Case Study: Sitka

Surf shop and clothing retailer

“My first impression was ‘Wow, this is just what we need!’ but then as we grew, and saw how powerful it really was, it was even more of a dream come true!”

When even the walls are made from recycled timber, old skateboards, and reclaimed antique fireplaces, you know that a shop is serious about environmental sustainability.

“Other than the light fittings and the flat screen TV,” says Andrew Howson, owner of the New Zealand branch of famous Canadian surf shop and brand Sitka, “everything has been recycled.”

So when Andrew found he could even do away with his receipt printer, and use Vend to email receipts to customers instead, he did just that.

“We had an Epson receipt printer, from our previous system,” explains Andrew “but now it is just another piece of hardware we didn’t need to buy, sitting in the back office gathering dust.”

And have they found, since going ‘unplugged’, difficulty with customers asking for receipts?

“No, not at all,” says Andrew, “we first ask if they would like to be added to our customer database [a feature integrated into Vend], and if they say no, we then just ask if they are happy to receive a receipt by email.. and not one person has said no.”

As well as reducing their carbon footprint, and not filling their customers’ pockets with bits of paper, email receipt allows Sitka a further opportunity to connect with their customers.

“We include a link on the receipt, which goes straight to our Facebook page. And you can literally see everyday new fans on our Facebook page, and they are the same customers who bought from our store.”


Established in 2002 by Andrew Paine and Rene Gauthier, Sitka began life as board shaping business, but quickly grew to include clothing and accessory lines. When Andrew Howson began planning with the Canadian owners to bring the brand to New Zealand, in late 2010, they had a different point of sale system lined up.

“It’s quite funny,” he retells, wryly, “head office had been using a desktop point of sale system which they brought over, and unfortunately we had to pay a lump sum, plus all the hardware costs, to get it. And we installed it here and then I laughed and said, this is so antiquated! It was all in Candadian dollars, it wasn’t going to allow us any growth, it kept crashing, it was a nightmare.”

With a background in developing online software himself, Andrew searched Google for an alternative. Vend was the first website he found.

Photos thanks to PhotoCPL –

“So I did the free trial, tested it out, and my first impression was ‘Wow, this is just what we need!” he says “but then as we grew, and saw how powerful it really was, it was even more of a dream come true.”

They quickly ditched the system they had originally purchased, and migrated everything to Vend. A decision, it turns out, that wasn’t hard to explain to the Canadian head office.

“When I showed them Vend, they were like, ‘Holy s**t, does this thing really exist!’”

The owners of Sitka were so impressed they are now of migrating all their remaining stores to Vend, and are even in the process integrating it via the API with their new inventory platform, so that each season all new products, prices and images will automatically populate to the stores in time for the arrival of new stock.

Which fits with the brand’s core philosophy of removing the paper trail, and making everything digital.

Like new inventory orders:

“We use our iPad for restocking orders, which is the coolest thing ever. A lot of our back-stock is off site, at the storage warehouse, so we can literally walk around the shop floor, do a restock order right into Vend on the iPad, which is all in real time, hit send, and then the stock arrives the next day.”

Like accounting:

“My whole belief, or want rather, is that everything is digital. The integration into Xero is perfect, and our accountants are like ‘Sweet, got all the information we need, no problem’. And head office can log in anytime from anywhere to get realtime reports.”

Like payment processing.. almost:

“This is a hangover from the old way of doing things,” says Andrew, pointing to the Eftpos machine with built in receipt printer, “Our customers don’t want receipts. We don’t want to print them. They all go in our compost bin at the end of the day. So this is literally the only thing we can’t seem to get rid of.”

Maybe not yet, but soon. Like the reclaimed fireplace proudly displaying this seasons’ Sitka hoodies, one day even the humble Eftpos machine may find itself repurposed as recycled materials.

You can bet that whatever is processing payments at the Sitka store when that happens, Vend will be the platform that is future proofed to handle it.

Learn more about Sitka on their website

Meet Andrew and the crew on the Sitka NZ Facebook page

About Nick Houldsworth

Chief Marketing Officer at Vend. Husband. Father of three. Beard grower. Mandolin player. Tuesday drinker. Love helping retailers the world over grow great businesses.