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Drapers Operations Forum: Transitioning can be the hardest thing, says Superdry’s Scott Robertson

We’re accelerating really quickly but, because of the complexity of our business and the cost that’s driving, we need to start to look at how our costs and processes are optimised,” said Scott Robertson, head of business transformation at Superdry, at Drapers Operations Forum in London today.

Scott Robertson, head of business transformation at Superdry

Scott Robertson, head of business transformation at Superdry

Scott Robertson, head of business transformation at Superdry

He pointed to some of the challenges that have occurred as a result of international growth in markets such as the US and China – for example, the issues around language barriers and employment regulations, as well as global pricing, currency fluctuations, brand representation online and logistics.

“Our logistics network has evolved over time,” he said, explaining that the UK business used to be focused on owned retail and the European business on wholesale, and the two were different systems so it was difficult to move stock between them.

When Superdry wanted to increase its owned retail in Europe, it bought back the franchise businesses but couldn’t fulfil them from European warehouses because they were on a different system. It had to move all the European stock back to the UK to then replenish between the UK and Europe, he explained.

The company bought back its US licences back last year and is now fulfilling American store replenishment on a one-to-one basis from the UK back into the US by air freight, which Robertson said is “definitely not cost effective”.

Superdry has separate stock pools for its ecommerce, wholesale and retail and is now in the process of moving to single-stock pools.

“We want to consolidate ecommerce, wholesale and retail into one warehouse in the UK, one in Belgium to serve mainland Europe and one in the US to serve the US, and then we can balance stock between those warehouses,” he said.

“Being very fast and risk-taking, we’ve decided we’re going to open both the European warehouse and the US warehouse within about two weeks, which is very challenging.

“But actually the biggest challenge is the transition process. To get through the peak trading this year, we’ve had to move various operations around and that transition period of moving your stock around is a big challenge.”

He also said the company is in the process of reducing its stock options per season from 5,000 pieces to around 3,500.

“Because our business has evolved from having a wholesale business and a retail business, we don’t have a big overlap of our ranges – our wholesale team pick their range at certain points in the season, while the retail team want to have more information so they can make their decisions later. That drives two different ranges.

“We have around 30% of overlap between wholesale and retail options and our next efficiency drive will be about increasing that overlap to get us to a model where we have a global range where everything is sold online, a big chunk of that can be sold in retail and then a consolidated range for wholesale.”

He concluded: “As we grew we just thought we’d bolt things on and deal with it when it came to it, but sometimes undoing some of those things is far harder. Not impacting business as usual is the most important thing.”

 

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