With a total of 3.2 million households acquiring a pet since the start of the pandemic, the UK now has 17 million pet-owning homes, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association. This has led to a proliferation in online sales and consumer demand for pet-related products, enabling online retailers like Leicestershire-based Over The Top to achieve record growth. In this article, we interview Paul Thomas, Managing Director to learn about his experience during this challenging year, and how Parcelhub and Brightpearl have helped him keep the company on the straight and narrow.
Proudly made in Britain
Operating in two verticals; pet goods and the automotive sector, Over The Top is a UK-based multichannel retailer that sells dog beds, mats, throws, automotive seat covers and boot liners. Paul Thomas explains: “We basically make products for people who have dogs and put them in cars. In 2008 we acquired a cottage industry business based in the Cotswolds, as the owners were looking to retire. We then rebranded it as Over The Top and shifted the business up north to Hinckley. Right now, I and my daughter Stacey run the business and since launching we’ve introduced three more websites under different trading names, to ensure we cover all areas of the market.”
While Over The Top is their premium, high end brand, Paul and Stacey’s brand portfolio also includes Titan Covers, Top Van Seat Covers and Travel Smart Bootliners, catering for the budget and medium price points of the automotive space. While the company offers over 130,000 product variants, they only stock around 300 items at any one time. Highly bespoke, more than half of their products are made-to-order.
How Over The Top’s sales channels have shifted over the years
Paul continued: “Catering for the premium end of the market, Over The Top still to this day sells via a mail order catalogue. While our websites are built on BigCommerce, we also reach our customers via eBay and Amazon. When we first started in 2008, 80% of our sales were from mail order, the rest being online. As of 2021 this has dropped to 5% mail order and 95% online. This shift in sales channels has certainly kept us on our toes, and so we are always on the lookout for new marketplaces such as OnBuy to make our products even more discoverable.”
The pandemic’s impact on this multi-channel retailer
“During the first lockdown, 23rd March 2020 is firmly etched in my brain! Within a week our sales had dropped by 70%, which we attributed to consumers’ knee-jerk reactions. Because of this we were forced to furlough some staff but managed to keep the business ticking over. As soon as Boris released the reigns, our sales went into overdrive due to lots of pent-up consumer demand and the staycation trend. Throughout June and July 2020 we broke company records, surpassing our previous 2018/19 record by 20%; we couldn’t get our staff back from furlough fast enough!”
Over The Top’s post-purchase customer experience
“Like Parcelhub and Brightpearl have discovered in their new study, post-purchase information is massively important for us and our customers. The more we can keep our customers informed of their items’ progress, the happier our customers are likely to be. We’ve been using the eDesk customer experience management platform for over two years now to synchronise communications across our sales channels. When a customer places an order, delivery notifications are sent to them via Parcelhub’s carrier partners, and because eDesk integrates with Brightpearl, if the customer has an issue, eDesk generates a ticket that clicks through to the respective order in Brightpearl.”Paul Thomas, Over The Top
How Parcelhub enhances Over The Top’s delivery performance
“Thanks to Parcelhub we offer our customers services from Yodel and Hermes for domestic deliveries and DHL mainly for international shipments. Parcelhub’s tracking portal is a one-stop-shop for these carriers, giving us all the information we need to better serve our customers.”
“Working with Parcelhub has brought about many benefits; they help us access discounted rates thanks to their group buying power, and also help us offer our customers more delivery choice and better in-flight delivery options. Parcelhub’s colour-coded tracking portal gives us greater visibility of our customers’ delivery journeys from order to final mile, helping us build trust with our customers. While parcel carriers were overwhelmed during early lockdown, Parcelhub’s Proactive Tracking Support solution identifies potential delivery failures and minimises the incidence of failed deliveries, helping us meet our customers’ delivery expectations.”
The benefits of an all-in-one order management system
“As our business has grown, trying to automate processes has been a challenge; Parcelhub’s introduction of Brightpearl three years ago has helped us scale more cost-effectively. Brightpearl has made a huge difference with our customer service, production planning and dispatch planning, helping us see all of these processes in one place. Brightpearl also allows for efficient planning and means we don’t miss out on sales opportunities by understocking, and don’t waste warehouse space or inventory by overstocking. It’s fair to say Brightpearl reduces the need for additional labour. Finally, Brightpearl has bought us much needed time, helping us to better focus on day-to-day operational tasks.”
Over The Top’s experience integrating Parcelhub with Brightpearl
“Parcelhub’s Brightpearl integration has allowed us to create shipping rules based on location, volumetric data, weight and product type. For a company with 130,000 SKUs this pays dividends. When a shipment is marked as shipped in Parcelhub, the same Goods Out note is processed immediately in Brightpearl. If a tracking reference is given in Parcelhub, this is added to the Brightpearl Goods Out note. Parcelhub, when used in harmony with Brightpearl also allows us to print labels from multiple packing benches.”
“With Parcelhub’s and Brightpearl’s software development teams, nothing was ever too much trouble and setup was seamless. We’re advocates of integrated order and delivery management because it automates a lot of day-to-day processes. Automations empower our team to focus on managing the business in areas such as sales, marketing, product sourcing and customer service. Parcelhub and Brightpearl gives us a single source of truth on all of our customers’ buying and delivery experiences, and it is confidence-inspiring to know that there have been instances where an order comes in and is dispatched within as little as 3 minutes. This could never happen without working with Parcelhub and Brightpearl.”
What success looks like 5 years from now
Paul concluded: “We would like to continue on our current growth curve, expand our product range and introduce new marketplaces to increase our international sales. We would like to further integrate Brightpearl with new sales channels and on the Parcelhub side we would like to eventually introduce Parcelhub’s Enhanced Delivery Management service wherein their team can answer our customers’ WISMO (where is my order?) queries, as us.”
About Parcelhub, where proactive delivery management comes as standard.
Parcelhub is the UK’s leading provider of multi-carrier delivery solutions and proactive tracking support. Flexible and scalable, its portfolio of services integrates seamlessly with marketplaces, eCommerce platforms and order management systems, providing hundreds of multi-channel retailers, global brands and wholesalers with one access point to 20+ carriers and 600+ delivery options.
Also featured in this case study is Brightpearl, a retail operations platform for retailers and wholesalers. Their mission is clear: automate the back office so merchants can spend their time and money growing their businesses. Brightpearl’s complete back office solution includes financial management, inventory and sales order management, purchasing and supplier management, CRM, fulfillment, warehousing and logistics. In addition, Brightpearl has high-performing connectors to the major eCommerce platforms, including Magento, BigCommerce and Shopify. Over 1,200 businesses in 26 countries use Brightpearl and the platform manages over 10m transactions and $3bn of business a year.