Customer story

Hickory Farms transforms for growth

Results

Integrated systems
Enabled growth
Customer satisfaction

Summary

Results

  • Integrated systems
  • Enabled growth
  • Customer satisfaction

Tax challenges

  • Tax complexity
  • New integrations


Products used

Avalara AvaTax
Dynamically delivers sales and use tax calculations, based on the latest rules and rates in our tax engine, to a shopping cart or invoicing system at the time of purchase.

Avalara CertCapture
A highly scalable solution to securely collect, store, and manage tax documents in the cloud and automate exemptions at checkout.


Benefits

  • Seamless integration with new business systems
  • Scalability with ease of management
  • Enabling new customer experiences

Company overview


Since 1951, Hickory Farms has been a leading retailer of food gifts and specialty foods online, in catalogs, with mass merchants and supermarkets, and in more than 750 seasonal, retail shopping locations.

Tax challenges


As Hickory Farms expanded its business strategy, it found “technical debt” to be an inhibitor. Systems that worked fine for the old ways of doing things were coming up short in the new model. “We needed a technology infrastructure that would enable our growth, rather than being a barrier,” recalls COO Matt James.

Sales tax compliance, in particular, quickly emerged as an area of increasing complexity. The company packages both food and nonfood items, which are taxed at different rates, in the same gift box. 

Its multichannel approach added further complexity, as shipping for online and catalog sales are often taxed differently. The company’s retail footprint alone requires sales tax collection and reporting in 46 states, with taxability determination at the local level proving even more complex.

Why Avalara?


In early 2016, Hickory Farms selected Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations as its new ERP system. RSM, an accounting consultancy with comprehensive financial and technological expertise, would deliver the implementation. 

Driven by strong recommendations from Microsoft and RSM, Matt and his team quickly landed on Avalara AvaTax to automate sales tax calculation and Avalara CertCapture for managing exemption certificates and compliance.

“Avalara was early in partnering with Microsoft and being ready for the cloud and for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations,” says Matt. “Being early can come with its own challenges, but we saw some advantages in testing out the new platforms and making sure they’re working for us.” 

While getting out of the datacenter business was a must-have for Hickory Farms, Matt also acknowledges some nice-to-haves offered by Avalara’s platform, for instance, the ability to consolidate sales tax calculation and address verification for shipping in Commerce Cloud Digital, the company’s ecommerce system.

Tax challenges

  • Tax complexity
  • New integrations

Products used

Avalara AvaTax
Dynamically delivers sales and use tax calculations, based on the latest rules and rates in our tax engine, to a shopping cart or invoicing system at the time of purchase.

Avalara CertCapture
A highly scalable solution to securely collect, store, and manage tax documents in the cloud and automate exemptions at checkout.


Benefits

  • Seamless integration with new business systems
  • Scalability with ease of management
  • Enabling new customer experiences

"We wanted one system that could do everything well — a few things very well — and we wanted it to be cloud-based. The teams involved with our tax compliance upgrade have been incredibly responsive and they work great together."

Matt James,
COO

"We wanted one system that could do everything well — a few things very well — and we wanted it to be cloud-based. The teams involved with our tax compliance upgrade have been incredibly responsive and they work great together."

Matt James,
COO

Integration


Even though the ERP implementation presented “a fair number of hurdles,” according to Matt, they stemmed mostly from the scope and pace of change at Hickory Farms. “We had lots of internal challenges overcoming our own technical debt,” he explains. “There was a decent amount of data that’s required for a modern ERP system, that we didn’t even have. We were also dealing with some significant organizational changes. We have a lot of new people who are learning Hickory Farms while we’re also learning new systems.”

Despite these challenges, Matt reports that the integration of the two solutions went smoothly. “Because we were early adopters of the Microsoft-Avalara integration, we ran into some new things — no showstoppers, just work that we needed to get done,” he says. “The teams have been incredibly responsive and they work great together. All of our issues have been resolved really well.”

Results


The adoption and integration of these platforms is helping Hickory Farms realize new scenarios in their journey with customers. The company is currently deploying Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations with AvaTax integrated, enabling the company to take orders in retail stores and have them fulfilled from a warehouse. A customer picking up a gift box at a store for their neighbor will be able to send one to their brother in another state in the same transaction.

“It’s complicated enough to get the sales tax correct at the local store level for cash-and-carry transactions,” Matt laughs. “Now we’re adding the complexity of shipping to someone in another jurisdiction. But we believe it will be an exciting, new customer experience, and AvaTax will handle the tax calculations at the point of sale.”

“We’re changing a lot and we’re excited about it,” says Matt. “And we’re excited to be working with great partners who can enable our success.”

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