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Construction Marketplace 3 5 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 The Home Builder's Guide to Integrated Management Solutions (ERPs) Companies are striving to become more efficient, improve customer service and stay competitive by more effectively uti- lizing resources. Luckily, there's a solu- tion to help accomplish all of these objec- tives. Integrated Management Solutions, otherwise known as ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning), refer to systems that automate and integrate a company's core business elements to increase efficiency and simplify operations. ERPs are com- prehensive systems that include all the software pieces you might need to man- age all aspects of your construction oper- ations. For a deeper understanding of what ERP does, it's helpful to take a step back and think about all of the processes that are essential to building new homes, including accounting, purchasing, con- struction, sales and beyond. The purpose of ERP software is to have one complete system that supports and integrates all of these functions, in order to streamline processes and information across an entire organization. By creating a smooth flow of information that is always in sync, employees across all divisions (for example, accounting and sales) have access to the same, consistent informa- tion. Most ERP systems also offer real- time reporting and automation tools. Instead of relying on separate databases and spreadsheets that employees need to consistently update, and then putting someone in charge of manually merging them all to generate reports, some ERP solutions give you the ability to pull reports from one central system. For example, with sched- ule approvals flowing automatically into the financial system with- out the need for the additional step of man- ually signing and entering new invoices, builders can not only build homes more quickly and accu- rately, but the accounting department can close the book faster. ERP software helps to eliminate redundant processes and systems, dra- matically lowering the cost of doing busi- ness overall. ERP implementation is where planning and profitability inter- sect, allowing you to streamline your back office processes with software that helps you achieve a more controlled, paperless build. With ERP, you can rid yourself of duplicate data entries in dis- parate systems, unpredictable cost, quali- ty and accuracy, and scheduling delays, all of which cost you time and money and hinder your company's potential for growth. In conclusion, ERP is a comprehensive solution essential for modern home builders. You may wonder if an ERP really can work for your business and deliver on all that the vendor promises. The fact is that an ERP can do all this and more. ECI has seen it happen time after time, and witnessed some builders reach their goals by implementing an ERP solution firsthand. ECI has over 30 years of experience providing home builders with MarkSystems, the home building indus- try's leading single-platform ERP. It is a completely integrated, easy-to-use cloud- based solution that maximizes business efficiency for home builders and property developers. Visit ECI at booth #SU1041. For more information, go to www.ecisolutions.com/ home-builders-land-developers. Bandon Mercantile Offers Reliability By Lorrie Baumann Bandon Mercantile is a hybrid store in Bandon, Oregon, that carries both kitchenware and a range of clothing that reflects the kind of casual Pacific Northwest style that its owners like to wear themselves. "We just love the kitchenware part of the business," says Beth Wood, who owns the store along with her husband, Ed. "For one thing, you can't make as huge a mistake in that as you can with the clothing." Beth and Ed Wood opened Bandon Mercantile in 1985 after moving to Bandon from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to enjoy the friendly seaside community in southern Oregon where Beth's parents had chosen to retire. "They were driving around Oregon, and when they got to Bandon, their car broke down and they never left," Beth said. Beth and Ed came to visit and promptly fell in love with the community. "It's just such an awesome place to live – and the ability to live here and make a living here, it's just such a big plus," Beth said. "People would literally give you the shirt off their back." While they liked the town's seaside ambiance, its climate and the small-town friendliness of the community, they still had to figure out how to make a living there. "There weren't any jobs here – timber had just gone down the tubes, and fishing wasn't going well," Beth said. "We wanted to start a business that was for the locals – doing kitchenware. We have found that the tourists really love that, so we've done very well on that too." They found a building that had been built in 1910 and has escaped two city- wide fires over the years. At 2,500 square feet with a front porch that's now used to display garden supplies, the Woods had space to add a few women's apparel items to their kitchenware displays. "We had done, even when we first opened, a few sweaters for women and some sweat- shirts with 'Bandon' on them. The sweaters kept getting more popular, so we added more sweaters," Beth said. "It helps fill out the bottom line." Kitchenware, though, forms the core of the business, and the store offers an expansive range that includes Swiss Diamond, T-fal and Finex cookware as well as Shun and Henkels knives, "prac- tically everything" made by Oxo Good Grips, Norpro tools, USA Pan