Wendell August Forge’s story is as impressive as the care they put into each and every one of their handcrafted gifts and art. While many retail businesses with a nearly-100-year history started as something very different—Abercrombie & Fitch a sporting good store, Dillard’s a five-and-dime—Wendell August is celebrating its 95th anniversary as America’s oldest and largest forge, continuing to do what they did best in 1923: Create heirloom-quality giftware to last generations.
That being said, this company is certainly not one to resist change, and, ironically perhaps, it is their willingness to adapt that has afforded them the ability maintain their roots. “Wendell August Forge is not immune to the perils facing all retailers today,” says Director of Retail Rob Ridgeway. “While we’ve been resilient at moving forward over the years, we’re also most excited to have retained important parts of our storied past, including the original working forge from the early 1900’s.”
And while inviting guests to see the original coal-fire forge process at the flagship store is a significant part of the customer experience and sales driver, WAF has made a point to take their business outside of four walls. This past holiday season, they participated in two seasonal popup holiday markets. “Popup shops are a strategic approach to our successful brick and mortar retail strategy,” says Rob. “[Wendell August Forge] is a giftware and Christmas ornament destination, and our business surges in the fourth quarter. Being able to utilize temporary, remote Christmas shops, without the burden of carrying a location for the full year, allows us to delight our customers and offer convenient and accessible seasonal shopping destinations.”
On the road and away from a trusty cashwrap, the Wendell August team needed a mobile POS system. With the added bonus of inventory and customer management features, Springboard Retail turned into their companion for the entirety of the popup process, from planning to packing up. “From our initial planning & allocation of stock levels, to its CRM capabilities, the system is intuitive and easy to train temporary staff to use it effectively,” Rob told me.
With the popups essentially doubling WAF’s locations, both business and inventory management become, well, a little harder to manage! Now, their mobile POS system's real-time data gives upper management a holistic view of all channels, no matter where they are. “Prior to using [Springboard Retail], one of our biggest challenges was monitoring stock positions and successfully replenishing inventory to ensure there were no missed sales. [Springboard] allows us to create custom reporting functions to allow us to see into each popup shop and successfully manage the business remotely.”
Though the satellite shops last only through the holidays, the effect is evident all year long, increasing Wendell August Forge brand recognition and serving clientele not normally reached at their brick-and-mortar stores. Until their return next November, WAF will be plenty busy in the existing locations, celebrating its 95th anniversary through a year-long campaign, paying homage to its history, employees, community, and—of course—customers. We wish them a very happy birthday and are excited for all to come in the next 95 years!
Images courtesy of Wendell August Forge