Founded by two surfers in 1987, board sportswear brand Animal is now a £26m fashion brand. The company has evolved to become an omnichannel business with three streams – wholesale, retail and ecommerce.
Customers can buy Animal goods from a network of Animal retail outlets, online, or through major wholesale customers. These include retail giants like Surfdome, JD Sports and Debenhams, plus mail order specialists such as Littlewoods or Next and independent boardwear boutiques located across the UK.
The Internet is an important storefront and the company's goal is to achieve the right balance without taking on too many direct, e-tail orders to impact a thriving retail business or undercutting wholesale partners on price.
"Our business has completely transformed as a result of the Internet becoming a mainstream shopping channel. We've gone from being a wholesale business with a B2C retail division, to a full omnichannel operation selling 24/7," says James Runciman, DC Operations Manager at Animal.
Indigo WMS delivers a clear ROI
With such a complex sales operation involving so many channels and distribution partners, efficient warehouse management software is critical to the company's continued performance and success. Animal has implemented Indigo's WMS (warehouse management system) software, integrated with an Infor ERP solution, to manage its warehouse operations. Within a short time the company could see a very clear return on investment with faster, more accurate picking and lower labour costs.
"We work with a single pool of stock and one set of pick faces to serve every channel, which has been enhanced with a pick and drop zone for e-commerce orders," says James Runciman. "Since introducing Indigo, the number of units we can pick per hour has risen by 50% and all the instructions are sent directly to the picker's mobile device," he adds.
Flexibility to handle sudden peaks in demand
From a single site near Animal's Poole headquarters, the warehouse handles tens of thousands of orders a week spanning 14,000 individual SKUs and including anything from surfboard covers to stickers and clothing. "The biggest challenge we face in running an omnichannel warehouse is being able to cope with sudden changes in volume. In our wholesale business we know we have a set number of orders to dispatch for a given date, but with e-commerce and retail, a single special offer like a Black Friday promotion can generate thousands of orders to process. Using Indigo means we can work very efficiently and when we do need to bring in extra workers, they can be up to speed in a couple of hours because the software is so easy to use," says James Runciman.
As a high fashion brand, Animal's warehouse is designed to support a bi-annual influx of up to 7,000 new SKUs for either the Autumn/Winter or Spring/Summer collections, plus manage earlier season items that remain unsold. The new collection begins arriving in the warehouse well before items hit the high street. This stock is purchased by wholesalers for re-sale and staged 'stock drops' are managed by Animal as the season progresses using Indigo.
A further proportion of the collection is allocated to the B2C division, for e-commerce and Animal's own outlets. This remains in the warehouse until the season begins and needs to be managed continuously as store items are replenished and goods are bought online or fulfilled directly for click and collect.
At around 10% of total sales currently, Animal's direct e-commerce business is not its major focus as the company has invested in developing a close network of wholesale partners and bricks and mortar stores. However, giving customers the flexibility to also purchase online, or the ability to take advantage of its click and collect services, is an important element of the overall brand proposition. In addition, Animal also offers customers the flexibility to return goods bought from stores to the warehouse or another store and vice versa, from the web to store. The reverse logistics process ensures incoming items are checked and available for re-sale as soon as possible.
"E-commerce is an important promotional tool and sales are growing annually. It helps us to showcase our range and also drives footfall into stores – whether that's for distribution partners like JD Sports, or our own boutiques," says James Runciman.
Automatically generated pick routes save time
Prior to using Indigo, Animal operated a number of different warehouses, each of which were paper based. Pick sheets were produced manually to correspond with sales orders and each picker would work through the list and be responsible for every element of the fulfillment process.
Now, the entire operation has been streamlined and consolidated onto a single site. Pickers armed with belt printers can pick thousands of units a day and lists based on the most efficient walk route are automatically generated by Indigo. B2C, retail and wholesale orders are picked together, with single item goods bought online held in a separate pick and pack location. These are dispatched separately to customers by a dedicated team to optimise efficiency.
Stock accuracy through perpetual inventory counting
High stock accuracy and visibility is essential for a successful omnichannel warehouse. Before launching its e-commerce division, Animal introduced Indigo's perpetual inventory management module so that stock can be counted continuously, which resulted in a huge uplift to inventory accuracy. Holding such a large variety of stock items, this was an important transition. "We went from having to shut down operations for the annual stock count to having full visibility at all times, with 99.99% accuracy across the whole year," says James Runciman.
Looking ahead, the company plans to work with Indigo to improve the integration of reverse logistics processes with back office systems and invest in a greater number of fulfillment stations. This will enable an even larger number of orders to be accurately processed each day.
"Our priority is customer satisfaction and having the right stock available so that when an item is ordered, it can be shipped quickly and correctly. We pride ourselves on accuracy and thanks to Indigo's system, it is incredibly rare that an order arrives incorrectly," says James Runciman.