After 20+ years in Merchandise Planning, I joined Toolio to do more of it (sort of)

November 1, 2021

Background

I recently joined Toolio as the VP of Planning, and the first few weeks have been exciting to say the least. Before joining, I was the VP of Merchandise Planning and Data Analytics at Mack Weldon for 7 years (including some consulting at the very early stages). The rest of my career spilled into all other ranks of planning at companies like Coach, Kate Spade, J. Crew and Cole Haan.  Each and every company had their own nuances around the way they approached the merchandise planning process.

My Purgatory

I found my passion in trying to streamline, automate and organize the merchandise planning process. I’ve worked with many different home grown tools and software systems with their own advantages and shortcomings. However, no matter how big or small the company was, most planning was done in Microsoft Excel and transferred to a system (if there was one).

I always wondered how, even as waves of digital transformation occurred around ecommerce, marketing, finance and data collection, Merchandise Planning remained stuck in the stone age? For 2 years I consulted for smaller companies and startups by building them simple Excel based merch planning processes and workflows consisting of frightening Excel formulas and VBA. My goal was to be a part of the solution- providing simple but effective tools to reduce spending on enterprise grade platforms that always ended up back in Excel.

My Startup Life

After consulting for a handful of companies, Mack Weldon presented me with an amazing opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I joined the Mack Weldon team to build the planning team and processes from the ground up. I learned some SQL, which is pretty impressive, and optimized everything from supply chain to operations. But, we still struggled with automating the planning side. We did it all manually through excel and uploaded into a database for viewing purposes across the organization.

The Pandemic

As the company grew to new heights, we needed a tool that could help manage a process that was becoming more and more complicated. It was getting harder to manage multiple Excel, Google Sheet and CSV processes as the business and global supply chain fluctuated.

All of these challenges were only exacerbated by the pandemic. Not only were sales trends and product mix contributions shifting due to the change in customer shopping patterns, but the supply chain was going through new struggles every week. Additionally, while we were all forced to work from home, maintaining visibility and collaboration in such a spreadsheet driven process became a challenge of its own. As we were in triage mode weekly to keep up with delivery changes we knew we needed a tool now more than ever.

Evaluation

When we initially looked for tools, we never found one that was the right fit for us. That was until I met Eytan and Summer in August 2020 for a quick demo of Toolio. They walked me through the platform and I was blown away.  The intuitiveness, the simple integrations, the no need for having an ERP...it was love at first sight.After evaluating a few different solutions and platforms, it was clear Toolio was the best fit. Their phased onboarding approach would enable us to go live with what we needed most and optimize over time. We calculated that it was going to save us roughly 20%-30% on updating our OTB and help us increase our inventory turns and GM%. We could also use it to easily manage our assortment plans and manage core replenishment.

Overall, we felt Toolio took a modern approach to planning and provided a technology that could enable our lean team to scale while maintaining the flexibility required to support a constantly evolving business. Toolio had more than just a platform, but rather a solution to an age-old problem.

Onboarding

Going through the onboarding process with the Toolio Customer Success team was one of the best experiences I have had in my career when dealing with system implementations. The CS team really understood our business and our needs. They responded quickly and candidly to questions and helped us keep focused on what was truly important instead of harping on all the small stuff.

After my day job, I would hop onto the tool and build views and workflows for the team.  I would Slack back and forth with the Toolio team in rapid succession as they helped me determine the best way to get to the workflows I was looking for. They were always open to new ideas without straying from their company integrity and mission. Overall, the Toolio Customer Success team felt like an extension to our team.

Career Change

After spending a few months planning on the platform and helping my team really adopt the solution into their day to day, I realized I was getting more energized by working in Toolio than actually managing the planning workflow. I wanted to be part of the solution I had been working to solve for much of my career. 

I reached out to Eytan and asked if he had ever considered hiring someone with a long career in Merchandise Planning to act as the voice of the customer internally. The rest was history. Not only did the solution attract me, but the team and their vision was even a bigger pull for me. They all work hard and work smart.  They don't just make assumptions, they ask questions, they listen to their customers, and they look for data points to back it all up. Eytan and the team have a big vision for Toolio and are devoted to delivering on it. I needed to be a part of that.

And Now I'm Here

...and loving it.




Chris Conroy
VP of Planning