Old Time Pottery is modernizing its process and systems, an acre at a time
Discount home décor stores are a bargain shopper’s paradise. “The store is like a treasure hunt. There are customers that come in and stay for hours. They don't just come in and pick up what they need and leave. They browse quite a bit.” The specific retailer Josh Siddon is referring to, Old Time Pottery, operates a network of spacious stores ranging in size from around 80,000 to 120,000 square feet.
That’s a lot of throw pillows, lamps, and area rugs in those acres, and Siddon is responsible for building the information technology infrastructure that helps to keep them on the shelves of 39 stores in 11 states. As vice president of IT, Siddon is leading a team to make automation moves that will propel the Murfreesboro, Tenn., enterprise into a new era of merchandising.
When we spoke to Siddon, Christmas 2021 was seven weeks away. “While most retailers are still getting their Christmas inventory in, ours was fully received well before peak season, and now we’re killing it on Christmas,” he told BOSS. “Old Time Pottery’s digital journey was integral to delighting our customers with full and festive shelves.”
By aggregating and crunching data, the company accurately forecasted when inventory would arrive, he said. This allowed the company’s supply chain specialists to, as he put it, play a massive “chess game of moving containers from port to port and moving inventory from one country to another to get it here.”
To find comparable products to competitors’ goods at a lower price for their valued customers, Old Time Pottery deals with small, less technologically advanced companies around the world that have little or no experience with EDI, APIs, or other basic technologies. “Dealing with mom-and-pop suppliers overseas presented a challenge,” he said.
“Inventory integrity is critical in retail, so the very first thing we did was implement EDI.” Next, they implemented an electronic purchase order system. “We found solutions for everything and from that point forward it was just buy-in,” he said. After a two-and-a-half-year partnership with its EDI providers and supplier base, Old Time Pottery is now 100% EDI compliant.
Overseas suppliers weren’t alone in their reluctance to break up with paper. When Siddon joined Old Time Pottery in 2019, purchasing and inventory control systems were largely manually done.
Siddon worked with newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Jason Schmitt and Vice President of Marketing and Human Resources Colby Swann to modernize their entire system. Added Schmitt: “We transformed a decades-old culture from reliant on paper invoices to data-driven decisions. It took time, training, and smart systems. Today, the team is way more efficient and making smarter decisions because of automation and data.”
Now, instead of doing data entry, Old Time Pottery’s merchandising team concentrates on more valuable work. “We have empowered and enabled them to do their job effectively. They’re in our office almost every day asking for something new, and that’s great,” he said. “Now all decisions are based on data, and we’re improving that process every day as we transform into an omni-channel retailer.”
Before the pandemic, Old Time Pottery’s website was used primarily for shoppers to locate stores. A new website was about a month away from going live in March 2020. The marketing and IT departments were tasked with finding a way to keep their business operating. The solution? Get a buy-online, pick-up-in-store program going, and fast.
With Siddon’s support, Swann led the team to launch in just 10 days using Shopify. “We wanted to start small with just a fraction of our inventory while we tested the program,” said Swann. “It was a huge success, and we have expanded the program each month.”
Schmitt, Siddon, and senior director of supply chain Bradley Walker have spent the last several months refining warehousing and transportation logistics to save time and improve efficiency. With automated systems and processes, the average item sits in the warehouse less than seven days.
“At the same time, we implemented systems to audit the process so we can make sure that the stopgaps we’ve put in place are actually working,” Siddon added.
Siddon offered this advice for small retailers facing technology transformations of their own:
“Be open to change. IT is there to help, not there to take things away. There's a stigma, especially around security, that IT is there to make life harder. It’s to make everyone’s lives easier. We just need partnerships that show that’s what we’re here to do.”
Since 1986, Old Time Pottery has brought great bargains and stylish home decor into the homes of millions of people.
Started as a single store operation in Murfreesboro, Tenn., we now cover the Southeast and Midwest with 39 stores, each the size of 2 acres ... or more!
At Old Time Pottery you will find a huge and ever-changing selection of home decor and everything you need to entertain and live in style ... at prices that can’t be beat!
We are famous for low prices because we buy in huge volume from the industry's largest suppliers.
That, along with our low-cost warehouse style stores, allow us to offer you the best deals on stylish home decor.
Old Time Pottery
480 River Rock Blvd.
Murfreesboro, TN 37128-4804