How Mollie Stone's eliminates inefficiencies and improves employee productivity with Vori
- Customer service
- Employee turnover
- Supplier management
- Succession planning
By trading in clunky fax machines and notepads for Vori's seamless and user-friendly digital ordering platform, Mollie Stone's Markets is transforming how they manage their local supplier program and workforce.
"The increased efficiency that Vori has brought our business allows us to serve our customers better. As we look toward the future of the independent retail industry, we know solutions such as Vori are vital to our survival and success. We look forward to continuing to work with Vori to build solutions on which we, and our industry peers, can rely on for many decades ahead."
– Aaron Stone, VP of Business Development, Mollie Stone's Markets
For over three decades, Mollie Stone's Market has faithfully served communities, with the mission of "making a difference in people's lives through food." The family-owned and operated stores expanded from its first location in Redwood City and now has 9 locations throughout the Bay Area region. Along with a diverse array of organic and natural products, Mollie's—affectionately coined by its long-time customers—carries a comprehensive selection of national brands, special dietary foods, hard-to-find products, handpicked premium produce, and high-quality Deli, Bakery, Cheese, Meat, and Seafood Departments. A true full-service grocer.
Since 1986, Mollie Stone's commitment to "providing the best possible shopping experience for customers" has led to a brand that is synonymous with excellence and service. This dedication has taken on different forms. The Mollie Bus initiative operates between the Castro and Pacific Heights locations to drive customers home with their groceries. Mollieland, now discontinued, was an integrated daycare in the San Mateo location. It gave busy parents a helping hand with their toddlers and kiddos, making it easier to shop.
Community involvement is embedded into Mollie Stone's DNA. They demonstrate a firm conviction towards corporate responsibility, emphasizing sustainability, generosity, and a progressive work environment. This became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Along with the uncertainty of the coronavirus, Mollie Stone's maintained the integrity of their commitment to their community during the COVID-19 pandemic by:
- Raising $211,281.24 in donations to local Bay Area hospitals.
- Delivering groceries to 160 zip codes across the Bay Area.
- Keeping their stores open 365 days in 2020.
"In this day and age when large national chains and foreign-owned specialty chains are all vying for our local dollars and sales, Mollie Stone's is filling the void for old-style, hometown quality, selection, and service. Yet, Mollie Stone's still treats customers one at a time," said Mike Stone, CEO of Mollie Stone's Markets in Winsight Grocery Business.
Never a company to sit on the sidelines, Mollie Stone's Markets has adapted to the shifting consumer landscape for over three decades. In May 2020, they implemented Vori to help them solve challenges familiar to independent retailers across the grocery industry.
<div class="r-quote-block"><span class="r-quote">The relationship independents have with suppliers is outdated, underserved, and not organized in an effective way. Vori allows us to manage our relationships with suppliers and create more efficient processes and procedures inside our stores.</span><span class="r-quote-author">Aaron Stone</span><span class="r-quote-author-title">VP of Business Development, Mollie Stone’s Markets</span></div>
Before Vori came into the picture, Mollie Stone's Markets faced four distinct challenges.
1. An inefficient ordering process
Antiquated re-ordering processes challenge many neighborhood community markets. Handwritten fax orders or placing an order over the phone is outdated yet a routine for many small to mid-sized chains. Mollie Stone's Markets was no exception to this.
With an already strained labor force, the traditional time and labor-intensive processes Mollie Stone’s Markets relied on wasted time and took focus away from providing the level of customer service their shoppers know and love. And on the vendor side, Mollie Stone’s realized they could do more from an efficiency standpoint in order to improve the time and paperwork that their vendor partners has to manage.
"We needed a tool to help us become more efficient with ordering. Vori is solving a valuable problem that independent operators have been dealing with for many years," said Aaron Stone, VP of Business Development at Mollie Stone’s Markets.
2. Low visibility into order data = less accurate orders
Data analytics are an integral part of any business, even more so for consumer-driven industries. Understanding your customers and what products are flying off the shelves (and which are taking up space) can make all the difference for your bottom line.
For Mollie Stone’s, occasionally, they would miss or replace certain items in the order process because they lacked historical order data from specific vendors.
3. The steep learning curve for new employees
Within Mollie Stone's grocery department, training a new person on ordering accurately and efficiently could take several hours per week for a store manager.
"For several years now, we have been combating an unprecedented amount of turnover with our employees. The learning curve to teach someone with no experience on ordering can be very challenging without a technology that works well," says Stone.
4. Supplier management
Each item’s supplier has its own system or way of taking Mollie Stone's orders. For example, their Deli, Bakery, and Cheese Departments have very complex paperwork, and all orders are called in via phone to the supplier. At the same time, other departments have different methods.
Mollie Stone's Markets was introduced to Vori during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the social distancing restrictions, vendors could not come into the store and place orders. When you factor in the pandemic-induced increase in demand for groceries, the ability to optimize the re-ordering process was imperative for Mollie Stone's bottom line and the community that depended on Mollie's consistency during that unpredictable time.
According to Retail Info Systems, "One of the key things the pandemic has taught the retail industry and grocers, in particular, is that having a laser-focused approach to demand planning and inventory allocation is crucial. When demand spikes, grocers need to be able to respond in kind and track inventory in real-time across the supply chain."
