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    Speed and service is a digital retail advantage

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    By embracing HPE HCI 2.0 to drive better, speedier customer service, National Tree Company achieved 70% faster order processing and comfortably handled the surge in festive online shopping in December 2020.

    When Jason Grenard, executive IT director for National Tree Company saw how the COVID-19 pandemic was changing the shape of real-world retail, he knew speed was going to become a critical factor in e-commerce. With millions of people staying safe at home rather than venturing to stores, Grenard instinctively knew that the 2020 holiday season would bring unprecedented pressure.

    Engineering for speed

    Facing the 2020 holidays with an expanded product line that would include year-round seasonal decorations, Grenard realised that the family-owned company needed a major IT infrastructure overhaul.

    This was to ensure that legacy systems wouldn’t affect customer experience or slow down online sales, given the popularity of the brand’s products: in 2020 The New York Times’ Wirecutter product review site singled out National Tree Company for selling “the best artificial Christmas tree”.

    “I knew we could solve this problem with the right technology. Fortunately, the owners recognised the risk of not doing anything … and they put their trust in me,” says Grenard.

    Transforming with intelligent infrastructure

    HPE Nimble Storage dHCI and partner PKA Technologies helped National Tree Company on its digital transformation journey, moving from mostly manual business operations, to interconnecting its warehouses and speeding up its entire printing and shipping process.

    National Tree Company was a brick-and-mortar business going into COVID-19, but the brand already knew this had to change. The operation moved to an online model as part of the company’s digital transformation, driving high demand for a virtual desktop infrastructure, and a system that could support the company’s growth. Grenard realised that to be future-fit, National Tree Company would need to become agile, fast and responsive.

    With HPE Nimble Storage dHCI, National Tree Company can now process orders in as little as 20 minutes instead of overnight. The new smart infrastructure has led to a 70% increase in production and the elimination of back orders. The entire warehouse processing and workflow has been improved, and now National Tree Company can get shipments out the door faster than ever before.

    HPE HCI 2.0 = No limitations

    Since implementing HPE HCI 2.0 using Nimble Storage dHCI, National Tree Company software developers removed their old system’s cap on orders and are now processing orders in real time. “HPE has always come through at every organisation I have worked at,” says Grenard. “The marriage of HPE servers and Nimble Storage dHCI with HPE InfoSight is perfect. It gives me a holistic view of everything that we need to see to continue building our data centre.”

    Utilising HPE InfoSight, the industry’s most advanced AI for infrastructure, enables National Tree Company to gain insights into virtual machine performance, how servers are performing on any given day, and capacity utilisation. HPE StoreOnce is also being implemented for secure backups and data protection. “HPE Nimble Storage dHCI is faster and a better price point than what we were paying before,” adds Grenard. “And, I have the security that my environment is working the way it should with HPE InfoSight.”

    Pandemic sees agile pivot

    “COVID-19 forced us to move much faster than we had originally planned,” says Grenard. “The concern was that our order processing system was already slow. What would the impact be if we tried to push orders through remotely? With projections of a 40% increase in online sales this season, there was absolutely no way to get that many orders through with the current infrastructure we had—especially in the middle of a pandemic.”

    For 60 years, National Tree Company has been a leading importer and wholesaler of artificial Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands and holiday decorations in the US, but the pandemic changed this by accelerating digital retail.

    Online retail has risen steadily and consistently worldwide, accounting for some 7.3% of total retail sales in 2015, but Statista reports that after the pandemic, with consumers embracing the contactless convenience of digital retail, this number rose quickly to 14%.

    “The words ‘busy season’ will become obsolete for us as faster order processing allows us to operate and make decisions for the business more quickly,” says Grenard. “A quicker system has changed the way we live and work by making disruptions and complex infrastructure management a thing of the past, allowing us to sleep better, think and focus on the business,” the executive IT director for National Tree Company says confidently.

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