Case Study

Joe Browns UK Based Multi Channel Retailer

Joe Browns Limited is a multi-channel clothing retailer based in Leeds, UK with a global customer base.

Founded in 1998 the company incorporates online, direct mail, wholesale and licensing channels, and has recently opened its first physical retail store in Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield.

Consistent growth saw turnover break through the £30 million barrier in 2017.

Their Challenge

Since its inception, the company had used Excel spreadsheets for analysis, budgeting and forecasting very successfully. However, as the business grew in size and scope the resulting complexities made these processes extremely time consuming and cumbersome, with the consequential propensity for human error increasing dramatically year on year.

In 2017 the company recognised the need for a new budgeting solution, but it was important that it should allow the existing inhouse team to retain hands-on control without any requirement for permanent out-sourcing to a specialist IT consultancy.

The company’s Finance Director, Darren Abbott, challenged Azquo to demonstrate how our system could make Joe Browns’ analysis, budgeting and forecasting processes faster, simpler, more Flexible and reliable.

His expectation was that we would take around three months to prepare our proposal.

The Azquo Solution

Joe Browns provided us with six inter-related spreadsheets which represented the core budgeting process.

These sheets were also linked to a number of supplementary spreadsheets. Stage One was to analyse the movement of data. There were three categories of sheets:

1. Base level – with imported data and base level calculation,
2. Intermediate level – ‘holding’ spreadsheets, and
3. Output sheets – the sheets providing the required reports.

Stage One

We started by recreating the main output sheet – the P&L, having first decided what ‘filters’ we would like to have at the top. In this case, these were:

1. Division
2. Financial Year and
3. Version (e.g. ‘Budget’, ‘Actual’, ‘Revised Budget’ etc.).

The rest of the sheet mirrored exactly Joe Browns’ existing worksheet with identical formatting save for the fact that the various ‘sets’ (such as ‘variable costs’) were set up to be expandable should the need arise.

Stage Two

Was to trace back all the figures in the P&L to their point of input which covered

1) Mailings
2) Online Orders
3) Marketing Channels and
4) Wholesale.

Each had a base template, which was copied multiple times (e.g. for each mailing, for PayPerClick, for Ebay UK, or for Australian wholesale etc.) Almost all the calculations in the workbooks referred back to four templates, so we re-created these in Azquo, and specialed sets of channels for each (20 mailings per year, six online channels, about 10 marketing channels and 10 wholesale channels).

We extracted all the import figures to two Import Workbooks – the ‘Historic Setup’ and the ‘Budget Setup’ for the year.

1)  The ‘Historic Setup’ contained definitions of all the concepts in the system – the marketing channels, the chart of accounts, the date structure, as well as historic figures for previous years which might be used as budget input figures.

2) The ‘Budget Setup’ contained a number of dedicated sheets – e.g. for the Mailing input parameters (size of mailing, expected response rate, rate of returns, AOV, inland and overseas orders etc), which together represented the suppositions on which the budget was based. These workbooks contained formulae only to test the validity of the data (e.g. you cannot specify a quantity mailed without specifying an expected response rate).

The Joe Browns Output

Part of the budget setup workbook was an Overheads Sheet with data at a much higher level that would feed directly into the P&L.

Joe Browns’ complicated interrelated Excel workbooks had thus been reduced to two Azquo workbooks filled with suppositions about structure and budgeted quantities and values, which had been uploaded to our system. The templates for each channel (Mailings, Online, Markets, and Wholesale) were then run multiple times each. One additional sheet was required to handle some credit and insurance calculations that were not specific to single channels.

The output from these sheets was fed directly into the P&L.


Azquo Simplifies…

Our ‘proof of concept’ work had reduced Joe Browns’ original network of six workbooks (with up to 40 worksheets in each) to just five template sheets and produced one main report – the P&L.

Furthermore, during the process, Azquo had been able to highlight several errors that had gone unnoticed in the supplied Excel workbooks.

It’s fast, accurate and confidence-inspiring.

The Client was impressed by Azquo’s ability to simplify analysis, forecasting and budgeting and dramatically reduce the time taken by these processes. He also said Azquo’s audit facility inspired new confidence in the accuracy of the results produced (the user is able to right-click on any cell to discover where the data being processed originated, when it was last updated and by whom).

The short learning curve to major benefits

After a short period of familiarisation and training, he was able to begin building Azquo elements (templates, set-up sheets etc.) and create reports from scratch himself. Twelve months later, he completed the next end of year budgeting process (which took around eight weeks using Excel) in just two weeks using Azquo.


“Anyone working in Finance recognises the problems that arise at the end of the year when budgets need revising – the links between cells, the links between spreadsheets and the [resulting] lack of con?dence that you have in Excel as it stands alone today…

What happened for me was when Azquo came along all those troubles were taken away. I could lie awake at night thinking about other problems – rather than the budgetary process!”

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