Four years ago Stephanie and I were standing in the middle of our stock room at Bella Vita, and felt like we were living inside an episode of “Hoarders”. You know, the TV show that puts the spotlight on poor souls who have hoarded so much “stuff”(and sometimes trash) in their homes that they can no longer find a place to sit or lie down anymore? Yep, that was us. All around us was inventory, office supplies, daily incoming shipments from Fedex/UPS, as well as an extremely cramped office for the accountants and team members doing computer work.
Enough was enough. We finally admitted to ourselves that we had grown out of our “stock room”. A dedicated website team, increased sales and back-office operations were wreaking havoc behind those pretty burlap curtains you see from inside the store. We also realized that it did not make good business sense to store boat-loads of inventory and bulk office supplies at the same premium per-square-foot rate that we were paying for the actual sales floor.
Long story short, we leased a warehouse 8 minutes away and were then able to decrease the size of our store's stock room, adding 110 more square feet of selling space to our sales floor. 110 square feet may not sound like a lot, but if you do your math and know how much your store makes per square foot, it’s a no-brainer investment and that added square footage has contributed greatly to our revenues over the past 3 years.
To the Warehouse! Let's Take a Tour.
One of our biggest costs besides payroll is our packaging, those pretty bags or boxes that you leave the store with. Now that we have room to store them, we no longer have to rely on the paper company to store them for us (at a hefty price, mind you) and we don’t have to wait on a shipment if the store has a busy week and runs out of bags and/or boxes.
In October, UPS, Fedex and other freight trucks start rolling in and it’s all-hands on deck to get Christmas inventory opened, processed, tagged and sorted for easy access when we start moving shipment to the store in December on a daily basis. For the other 9 months out of the year, we store extras and marked down inventory that is destined for the Warehouse Sale!
Laurie scours the countryside for barn wood and antiques to use in our displays. All of that is stored here, as well as built and transported to the store when we have seasonal display changes.
Between the website and both stores, there are many beans to count! They push hard to get the books closed on the 10th of the following month, as well as handle payroll, budgets, accounts payable and countless other office management duties.
Website and Marketing Office
The website and marketing office was built in Summer of 2013. Online orders and customer support requests are taken care of from this office. When we’re not fulfilling orders in the warehouse, we’re uploading products, posting blogs and creating/sending emails.
A third of the warehouse is dedicated to website and shipping. We ship 70-100 boxes per week. These are made up of web orders as well as store-bought items that are transferred to the store every morning. It’s much more efficient to package in this space, as opposed to the cramped stock room at the store.
Catie is packaging USPS orders before our 12PM pickup, then she'll work on UPS orders for our daily 3PM pickup.
Stocked with boxes of all shapes and sizes for shipping.
A customized shipping station just for our specific shipping needs. It won't win any awards for beauty, but it gets the job done!
Our new gift-wrapping station. We had this custom-made as a direct result of getting slammed with gift-wrapping purchases online last year. To survive next Christmas with our sanity intact, we knew we needed a dedicated area to wrap gifts.
For those of you that are small retail business owners(as many readers are), having a separate space nearby like this to “support” your retail operation is something worth thinking about if your back-office operations are in a growth phase. Stephanie can now focus on our core business (the sales floor and customers), as opposed to accountants, web, shipping and marketing folks causing chaos in the stock room! I won’t lie, it was scary in the beginning when we entered a 3 year warehouse lease, but you have to look at it as an investment in your business, not just another cost!