How an international retail group saves 143,000 hours a year
Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group (KOJ) started with a single Body Shop franchise back in 1987 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Today the retail group employs 3,200 people, across 10 brands, with more than 600 stores in seven countries.
When Osman Jamjoom, KOJ’s Head of Innovation and Omnichannel, set out to find a partner to digitally transform the company’s global operations, and deliver world class product development systems, he stumbled upon Airtable. Osman said it was love at first sight: “As soon as I saw a gallery view that was it. It was this cliche ‘eureka moment’ running down the corridor to my director saying ‘I think I found it!’”
Two years later KOJ now manages its entire product development cycle in Airtable – everything from the length of t-shirt sleeves made by one of its clothing brands to ingredients in perfumes designed by its cosmetics chain. Previously, hundreds of KOJ employees spent entire days tracking and moving this data between siloed tools. The new system they’ve built saves each head office employee more than five hours of work each week. Expanded across a 52-week year that’s 143,000 hours they’ve gained back with Airtable.
“The numbers surrounding time saved and redundant tasks are quite extraordinary.”
KOJ had an enterprise resource planning tool for inventory management, a CMS, and scattered spreadsheets and presentations with product information that people struggled to keep up to date. “It was a huge spider’s web of business systems. The amount of data stored in each system was immense,” Osman said.
Every year, the biggest challenge for each of KOJ’s retail brands was determining how much of each product should be created and sold. Referred to as the option plan, the process encompasses thousands of pieces of inventory, tracked in dozens of spreadsheets and various enterprise software tools. With these disconnected systems, KOJ’s team consistently encountered “version clashing.” Two people would download a spreadsheet, make updates about a product or pricing, and upload conflicting information to a server, making the data unreliable. For Nayomi, KOJ’s global lingerie retailer and its largest brand, the team found that as many as 50 people were spending an hour each day waiting for access to a current option plan file and uploading updates.
Osman tried project management tools but found them to be too simplistic. He needed something that could streamline communication and display option plans with better visuals, much like a catalog, built on top of a reliable database. “We weren't just building a task list, we were developing private label products for large businesses from scratch, with huge amounts of data and very complex workflows,” Osman said.
With Airtable, each KOJ brand manages its entire product catalog, including at least 270 data fields across pricing data, sales margins, sizing metrics, fabric types, quantity sold, shipping dates, supplier information, and much more. With this wealth of information connected in one system – instead of dozens of files and tools – each team can have a bigger impact on a faster timeline.
For Mikyajy, KOJ’s cosmetics brand with 150 locations, product information needs to flow seamlessly from technical, product development, packaging, visual merchandising, and stock planning teams up to the buying team so they’re aware of how much of each product to purchase when. Previously these teams spent 140 hours a month on general coordination and communication alone. Osman said, “Airtable created a data layer where all the information lives in harmony in one place. Anyone who needs information whether you’re on the marketing team, retail, or design can dip in, take what you need and get out.''
“The Mikyajy team now sends 1,600 fewer emails a year."
“People’s eyes light up when we show them Airtable. Most of our employees couldn't believe there was a platform out there, building option plans or doing catalog views.”
Nayomi, KOJ’s largest brand, experienced even more pronounced time savings. The buying team used to spend two hours each day waiting for file access and asking cross functional partners to update product information in a spreadsheet. “Each buyer saves two hours in redundant tasks and efficiency gains daily; that's 15,000 hours saved for one team alone,” Osman said.
That time back enabled Nayomi to think about bigger picture objectives. They recently launched a sister brand in three months, which prior to Airtable would have taken twice as long. “To launch a brand particularly with a physical store, to get all the content in place and to have all the products on the shelves is something that takes an amazing team to pull off. This would not have happened in record time without their hard work and the backend for the development process functioning as well as it does with Airtable,” Osman said.
“We’re not working for the data anymore, the data is working for us with Airtable.”
What started as a project to help KOJ digitally transform has now helped as a foundation to fuel record sales, achieve their shortest lead times in history and gain limitless efficiencies. To Osman, what’s even more inspiring is the fact his team is able to build complex applications with capabilities that were once only available to people with technical expertise.
“With Airtable you're always building for yourself in a very low code environment. These are not high tech workers and there’s a sense of pride that each brand has because they built a custom system for themselves with their own hands. That’s the ultimate transformation story.”