near empty at peak times because inventory is turning faster, reducing carrying costs.

Leadership uses NetSuite to not only provide store staff with a real-time view of inventory, but also to control which inventory particular stores can see. For example, some products are so highly desirable that customers often clamor for them, causing too much demand for the limited supply. Stafford uses NetSuite to localize certain of those products to certain stores, keeping demand under control. By contrast, for a high-volume product like engagement rings, staff need to see all inventory across locations and provide the customer with a wide selection of options on the spot. Leadership creates these customized views of inventory in NetSuite, both preventing stockouts and equipping staff to give shoppers the options needed to save the sale.

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Fink's store associates take orders right from the floor on NetSuite-connected tablets.

Timeless Pieces, Time Savings: Automated Inventory Management

On the back end, automation has eliminated previously manual inventory tasks. Item creation was a major source of time savings: At specific times throughout the year, when giants in the designer timepiece industry release new product lines, Fink’s used to spend two or three days manually adding the vast number of items into the database for each watch vendor. Now, it uses NetSuite to automatically process spreadsheets which distributors send before products are shipped. The team handles this spreadsheet upload in a matter of hours, with the added bonus of getting SKUs into the system before product hits the store. Fink’s estimates that automatic item creation saves up to two weeks of labor per year.

Similarly, the team now handles purchase orders via CSV import into NetSuite.

“Rather than sitting down and hand-keying a PO, we just push it in via spreadsheet [converted to a CSV],” said Stafford. “We just did a 900-piece order with a major vendor, which would’ve taken us all day to key manually. But using a spreadsheet from the buyer, we were able to input the PO in 25 minutes.”

A Glittering Future: CRM, Business Intelligence and More

Fink’s plans to move into the next phase of its NetSuite use this year. Now that the team has the system’s core capabilities down, “we’re moving on to fun things,” Stafford said.

The team will focus on NetSuite’s CRM(opens in new tab) capabilities and using sales data to forge stronger customer relationships. Fine-tuning inventory management and improving the integration between its ERP and ecommerce platform are also on the horizon, as Fink’s ecommerce arm has tripled in size over recent years. The team also aims to bring business intelligence in-house, by customizing NetSuite to generate business insights from fast-changing information on vendor performance, top-selling items, customer purchasing profiles and more.

Each initiative serves Fink’s overall mission of becoming the destination jeweler of the Southeast.

“Now that we’ve figured out our biggest pain points, we can focus on value-add [with NetSuite],” Fink said. “And that's why [the IT team] are so excited to come to work.”

See how your business can improve inventory to boost cash flow(opens in new tab) with a system like NetSuite.

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