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The Challenge

Leading a third-generation company has many positives: advancing a proud legacy, understanding the business from the ground up, and enjoying an established community reputation. The flip side is the weight of maintaining that prosperity and being brave enough to drive change.  

While many businesses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, home improvement companies flourished as consumers spent more time at home. An Architectural Digest article cited, “Since mid-2020, Google reported a 250% increase in searches for ‘DIY accent wall ideas,’ and searches for ‘best interior paint’ reached an all-time high.” Johnson Paint Company swiveled to meet the demand. Mark Nelke, Office Manager at Johnson Paint Company, recalled, “In Boston, a three-month moratorium on construction basically shuttered our flagship store, which primarily caters to commercial clients. Fortunately, some of our suburban stores—which have a much higher consumer base and were also able to service contractors—managed to double business during this time.”

The 80-year-old, third-generation, family-run business was positioned to ride the wave with a stalwart culture, loyal employees, and Epicor Decor Fusion.

Ticking All the Boxes

When Nelke started with the company in 1991, nearly all business was conducted with a pen and paper. Then an acquisition came with Genesys ERP in 2001 and Nelke was intrigued. He explained, “We began to investigate options that offered an industry-specific solution, reasonable pricing, and ease-of-use. We narrowed it down to three contenders and ultimately selected Decor Fusion in 2004.”

If we add new lines of paint, we can easily see what’s selling and what to discontinue. We keep pace with exactly what our customers need while maintaining margin accuracy.

The last item on the criteria list was especially important. “Johnson Paint is such a great place to work that most of our employees are long-term. In some cases, people have been with us for more than thirty-five years and have brought in their spouses, siblings or children to join the company. Because we have a more tenured staff, it was critical that the solution be simple to learn and use. Decor Fusion is exceptional in that regard,” Nelke highlighted.

Making Business Uncomplicated

Johnson veterans and new hires alike find the system exceptionally user-friendly with new clerks fully fluent in the system within a week. Nelke remarked, “We have a new clerk in our Boston store, and he is able to close the shop and the end of the day with little assistance. All our staff is able to accept payments, send invoices and check customer balances.”

Decor Fusion has helped to enable the company to automate order-taking, payments and invoicing, reporting, and inventory. Nelke elaborated, “We moved from a manual order board that produced sales checks in triplicate to giving our associates the ability to access customer data at their fingertips.” Product pricing changes are simple, too: “We had a recent supplier price increase, and the owner entered the data during his free time over the weekend. All the information was uploaded and ready to go Monday morning.”

Even onboarding new stores are quick and painless, a big win for a company that regularly acquires additional locations. “I contact Epicor, set up the new users, drop in a new license and set up a workstation. We can have a new store online in a day,” Nelke shared.

An Always-on Partnership

For an organization that feels and acts like a large extended family. Nelke appreciates how Epicor support works like an extension of his team, commenting, “Although I rarely need to call, Epicor support is terrific.” Nelke’s great white whale was a project to convert Johnson’s credit card processing system from XCharge to Worldpay. He revealed, “One of our stores simply could not get the new machines to work. All through the struggle, Epicor was right there with us, very responsive in assisting with each new set of issues that came up.”

Another key advantage of Epicor: “We almost never have downtime,” Nelke divulged. “Maine winters can be brutal. If the internet goes out, we simply switch to offline POS mode and our stores can continue to serve customers, accept orders, and upload the information when the systems are back online.”

Data Drives Better Business Decisions

Data analytics and reporting equips Johnson Paint with information to adjust the business to meet evolving needs. It’s straightforward to run real-time and automated reports, and then to drill down on specific areas such as product margins, order status, or aging invoices. “We run a report for unpaid invoices, export it to Excel or PDF and email it to the customer. And during tax season, we help to provide customers with a summary of their spend with us with just a click of a button,” Nelke noted.

In the many years I’ve worked with Epicor Decor Fusion, I couldn’t cite a single complaint. It’s a phenomenal product at an affordable price. Responsive support is available, but I seldom use it because the product is so great.

Decor Fusion has a “sales by time of day by store” report that shows order traffic for each store by hour. This information is used to make staffing and store hour decisions. For instance, one store stayed open until 6 pm but data uncovered that a sale or two happened at the end of the day. Management moved up the closing time for that store. Nelke added, “Similarly, during the pandemic, it was easy to shift staff from the under-utilized Boston location to suburb stores that had dramatically increased volumes.”

Management utilizes Decor Fusion data to perform sales analysis with reports that rank customers from largest to smallest, compare sales rep performance year-over-year, and identify which customers have dropped in volume and need to be contacted.

The Epicor solution also helps identify where to make changes to the product mix. Nelke said, “If we add new lines of paint, we can easily see what’s selling and what to discontinue. We keep pace with exactly what our customers need while maintaining margin accuracy.”

Real-Time, Anytime Inventory Visibility

Decor Fusion has automated Johnson’s inventory management, making it painless to track stock levels, create purchase orders, receive products, and transfer inventory. “We used to do inventory once a year, on lined notebook paper,” Nelke remembered. “Now, we run inventory by store each month. The reports make it easy to drill down by clicking on departments or margins to isolate specific data. Inventory transfers require just a couple of clicks, and the system prints the pick and load order, and the store receive it. We say that it takes longer to type or scan in the information than to complete the transfer.”

A Future-Ready Foundation

In addition to installing a new server and on-boarding three new stores, Nelke has one other key priority for the next several months. “We want to activate Epicor Decor Fusion Electronic Data Interchange to sync with our suppliers’ systems for purchase orders, product information, and pricing and rebate programs,” he acknowledged.

Nelke concluded, “In the many years I’ve worked with Decor Fusion, I couldn’t cite a single complaint. It’s a phenomenal product at an affordable price. Responsive support is available, but I seldom use it because the solution is so great.”

Company Facts

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Specialist Industry: Paint & Wallpaper Stores
  • Website: www.johnsonpaint.com

Challenges

  • Dynamic, rapidly changing market
  • Meeting needs of the layperson staff
  • Seamlessly integrating new acquisitions

Benefits

  • Analytics inform decision-making
  • Real-time inventory is done monthly versus manually on a yearly basis
  • Turn-key onboarding of new stores
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