Customer case study

Berkshire Blanket & Home Co. gets cushy with sales tax automation

“The kind of volume we’re planning will rely one hundred percent on Avalara’s ability to help us scale.”

- Emily Pfeiffer, VP of Marketing & Digital, Berkshire Blanket & Home Co.


Tax challenges

  • Rapid growth, increasing complexity
  • Manual, time-consuming processes
  • Increasing compliance risk

Business systems

  • Jagged Peak Edge
  • Shopify Plus

Products


Results

  • Simplifying business complexity
  • Confident tax compliance
  • Enabling bold growth plans

First foray into online retail triggers transition, enabling further growth 

In a small New England town in 1993, one man made a blanket. It was unusually soft, exceptionally warm and incredibly comfortable. Soon his neighbors began asking him to make blankets for them. Twenty-five years later, Berkshire Blanket & Home Co. is the biggest company in its category, supplying more than 130 million premium-quality products - blankets, throws, soft home goods - to top retailers around the world.

For as long as Berkshire sold primarily to tax-exempt retailers, its sales tax obligations could be managed manually with a home-grown matrix. But when the company got serious about consumer ecommerce, it quickly found that its home-grown approach - so perfect for blankets - was a risky and inefficient way to manage sales tax.

When “flexibility” becomes a burden

Berkshire’s finance team was accustomed to dealing with wholesale transactions (still the majority of the company’s business), but the introduction of an online retail business a number of years ago, brought with it a new set of tax headaches. 

“I was the one who made things difficult, so that we could bring in inventory and sell one blanket at a time to a single person,” laughs Emily Pfeiffer, Vice President of Marketing and Digital, who was brought in specifically to build the company’s online retail business. “I was not the finance team’s favorite person.”

Emily knew that the “flexibility” built into the existing system actually amounted to a lot of manual work, especially as tax rates, rules, and filing deadlines differed across so many jurisdictions - and all of them constantly in flux. 

“It gets complicated quickly, especially for a core business that is all about wholesale,” she explains. “In no time we were adding new warehouses, doing more business through Amazon.com, and adding remote employees in new states - all of which further complicated our tax obligations.”

When the company switched to a new ecommerce platform, Emily knew the old sales tax matrix had reached the end of its useful life. “We had to find a new system to manage the tax,” she says.

Set it up once, and forget it

It didn’t take Emily long to land on Avalara’s suite of products as the right solution — she had used it in a previous role at a different company. “AvaTax, in particular, is the Cadillac of its category, and has been for years,” she says. “It’s what you should be using if you just want tax handled.” 

Berkshire’s complexity didn’t end with tax determination and calculation. A critical compliance challenge for its wholesale business relates to the collection, storage, management, and renewal of its exemption certificates. Avalara CertCapture was added to AvaTax to automate these business processes as well. With AvaTax and CertCapture in place, Avalara Returns prepares and file sales tax returns automatically. “It’s really smooth,” says Emily of the suite. 

And what of the integration with the company’s ecommerce and order management systems? “It’s absolutely seamless. In fact, we recently changed our ecommerce platform system to Shopify Plus. A key factor in that decision was that it features built-in integration with Avalara’s software. We just set it up once and forget it. And Avalara was more of a partner than we expected during the transition, offering us the support we needed.”

Benefits

“Having Avalara means I don’t have to hire someone just to monitor and adjust our tax settings,” Emily says. “None of us wants to be in that business, and we love being able to trust it to Avalara.”

Emily speaks energetically about mitigating risk and lowering the stress levels of her team; the peace of mind that Avalara has given them. But an even greater impact is what Avalara has made possible for the company’s future. “We have some very audacious growth plans,” she says. “The kind of volume we’re planning will rely one hundred percent on Avalara’s ability to help us scale. I can honestly say that having Avalara will enable that kind of growth, because we know we’re covered.”

All of this has made Emily pretty popular at Berkshire Blanket. “The biggest difference,” she laughs, “is that finance is talking to me again.”


Avalara Sales Tax Compliance Suite

Avalara supports quick deployment by providing over 700 pre-built integrations to business applications.

Avalara AvaTax

Delivers sales tax calculations to your shopping cart or invoicing system, and aggregates your transaction data so you can calculate what you owe in Returns.

Avalara Returns

A filing service so seamless you’ll barely lift a finger -- Returns pulls your data from AvaTax to prepare and file your returns. If you choose, we can even remit payments for you.

Avalara CertCapture

A seriously upgraded way to manage tax documents in the cloud for tidy, audit-ready records. Syncs with AvaTax to automatically apply exemptions at checkout.

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