bakeware, April Cornell linens and items from Joseph Joseph and Zyliss. Overall, the inventory includes "just about every major manufacturer that does deal with small stores," Beth said. She also carries Tag home décor items as well as dishcloths from Design Imports (DII), which sell well. "We have some humorous magnets and things like that, but we don't do humor in the linen line," Beth said. "We've been able to pick out the best companies and carry their stuff, so we have the best selection at the best price. We don't sell anything in our store that won't hold up. Products have to do what they say – if it doesn't, we don't reorder it." In a community with a high percent- age of retired people, Bandon Mercantile's typical customer is 45 to 80 and is very likely to wander in looking for a gift either for a wedding or for Christmas. "Men absolutely love the free gift wrap," Beth says. "We really treat our customers well.... We are attentive without following people around in the store. When we do help, we do it cheer- fully." Although Bandon Mercantile doesn't get returns often, when some- thing does come back, the staff takes it cheerfully, Beth said. "I'm always astounded at how few things come back," she said. "But we make sure that our things do what they're supposed to do before we sell them." When shoppers are looking for something for their own kitchens, that's likely to be a specialized item like a dough docker or a poaching pan for a salmon, Beth said. "We sell a lot of the big tweezers for removing fish bones," she said. "We sell the salt plates for cook- ing on and also the cedar planks. They might need a basting brush or a pot hold- er or a flipper – you never know.... When they come in looking for something odd, and you have it, it's just such a great thing." Uniqueness Sells to the Gift Shopper By Lorrie Baumann Jennifer Boake, Senior Buyer for Abbott, is a self-confessed giftware junkie. "We're really involved in what's going on in both the Canadian and U.S. mar- ket," she said. She's been with the company for 33 years and loves her job. She spends a lot of time in shops, at trade shows, researching online and flipping through magazines, observing and looking for inspiration and then bringing those ideas back to the company's design team to start to create new items and ranges. Then she goes to work finding factories to make them and following up to make sure that the products are right before they're shipped to Canada. "We are con- stantly trend-spotting, constantly looking for inspiration to bring new product to market," she said. "You have to be nim- ble. The Internet has changed the way people shop, and that's continuing to change.... We have to be flexible and lis- ten to customers about what they want to buy and how they want to do business and react to that." The Abbott Collection comprises about 4,000 items at any given time, curated by Boake and company President David Abbott, son of the company's founder, Ben Abbott, to make the collec- tion a one-stop shop full of unique items to attract customers into small, independ- ent gift and home décor shops. "For us, it's very difficult to get those dollars from the customer, as we are all competing for the same dollar," she said. "For our cus- tomers to attract consumers to their store, they need to have great products, with great window displays." The days when a gift shop could get along by specializing in ceramic and glass collectibles is long over, and these days, gift store owners have expanded their horizons to include fragrances, jewelry, candles and more, Boake said. "You name it – they're carrying everything," she said. "We've followed along that same line. Now we buy everything – anything that we think is salable in a kitchen/gift/decor store – we're all over it." Today, it's essential for a gift retailer to stay on top of trends and to rotate in new items constantly to ensure that shop- pers will find something new every time they visit the store. To help that along, Abbott Collection launches 1,200 to 1,500 new items a year, so that at least 30 percent of the collection is new at any given time. "Customers are not reorder- ing whatever sold well last year," Boake said. "You can sell less than half the sec- ond year of a product – unless it's a really hot, gimmicky item." To keep the new and unique items flowing in, Abbott designs its own prod- ucts, commissioning new products from designers as well as buying them on the open market, Boake said. "People are willing to pay a little more for well- designed and unique product – as long as the price is still fair. There are a lot of people who don't have a lot of cash," she said. "They'll spend a little more for something they haven't seen before – $20 or so isn't something that they have a problem spending." Even when they're feeling cash- strapped, consumers still need to buy gifts for special occasions, and the giftware mar- ket remains strong even when the economy dips into recession. "It is true, in a lot of ways, that people will always need a gift, but the definition of gift has changed," Boake said. "Multiple categories of product are now considered giftware." She's currently excited about stain- less steel double-walled wine tumblers, reusable straws and a Swedish dishcloth made of cellulose fiber that takes the place of 15 rolls of paper towels. "Eco- friendly stuff is very hot right now," she said. "People are trying to do their best, and they're trying to buy products that make them feel good and like they are doing their part for the environment."

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