Customer Stories: Benny Castles, WORLD

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Castles building business with Aider

Benny Castles’ first love is his WORLD of retail.

He has flirted with technology, but the relationship has always remained platonic.

But now, he confesses, he has been seduced by Aider. The artificial intelligence driven app has him picking up his phone in a new and satisfying way.

Benny is a founder and the creative director and designer for WORLD’s “factory of ideas and experiments”. Together with Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet and Francis Hooper he is constantly looking for better ways to meet the challenges of retailing in New Zealand.

WORLD as a fashion label started in 1989, but in the past 18 years Benny has helped the business grow into a luxury boutique with seven stores. Walk into WORLD Britomart in Auckland’s CBD and your senses will be confronted by the exquisite – from high fashion garments to sensuous beauty items and tempting collectibles.

Keeping track of it all– from sourcing, to ordering, to inventory to sales – means making smart use of technology. Trouble is Benny, like many retailers, spends his time working the business. Success in retail for Benny is about personality, not being donkey deep in data.

“Normally I would have to run different reports for each store, and it would take 20 minutes or more, but with the push of three buttons using Aider I was able to get the information in real time.”– Benny Castles, Designer and Creative Director WORLD

“I am not in love with technology,” Benny says. “I don’t even make full use of my iPhone. In fact, the only reason I looked at Aider was the consultant I get to organise WORLD’s technology said it was something he thought would be worth me investing some time into and that it would give me easy information about the business.

“It does. Aider gives me information that’s digestible for a normal human being.”

Benny has integrated his point of sale software (Vend) and accountancy package (Xero) into Aider, which is rapidly growing in popularity as the go to small business digital assistant.

During a recent Mothers’ Day promotion he was able to track those sales and react quickly where stores might need more stock, or to share some good ideas to boost sales in other stores.

“Normally I would have to run different reports for each store, and it would take 20 minutes or more, but with the push of three buttons using Aider I was able to get the information in real time,” he says. “It stops me stressing and lets me work out really quickly what stores are selling and find out what’s been working.

Benny’s “Aider Day”, for now, involves three reports: he picks up sales information early in the morning, at midday and in the evening. Just one of the ways that is valuable is to help establish patterns for staffing levels. Another is: “I keep an eye on what I owe.”

“I get a text message from Aider with the information. The good thing is I don’t have to get back to it, even to say thanks,” he says, adding that he believes people let mobile phones dominate their lives in less than useful ways.

“Aider is better than a spreadsheet. It gives you clearer information. I use it daily to get answers about my business. It uses artificial intelligence (machine learning) to be able to predict the information that will be useful to your business.”

For now Benny is enjoying having his finger on the pulse of his business in understandable language – even if it means slipping out to flirt with his phone over coffee!