How Sunski achieved 20% wholesale growth & cuts inventory management time in half
Sunski, creators of stylish and environmentally friendly sunnies, is on a mission to make the planets best sunglasses. Just 473 steps away from the Pacific Ocean in sunny San Francisco (they counted), their small but agile 12-person team is rapidly paving the path to “total domination of the eyewear industry.”
Their path to rapid expansion started back in 2012 when founders Tom Stewart and Michael Charley launched a Kickstarter campaign for the original Sunskis — the first polarized sunglasses on the market with a lifetime warranty and reasonable price-point. The campaign was a huge success with over $150,000 raised. From there, their distribution model really began to take shape.
In just a year, a third of their sales were sold directly to consumers via their online webstore, a third through U.S. retailers, and a third through international distributors. Order volumes were reaching new heights, and SKU numbers doubled and tripled into the hundreds.
It was surely an exciting time for the Sunski team, but like many small brands experiencing explosive growth, success comes with its own unique challenges…
“I talked to other brands, and they were saying how insane I am for doing this all on Excel. I was like, I know,” recalls Grant Mahan, Logistics Manager at Sunski.
Grant runs the one-man operations show at Sunski and has been doing so for the last three years. “I was employee number two,” says Grant. “I was the gatekeeper of all things inventory, and if anyone had a question, they would come to me.” Grant had built Sunski’s operational foundation from the ground up, managing and organizing carefully crafted Excel sheets to keep track of Sunski’s growing but still manageable inventory.
Under Grant and the team’s hard work, Sunski grew their business from a Kickstarter campaign all the way to a fully multi-channel operational set-up. Here’s a snapshot of their operations:
- 2 Shopify eComm stores
- 3 international distributors (2 in Japan, 1 in South Africa)
- 2 wholesale channels
- Traditional wholesale (NuOrder)
- ‘Boutique’ wholesale channel through Shopify (‘The Cabana’)
- 2 Third Party Logistics partners (3PL)
- Ruby Has for D2C orders
- NMS for wholesale orders
However, with a lean team of only 12, rapidly increasing number of SKUs, and unforgiving growth goals, Grant and the team quickly found that manually managing inventory was a huge bottleneck to their ability to grow and scale.
“We would manually keep track of inventory with a Google Docs Excel sheet that had these crazy v-lookup equations that we would import. And having over 100 SKUs, having even one line off would mess the whole thing up. I still remember uploading CSV files and seeing the error message popping up. It was just becoming a big problem, and I didn’t want us to get to the point where we were in trouble because we didn’t invest in the proper infrastructure of the business.”
“It was just becoming a big problem, and I didn’t want us to get to the point where we were in trouble because we didn’t invest in the proper infrastructure of the business.”
Sunski turned to Stitch in the summer of 2017 as their inventory and order management solution to centralize their inventory and operations across the growing, multi-channel business.
“The decision was pretty easy for me,” explains Grant. “As a modern brand, we need to take advantage of every channel possible in order to be successful. Stitch was and is still one of the only solutions that understands that and is willing to grow and adapt with us. I know if we went to some other massive ERP, we would never get that kind of consideration.”
“I know if we went to some other massive ERP, we would never get that kind of consideration.”
Beyond Stitch’s core capabilities around inventory and order management, Stitch offers a wide range of consultative services through dedicated account managers, a large partner network, and knowledgeable in-house experts that many brands leverage across all areas of the business — not limited to inventory management.
Through this program, Stitch was able to provide Sunski an introduction to Ruby Has, a third party logistics and fulfillment partner to handle all of Sunski’s direct-to-consumer orders, as well as a recommendation to create a separate Shopify ecommerce store for small volume wholesale orders for better visibility of channel performance.
Previously, Sunski’s wholesale store ‘The Cabana’ was a subsection of their D2C store, causing issues in reporting and product performance tracking. “Now we have two separate Shopify stores tied in with Stitch. And our Amazon sales. And NuOrder. Plus, our two warehouses. Stitch truly gives us the omnichannel capability and flexibility we needed in order to be successful. I’m not worried about maxing out an antiquated system,” explains Grant.
“Stitch truly gives us the omnichannel capability and flexibility we needed in order to be successful. I’m not worried about maxing out an antiquated system.”
At the beginning of 2018, Sunski — along with their investors — set a growth goal of 30% for their wholesale channels, both in terms of the number of accounts and revenue size for each account. “It was a pretty tall order based on the capacity of the company,” commented Grant. “But having investors, we have to be able to show growth. I’m not worried, though. I’m confident we have the right set up with Stitch as the central hub.”
With Stitch, Sunski has been able to:
- Achieve 20% wholesale growth across the board only a few months into the year.
- Cut time spent on inventory and order management by more than 60% during the height of busy seasons from 5 hours a week to 1-2 hours.
- Onboard and implement a second 3PL partner Ruby Has in just under 2 weeks — a drastically faster timeline than average 3PL implementations, which typically takes 5-8 weeks.
And that’s only the beginning for the Sunski team. In the future, Sunski hopes to expand their operations internationally to get one step closer to world domination for the eyewear brand.
“I have no reserves on what we’re gonna be able to accomplish, which is total world domination for the eyewear brand. That’s what we want, and we know we can do it with Stitch.”
To learn more about Sunski, or if you’re in the market for stylish and environmentally friendly sunglasses, visit www.sunski.com
“I have no reserves on what we're gonna be able to accomplish, which is total world domination for the eyewear brand. That's what we want, and we know we can do it with Stitch.”
Grant Mahan, Head Of Sales Operations | Sunski