The backstory – Frau Green
Originally starting as a hobby selling vintage buttons on eBay, Frau Green has gone from strength to strength over the past decade. It now sells an extensive range of arts and craft supplies across 10 international marketplaces, including Etsy, Amazon and Fruugo.
With the recent and ongoing lockdowns sparking an arts and crafts renaissance, Frau Green’s Co-owner and Director, Sophie Green, highlights some of the challenges and opportunities this unprecedented situation has created.
When realisation hits
Over the past ten years, every waking minute of our days has been spent building up the business. From connecting to and setting up marketplaces, to ordering and processing stock, to fulfilling thousands of orders a week, we were spreading ourselves thinly. On the cusp of finalising a TV channel deal with Create and Craft, which would see us reach a new audience of 1.6 million viewers and increase orders to 25,000 every month, we quickly realised that we needed a more professional and agile approach to our fulfilment.
The Amazon effect
Although we were using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), we were unconvinced that this was a viable, long-term solution. This quickly came to the fore following Amazon’s decision in March to prioritise the intake and dispatch of essential items such as food, health, and personal care products. It was, of course, completely understandable given the situation. However, the fact that a company could withdraw a service that so many small, independent businesses like ours heavily relied on for income was daunting – particularly at a time when we were seeing an increase in demand. Some sellers had no other way of selling their products and all their stock was tied up at Amazon’s fulfilment centres.
A viable, long-term solution
We no longer wanted to be a small cog in the Amazon wheel. We were looking for a partnership-led approach that could cope with demand peaks and troughs. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed with the task of sourcing a fulfilment centre, but the very first conversation with James and James Fulfilment put me at ease and made the process feel simple and straightforward.
Compared to how we had been doing things, their approach felt like a million miles away but in a good way. It was only when I engaged with the team that I realised how much I needed organised order and inventory reporting. The fact that everything could be done for me through their automated technology was extremely appealing. And the company’s agility was particularly impressive – it was within a matter of weeks before we were ready to ‘go live’.
Despite the lack of in-person interaction given the UK lockdown measures, the onboarding process was completed within four weeks. Contracts, pricing, and other important information were pulled together quickly, and online tutorials were provided for the cloud-based fulfilment platform, ControlPort. There were also regular virtual sessions, to check on progress and see if I had any technical questions, which were very helpful in keeping me on track with the setup. It certainly didn’t feel like I had been signed up and then thrown in at the deep end – they ‘held my hand’ throughout the process.
Our growing partnership
With such an efficient and seamless process, we have also made the decision to hold more stock with James and James. We previously ordered stock from suppliers as and when customers requested it, but with ControlPort providing such accurate inventory reporting, it made sense to start holding stock for the first time. With everything automated and linked up to our various international marketplaces, the time efficiencies speak for themselves and we no longer have to worry about the fulfilment. Inventory reports can be viewed within the ControlPort dashboard, which includes reports for out-of-stock items and lost sales value, as well as in-stock items and their total value. All the visuals are clear and easy to understand.
Deliveries from suppliers are booked in quickly at James and James with products photographed and checked every time – usually a few days quicker than at FBA. I’m confident that at peak times such as Christmas, the deliveries will be booked in much quicker than with FBA, which often experiences long delays.
Another advantage James and James has over FBA is that we can send products directly from our supplier without having to change our supplier’s shipping processes. That is, we don’t need to provide new labels for the supplier to use on the outer box or for the products – something which FBA requires.
We’re also currently looking to James and James to help us transition away from FBA and set up Seller Fulfilled Prime, which will allow us to deliver our Prime products directly from the James and James fulfilment centre.
We are a business that has long-term growth aspirations and for us, strong and long-lasting partnerships across the supply chain are key. We are confident that James and James will play a crucial role in our journey for years to come.
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own. We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.