Customer Stories

ROKA London

ROKA London Bags The Formula for Easy Forecasting with Inventory Planner

“We needed to stop making decisions based on gut instinct and start using a proper, enterprise-level tool – Inventory Planner hasn’t let us down.” – ROKA London Chief Operating Officer Peter Gough

Planning your inventory using a spreadsheet always seems like a good idea at the start. It’s free, it’s (relatively) simple, it’s easy to access – what’s not to love?

But inevitably, one master spreadsheet turns into three spreadsheets that different people in your team use in slightly different ways. As your business grows, and markets shift, forecasting manually becomes more complex – and guesswork creeps in.

Before you know it, nobody knows which data you can actually trust and inventory ordering becomes more time consuming, more stressful and more error-prone.

It’s a story that’s all too familiar to the operations team at ROKA  London – the multi-million pound British brand known across the globe for its stylish range of functional, weather-resistant backpacks and bags.

Strapped in for success

ROKA Chief Operating Officer Peter Gough says: “Our multi-spreadsheet system was very complicated – it was very prone to error and becoming quite painful to try to get any insight, especially in real time. I also didn’t trust it.

“Decisions were not being made based on reliable data, but on gut instinct of what seemed to be selling well.

“Invariably, that meant we were missing things, and we became overstocked.

“That’s a major problem because warehouse storage is so expensive.

“We realised that if we’re smarter at planning, we’ll have lower costs and more cash. We want to actively reduce slow-selling and old stock, but also stock in general.

“That’s what led us to Inventory Planner.”

As a top-rated inventory planning app, Inventory Planner by Sage is packed with features and functionality that help merchants like ROKA save time, boost revenue and adapt to market changes.

It offers reliable, always-up-to-date demand forecasting which factors in supplier timescales, seasonality and promotions alongside historical sales data. It then translated these forecasts into simple, easy-to-understand buying reports which show merchants exactly what to order and when.

Planning that packs a punch

Even the creation of time-consuming POs can be automated and the app can be integrated seamlessly with e-commerce platforms including Shopify, BigCommerce and more to curate a powerful, flexible tech stack.

This market-leading functionality has helped the team eliminate tedious manual processes, improve decision-making and foster growth and scalability.

Peter says: “We’ve gone from being a small start-up to a multi-million pound global business, so the timing was right to upgrade to a ‘proper’ enterprise level inventory planning tool.

“We felt the benefit of joining Inventory Planner immediately. The insights have been truly game-changing. We’ve become much smarter, more considered buyers.

“It helps us use sales data insight for predictive product sales modeling, driving better decision making for stock purchasing and planning.

“This has so far had a huge impact on our growth and has contributed to accelerating us towards +70% YoY sustainable growth.

“One of our major challenges was finding a replenishment strategy that can cope with different business models (we sell wholesale and DTC) and different regions (we run ROKA London in the UK and ORI London in the US) – but Inventory Planner handles it all without breaking a sweat.”

Carrying complex requirements

With concerns about overstock and the major knock-on effect it has on cash flow, Peter and his team have been delighted to discover that Inventory Planner proactively flags slow-moving and hot-selling items – helping merchants avoid overstock and stockouts and optimize stock across all locations.

With access to detailed insights across various KPIs – including variant, vendor, warehouse and product category – ROKA has learned that what might appear to be a best-selling product might not be in reality.

The platform has also enabled them to assess product velocity, leading to tweaks in their product range.

Peter says: “Inventory Planner provides insights into product velocity, helping the team become more intelligent buyers that can easily evaluate the depth and width of our product offerings. Essentially, it lets us compare apples to apples. It sounds simple but it’s had a major impact on the way we buy.

“Inventory Planner lets us be really specific and granular with our forecasting. In the past, if a certain style of bag was selling well, we probably would have ordered all four colours again – but actually maybe only one colour needed reordering, or one specific size. Now, we only order the exact SKUs required.

“I love that it proactively flags up opportunities to align marketing with inventory. For instance, it might tell us we have 18 months of stock of a particular style of bag. Rather than promoting the whole range, we can strategically discount the slow-moving style – which is especially useful in the run up to BFCM and other major holidays.

“We’re not a discount brand – and we don’t want to become known as one – but we’re also aware that there’s a cost of living crisis and there is a need and an expectation for promotions.

“Inventory Planner helps us be more sophisticated about it. It helps us put together bundles of items, for instance, that use up overstock by combining with more popular items.

“Yes, it means we’re not quite selling at full mark up, but it’s still much more economical than keeping items in storage for 18 months.”

Growth is in the bag

As one of the most advanced inventory planning tools around, Inventory Planner also offers cutting-edge functionality like Open-to-Buy planning.

Also known as ‘merchandising planning’ or ‘supply planning’, Open-to-Buy or OTB is an inventory planning strategy that helps retailers accurately work out how much inventory to buy.

It’s critical for fast-growing and larger merchants, especially those with long lead times from suppliers, because it shows you if you can stay afloat while you wait for inventory to arrive, and whether your cash flow is healthy enough to place other orders. For ROKA London, this is a particularly exciting feature.

“We felt the benefit of joining Inventory Planner immediately – the insights have been truly game-changing” – ROKA London Chief Operating Officer Peter Gough

Peter says: “As a brand, we’re growing up and we need more enterprise level platforms and systems to support the business. Inventory Planner can deliver – and its recent updates to Open-to-Buy are really exciting for us.

“I like to think of where we’re at in football terms. So we started in League One but now we’ve moved into the Championship. We’re not Premier League      level yet, but that’s the goal – we’re in the playoffs      and tools like Inventory Planner are gonna be what helps us win.

“Our immediate goal is to reduce inventory by 25% by year-end. Longer term, we want to avoid carrying excessive stock while building on our growth. Our five year plan is to build a global outdoor lifestyle brand with global sales of £40 million.

“With Inventory Planner, we’re on target to reach these goals.”

Want to get the same results with Inventory Planner as ROKA London? Book a demo now.

Key Facts

Roka London

Fast-growing multi-million pound retailer known for its stylish and sustainable bags and backpacks

25% inventory reduction

On track to cut inventory by 25% by year-end, huge time savings, overstock stopped in its tracks