Posted by Kristen Swenson, Wholesale Distribution Marketing Lead
Providing a neighborhood grocery experience that concurrently whisks customers away on a culinary adventure has made Pusateri’s stores legendary in Canada since Cosimo Pusateri founded the first store in North Toronto more than 50 years ago.
Staying true to old principles – treating customers as friends, providing fruits and vegetables sourced the same day on its store shelves, exceptional butchery and freshly prepared foods – have distinguished the business from high-end grocer competitors. But to continue to thrive and grow its unique business model in an industry that is becoming increasingly commoditized – Pusateri’s needed to blend the old with the new.
“The reason that Amazon and all these guys are wildly successful is the concept of personalization. You need a seamless customer view, whether in-store or online,” said Adam Barnard, Pusateri’s Chief Financial Officer and technology leader. “If I don’t know who that guest is when they come into the store, then I’ve broken ties with that guest.”
Some two years ago, a business with then three locations invested in a unified platform for managing its business. Now boasting six stores and eyeing online expansion and international partnerships, it is uniquely positioned to deliver a seamless customer experience across channels and win against much, much larger competitors.
We needed data to make better decisions
With a belief in the value of data analysis, the business started to look to technology after the launch of its third store, in the Bayview Village location. Growth wasn’t matching expectations, and it wanted to know why.
Barnard was hired to that end. He sought to examine item level records and what people were buying, including similar items in baskets, to perform analysis on cost/margin and throughput – but couldn’t. With disparate systems and manual processes managing business, there wasn’t a single source of data, nor an efficient way to do so.
“Data was needed to make better decisions,” Barnard said.
At the same time, there was a growing need to simplify the management of the complex business. Part retailer, part manufacturer, Pusateri’s also runs a 14,000-square-foot commercial kitchen in which it sources the highest quality ingredients and prepares all its fresh home meal replacements served in its stores and services a catering business that represents about six percent of its total revenue. It was running that process with orders logged on paper and a fax machine.
When it decided to look for ERP software to automate processes in 2015, a devastating fire ripped through its flagship store and corporate offices in North Toronto after it had closed for the evening, causing significant damage. That forced the business to examine its disaster recovery plans, and led it to focus its technology search on cloud-based systems.
NetSuite enables end-to-end view
As such, in 2016, swayed by its cloud architecture, usability and robust functionality, Pusateri’s went live with NetSuite to manage end-to-end business, linking everything from its in-store POS systems to inventory, warehouse and order management to financials in a unified NetSuite platform. NetSuite manages the movement of 18,000 active items and relationships with over 1,000 suppliers.
The business links the customer’s purchases in the store through the POS system to NetSuite, which automatically updates inventory levels, finance data and the customer record. It has also automated processes for stores to order prepared foods from the commercial kitchen, data that it can then analyze to better plan for demand of its prepared foods by store in subsequent weeks. That includes access to daily reports on profit and loss.
“It gives the stores visibility into what is coming to them,” he said.
In fact, since implementing NetSuite, Pusateri’s has opened three new locations, doubling its stores to six. Knowing exactly how much is selling at each location – both in terms of inventory items and prepared and fresh foods -- helps leadership better plan for demand, and has had a direct impact on margins.
“We were able to open three stores because we could quickly respond to what customers wanted,” Barnard said.
Insight for optimization, growth
In all, NetSuite has allowed the business to design stores that are highly tailored for their specific audiences, and they continue to break new sales ground every month – something quite atypical for the grocery store industry.
To maintain momentum, it’s looking to innovate its customer experiences – enabling ecommerce as well as launching a relevant, compelling loyalty program that links both online – which the company envisions as being a sort of “white-glove” food delivery service -- and in-store shopping. It’s also looking to expand into the United States through key partnerships with Saks Fifth Avenue.
“We’ve done an exceptional of job perfecting the in-store experience, and NetSuite is a huge piece of that,” Barnard said. “We’re now trying to figure out how to take that in-store experience and digitize it, so that we can better understand our customers and provide relevant delivery solutions through an ecommerce platform.”
For more on how Pusateri and other businesses are readying themselves for the next phase of their business, register for the Next Ready Business Tour in Toronto, Sept. 26 or at a city near you.