When Mollie Stone's Markets discovered Vori in May 2020, they realized their needs were being addressed directly. Previous technology vendors had tried to approach them with a big-box brand mentality, but Vori's customer-centered platform maintains a personal relationship with Mollie Stone's after the handshake. In addition, Vori works with the Mollie Stone's team to provide hands-on training and product improvements, fostering a solid partnership due to open communication channels and responsiveness.
Today, Vori operates in all nine Mollie Stone's Markets locations, their distribution centers, and other retail locations serviced by Mollie Stone's.
As Vori customers, some of the key features Mollie Stone's Markets and other retailers have access to:
- Wall-to-wall inventory replenishment in a singular digital interface
- Real-time order history, filtered by date and location
- A centralized view of suppliers' promotions and price changes
- Instant in-app item search & replacement suggestions
Mollie Stone's Markets has experienced the benefits of Vori firsthand, seeing manual inventory replenishment processes, such as handwriting orders and calling suppliers to place wholesale orders, wholly transformed into just a few clicks. Vori's technology allows Mollie Stone's buyers to walk their aisles once and re-order merchandise from multiple vendors across their entire store. The buyers find it easier to access the products their communities need and love without worrying about ordering mistakes or errors, such as under or over-ordering, due to Vori's digital inventory tracking and electronic order history.
Significant time reduction to the re-ordering process
- With Vori, the team at Mollie Stone was able to significantly reduce the amount of time spent calling in orders. Before, the group wrote down an order for a specific supplier in the store aisle and then walked to the store office to place the order with that particular vendor.
- When Vori was implemented, Mollie Stone’s department managers found that its easy-to-use digital interface and scanning app made inventory replenishment faster and more seamless. Thus, reducing time spent on re-ordering and increasing their time serving customers. As a result, their grocery department saw the highest reduction in ordering time.
- On average, retailers using Vori cut the time it takes to replenish inventory by up to 80%.
- "The old way of taking orders could take a person, who never placed a large order before over an hour to figure out how much and where to send the order. With Vori, the process and flow of information has been streamlined. We place the order on a handheld device, and the supplier gets notified right away. The relationship is so efficient. It takes minutes now, and our employees love using Vori. It is lightweight with a very easy-to-use interface for anyone to learn quickly," says Stone.
Order accuracy due to increased transparency
- Vori's real-time data analytics supplies Mollie Stone's leadership and buyers with actionable insights that inform decision-making. Things that would usually go unnoticed are now being documented, allowing for refined strategic planning and positioning.
- The Mollie Stone's team says selecting a default primary and secondary supplier for specific products makes decision-making easier and more straightforward.
- "Having everything organized in one system is a game-changer for our business. The buyers can see the scale of orders and add product if needed. When we call an order in, the buyer is chasing down the vendor to get the numbers to see where the stores are. With Vori, everything is organized in one dashboard. Vori gives us a proactive read on our orders and forecasts," says Stone.
A remedy for employee turnover and supplier relationships
- With Vori's user-friendly interface and intuitive system, the Mollie Stone's team quickly adapted to the updated workflow. Improving communication across staff members and suppliers. For example, if a team member is on vacation, a Mollie Stone's staff member or corporate office team member can access past order history and inventory tracking within the Vori system. If there has been a change in ordering volume/frequency, Mollie Stone's (and that supplier, if Vori Certified) can take the necessary steps to correct the shortfall or surplus.
- This benefit also impacts the efficiency of Mollie Stone's labor force. With the current workforce climate of high turnovers and the cost to retrain employees, this is essential for keeping the Mollie Stone's team moving and productive.
<div class="r-quote-block"><span class="r-quote">With Vori, we have transparency of past orders and order trends based on date ranges and geographic regions. Having this data at our fingertips makes a person who has never ordered before look like they have been doing this for ten years.</span><span class="r-quote-author">Aaron Stone</span><span class="r-quote-author-title">VP of Business Development, Mollie Stone’s Markets</span></div>
- The number of Mollie Stone's team members using Vori has increased by 400% over the last 19-months.
- Vori's wall-to-wall ordering platform also allows Mollie Stone's to digitally connect with their suppliers in one place, alleviating reliance on in-person re-ordering via sales representatives. In addition, the team no longer has to search for phone numbers, email addresses, and item information when ordering from suppliers. Previously, orders would go unfulfilled if a buyer had a wrong email address or phone number for a salesperson.
- "Having Vori during COVID was terrific to Mollie Stone's as our vendors were unable to come on-site due to the restrictions. We all want to go back to normal, but COVID and bringing in Vori has allowed us to be more in control of our vendor relationships. The sales representatives still get the order but now it's less stressful for the Mollie Stone's team. We won't go back to vendors doing their own ordering. However, vendors still help us when we place the order ourselves: from providing additional stock and demos to merchandising," says Tamira Franz, Natural and Speciality Buyer for Mollie Stone's Markets.
Bonus: An enhanced shopper experience
- Customers are at the core of Mollie Stone's business model. From the kind of products they order to the community initiatives they contribute to, Mollie Stone's is committed to the adage: customer first. The time creation due to the above results has allowed the Mollie Stone's Markets team to focus on what—or who—really matters. Making way for improving customer service and store conditions.
<div class="r-quote-block"><span class="r-quote">We run a tight ship. And customer service is critical to us. Vori has helped us reduce the time ordering takes us away from our shoppers. When manually placing orders, we are not providing the best customer service possible. Vori allows Mollie Stone's to live out our commitment - to better serve our customers.</span><span class="r-quote-author">Tim Bratton</span><span class="r-quote-author-title">Director of IT, Mollie Stone’s Markets</span></div>