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DavidsTea Sweetens Operations


DavidsTea is on an upward trajectory as it introduces new business channels and expands operations. Its well-designed, inviting stores, which sell 150 varieties of tea and related accessories, are bringing specialty tea to the mainstream and winning over converts in the process.

Since opening its first location in 2008, the fast-growing Montreal-based tea company has expanded across Canada, and is on track for 70 locations by yearend. It is also looking beyond its own borders, having recently opened its first two U.S. stores (both in Manhattan). The company, which already has a flourishing e-commerce business, is also establishing a wholesale/corporate operation.

It all adds up to a busy agenda for DavidsTea. And it’s one in which a new enterprise resource planning system, Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail, is playing a crucial role.

“We were outgrowing the functionality of the [previous ERP] system, which was limited to supporting our retail and point-of-sale operations,” said Howard Tafler, CFO, DavidsTea. “We needed a full back-end and accounting package that could support our current business and future plans.”

DavidsTea began searching for a new platform two years ago. To support the company’s diverse operations, the ideal ERP platform had to be affordable, scalable and robust enough to support new business functionality, and open so that integration with third-party software partners would be seamless. It found what it was looking for in Microsoft Dynamics AX, an end-to-end retail solution that standardizes operations across locations.

The infrastructure, which is supported by a centralized database, manages the enterprise’s retail operations, POS, financials and accounting. To streamline the implementation, DavidsTea is working with Cole Systems, a New York City-based Microsoft partner that is helping the retailer to configure and customize the Dynamics AX system and integrate all enterprise software.

The chain began installing the platform in the second quarter of 2011, and by June it was supporting financials and accounting. By mid-October, the system was supporting supply-chain operations and back-office functionality. At that point, DavidsTea also began rolling stores onto the Dynamics AX platform.

“Currently, half of our stores are supported by the platform, and we expect the entire chain to be live on the platform by the end of November,” Tafler reported.

The open configuration also fosters tight integration with other software. During the implementation, for example, DavidsTea integrated JustEnough, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based provider of a best-of-breed merchandise planning and demand management system, with AX, a move that allows the retailer to plan its purchasing and allocation to stores based upon data that resides in AX’s database.

Similarly, the chain is implementing a workforce management system from Alpharetta, Ga.-based Dayforce, and a fully integrated e-commerce platform from Keyora, Oakville, Ontario, which uses AX data to determine enterprise orders and fulfillment.

DavidsTea is looking forward to leveraging the power of the infrastructure as the new year approaches, initially taking advantage of the base functionality needed to operate its business. As additional software is augmented, the retailer looks forward to using the platform to support evolving business processes. The result is an end-to-end ERP solution that not only creates a unified system for DavidsTea today, but also provides the foundation of growth for tomorrow.

“Our plan is to continue growing over the next few years,” Tafler said. “During this growth, we will need a multifunctional, open ERP system. The Dynamics AX system is flexible enough to handle all of our endeavors.”

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