“We have many challenges in retail at the moment,” said Mark Raley, Schuh’s Head of Finance. “It’s really important—just getting the right data at the right time. It’s a very fast-moving environment. We need to make decisions quickly.”
Mark knew their finance team needed a planning platform that could uncover insights faster. Their legacy system of more than a decade couldn’t satisfy his—or their U.S.-based ownership group’s—hunger for data and more frequent more granular reporting.
“It wasn’t really giving us the flexibility and it wasn’t dynamic in any way. We were doing a lot of manual workarounds, which was just unsustainable,” he said. “We were aware that we were behind the curve in uncovering insights. We’ve been really focused on data-driven decision making for a while, but did not have the infrastructure to support it.
Chris Roddie, Schuh’s Insights Manager, added, “With data analysis, the volume of data we have and the number of different source systems has always made it quite challenging to pull coherent insights.”
In December 2021, Schuh implemented Vena. Now, with automated data consolidation, Mark and Chris can uncover insights at a pace that keeps up with the retail industry’s movement, amid greater economic uncertainty and hyperinflation.
“The biggest advantage is the flexibility—the ability to go in and make adjustments to the model, which we previously would’ve never been able to do,” Chris explained. “With Vena, we’ve found that we can very quickly and easily make adjustments to the way we make a calculation, spread costs or account for changes in our business functions. We can very quickly build a sheet, allowing us to deal with that and build it into the model very quickly.”
Before Vena, with Schuh’s wide product mix—shoes for men, women and kids—the finance team could only view averages of their rolled-up data, not the underlying drivers. Those averages were what they analyzed and based their assumptions on.
“We just couldn’t cope with the detail,” Mark said.
Now with more granular transactional data, driver-based modeling and greater ad-hoc reporting capabilities, the finance team quickly creates pivot tables and slices and dices data to analyze product subsets. They can filter by product division and geographical area to uncover sales insights at a product line or item level.
“Combining the different data sources we’ve got in Power BI has been very powerful for churning through large data sets, of which we’ve got many,” Chris said. “Data visualization and creating drillable reports have been areas that we’ve probably been lacking in. So to be able to provide a more visual and interactive set of reports for our management team and for other users has been a really exciting prospect.”
Before Vena, Schuh’s finance team started processes from scratch every budgeting period. But now, with Vena’s data consolidation, automatic updating of actuals and collaboration features, Mark and Chris have cut Schuh’s budgeting cycle time by 50%.
Chris said, “It really allows us to spend more time thinking about results, rather than the production of the results.”
Chris learned how to map data sets to run reports after only one week using Vena. The ease of adoption of Vena’s Excel-native interface and out-of-the-box reporting was why they selected Vena. These features, along with workflow and currency conversion capabilities, have helped Mark and Chris get buy-in from budget owners.
The company’s budgeting and forecasting had been, as Mark described, “a very finance-centric process.” Now, Schuh has 35 employees involved in the process, including their field team, retail director, management accounting team and the department heads for e-commerce, logistics, marketing and IT.
Receiving direct input from IT on short-term CapEx planning and from field leaders on sales targets has further improved forecasting accuracy. The Vena cloud has given operational flexibility for Schuh's retail stores, too.
“We wanted to open up budgeting to wider operational management,” Mark explained. “We have a regional field team who are looking after a number of stores. Because they're in the field, that kind of cloud environment is ideal for them. They can give their input at a station, at an airport, in the back office or in a store. It's very flexible and gives them the ownership that they probably felt they didn't have previously. Our old top-down approach to budgeting has been turned on its head the way it should be. They’re owning the store.”
Mark also highlighted the importance of Vena’s cloud-based environment for securing Schuh’s employee salary data, for which he and Chris are excited to leverage Vena further. They plan on bringing their offline balance sheet and cash flow management into Vena. They’re also prioritizing their complex workforce planning, focusing on modeling payroll for their retail stores and warehouses. They plan to integrate these activity-based models into Vena for what-if scenario modeling.
“What if we bring another shift in? Or, what if we change the productivity rates for a certain type of activity? What would that do to the payroll cost ultimately?” Mark posed.
Chris added, “The what-if scenario planning and the agile planning is something that we're quite excited about in the future. The ability to have the model going two, three different ways.”
Now with Vena, Schuh is finally getting what’s most important: the right data at the right time. Despite navigating economic uncertainty and hyperinflation, they’re making data-driven decisions quickly to prepare the company for anything ahead.
“It's just making life easier,” Mark said. “And that's what we all want.”