“There’s never been anything that we’ve asked for that Pipe17 didn’t deliver [in their product].” — Stephanie Peng, co-founder and COO at St. Frank
St. Frank believes in sharing the beautiful, artisanal handicrafts of traditional artists with the world. So, the retailer needed customization and flexibility in its back end.
St. Frank launched in 2013 with the dream of bringing beautiful, artisanal textiles and crafts to the mainstream market. Founders Christiana Herbert and Stephanie Peng sought to offer sustainable, beautiful fashion outside of the minimalist mainstream while supporting artists practicing traditional crafts, prints, and textiles. That mission introduced social impact and sustainability to home goods, with most work sourced to preserve heritage crafts and to allow artisans to make a living from their handiwork.
St. Frank splits those goods into contemporary handmade, vintage, and printed pieces. Many are made on demand, one of a kind, or limited in stock. That results in a complicated fulfillment channel, as St. Frank works to offer unique products in its brick-and-mortar stores while meeting the needs of its online retail channels.
Today, St. Frank has grown to a booming retail business powered by Shopify, with drop shipping and two physical stores in California and Florida. It shows how in-demand the brand’s approach to sustainable and beautiful home goods is – but at the same time, it created significant complexities in fulfillment and inventory management. And, when Square acquired St. Frank’s operations management platform, Stitch Labs, St. Frank needed a new solution – one capable of handling its complicated and custom eCommerce management, kitting, and fulfillment needs.
St. Frank uses Pipe17 to connect their Shopify stores with their 3PL for order routing, bundling, purchase orders, and transfer orders. So we spoke with St. Frank Co-Founder and COO Stephanie Peng to learn about how they manage their business processes.
Low-volume production, made-to-order products like wallpaper prints to match textiles, and vintage or one-off pieces are part of the St. Frank business model. But that naturally created inventory and order management complexities, which had to be managed as the store moved to physical locations. Currently, St. Frank ships from its warehouse in Des Moines and its two physical retail stores. The warehouse is managed by a 3PL, which handles pick-and-pack based on incoming orders. And, with most orders coming in through eCommerce, it was important to make their unique products available in those stores without taking them offline, where they were more likely to sell.
In addition, St. Frank includes printouts sharing the history of the textile, the art style, or the specific piece with every product. Those prints or postcards must be closely matched to the orders during pick and pack. While St. Frank can easily do that with orders shipped from its retail stores, its 3PL solution doesn’t have that information. The brand needed an automatic bundling or kitting solution to tell the 3PL when a postcard had to go with an order.
“We were really looking for a partner that could help us with omnichannel inventory management and fulfillment.” — Stephanie Peng, co-founder and COO at St. Frank
St. Frank needed a connector with eCommerce logic for order routing. Where possible, all orders have to default to the 3PL and the warehouse. When that isn’t possible (say, if an order includes vintage or one-off pieces located in one of the retail stores), the automation attempts to route the order to a single geographical location.
That allows the brand to reduce shipping and to ensure the order is delivered in one box. If that isn’t possible, the software splits the order, routing fulfillment to the most logical locations to minimize boxes and ship time. Pipe17’s system provides complex automation logic capable of handling their business and inventory needs.
The result is an ongoing partnership where Pipe17 operates as the inventory mastermind for St. Frank, enabling them to scale without having to invest in an in-house team and its own custom build.
“What [the Pipe17 software] really does well is managing complex logistics for clients who don’t want to build out a custom solution…They have a lot of capabilities to manage lots of different distribution channels — that’s where they really shine.” — Stephanie Peng, co-founder and COO at St. Frank
In addition, St. Frank needed a bundling and kitting solution to package its stationary sharing the product’s history. Pipe17’s bundling and kitting solution was able to meet those needs and clarify exactly to warehouse workers what inserts needed to go with which items.
When someone places an order, the matching stationary is paired with the order so the 3PL provider can see and select the right products for the bundle. This unique bundling system automatically pairs every order with the right papers – without manual intervention.
Pipe17 helps eCommerce organizations link their platforms, tools, and infrastructure using connectors, workflows, and automation. If you need help, contact us.
If you’re interested in one-of-a-kind, artisanal home goods sourced from traditional craftspeople, check out St. Frank here.
This is an article by Rachel Go. Rachel is a remote product marketer with a background in building scalable content engines. She creates content that wins customers for B2B eCommerce companies like MyFBAPrep, Pipe17, and more. In the past, she has scaled organic acquisition efforts for companies like Deliverr, Skubana, and Hubstaff.