Every retailer’s dream is to grow and flourish while maintaining their initial character and a “small-store” feel. But as retailers grow, maintaining that close customer connection, even in a specialty store, can be difficult. Topher Mallory, CEO of US retail brand Mexicali Blues, understands the importance of balancing shifting customer trends with the challenges of optimizing inventory—all while increasing the company’s footprint.
With the proper tools and support from technology partners, Mexicali Blues has expanded from two stores selling unique product sourced primarily from Mexico to six locations across New England, offering product not only from Mexico but across Central and South America, Nepal, India, Thailand, Bali, Guatemala, and Peru.
Ninety-five percent of the retailer’s products are imported; how those products are designed, where they are created and the story behind each is important to the store brand. In fact, it is the very foundation.
The expansion has taken place all while management has kept true to its credo of sourcing fairly, living sustainably and sharing generously. The company turns 30 next year, and their decades-long growth has been marked by purpose and giving, which are just as important to Mexicali Blues owners, Pete and Kim, as the retail side of their work.
Every year, one percent of their gross sales goes to charity (that’s right – not profit, but gross sales), and over the last 12 months, this philanthropy has included building a school in Nepal.
“We all have immense gratitude for our success as a team over the years,” said Mallory. “Creating purposeful positive change is a huge part of what makes our company tick.”
Mallory emphasizes that every decision made flows from the brand identity, whether that concerns products, customers or even technology. Everything the company does centers around creating a community of shared interest around its products.
Mexicali Blues has been focused on supplying products to customers through multiple channels nearly since its inception. It began as a small business in 1988, and in 1999 launched an ambitious e-commerce site.
In 2004, Mexicali Blues started a partnership with Retail Pro and brought in their point-of-sale solution. Four years later, Mexicali Blues was able to really start driving e-commerce sales with UniteU, one of the largest providers of retail integration.
Using Retail Pro in tandem with UniteU’s omnichannel-as-a-service platform, Mexicali Blues is streamlining their operations, providing value to customers and growing sales both online and in store. The point-of-sale and retail management software syncs with the e-commerce site to show product information, inventory and customer order information. As a result, today, Mexicali Blues boasts a robust sales channel, including a buy-online, pickup-in-store option.
However, despite having a website and inventory management tools, Mexicali Blues recognized it needed to do more than review reporting on a weekly basis if it wanted to continue to grow and be a must-shop destination for new as well as existing customers.
Mallory determined that to continue to increase sales, it was necessary to learn and to understand the origins of its online shopping traffic, as well as where it was concentrated on mexicaliblues.com, and how to convert more of that traffic to sales.
Consequently, during the last two years, Mexicali Blues has focused on moving to a unified commerce strategy with Retail Pro as a partner.
Strengthening the Brick and Mortar Experience
Unified commerce helps retailers move beyond omnichannel. It puts the customer experience first, destroying the barriers between internal channel silos and leveraging a single commerce platform. It comprises one platform that weaves together POS, mobile, web and clienteling.
Today, the Mexicali Blues integrated commerce site seamlessly shows product information, inventory and customer data. The retailer has grown from two locations to six, with the assistance of the Retail Pro and UniteU technologies.
While it embraces—and aspires to attain—the enormous potential of e-commerce, Mexicali Blues is mindful of its brick-and-mortar atmosphere, an asset that provides a unique, colorful environment, which is critical to its success. It was important to Mallory that any unified strategy reinforces and enhances that in-store experience. Bringing the shopper in, whether online or physically to an outlet, lets the customer become a part of the Mexicali Blues brand.
The strategy seems to be working. For the past two years, Mexicali Blues has seen double-digit growth in their online sales, shipping more orders across the country than ever before. In fact, last year was a record year for both in-store and online, and Mexicali Blues are already on track for another record year with its online performance thus far in 2017.
But providing the same type of experience online as in store meant the retailer had to develop an inventory strategy that worked both at the warehouse and at their retail store locations.
Using inventory information in Retail Pro, the store integrated store-level stock with its website to provide the same high level of customer service to their digital consumers that its brick and mortar shoppers enjoyed, and they are adding a new proprietary LMS training tool to continue to build instore experience.
Because Mexicali Blues has been able to analyze the data the Retail Pro solution provides, the site has evolved in direct response to what customers want. For example, the “Find In Store” feature became so well used that it led to the larger conversation of how to use in-store inventory to fulfill online orders. Holistically, the company is well positioned as they roll out pick-up in-store at all locations in the next few months.
Today, nearly half of the items bought online are stocked in store. Its technology-based, omnichannel evolution allows Mexicali Blues to be more accurate, more efficient and more streamlined, which will let it continue its upward trajectory into the coming months and beyond.