- Brooks Brothers will use its network of 260 stores in North America as inventory locations to fulfill online orders, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- This change is being driven by an increase in online sales where there is a need for quick and accurate fulfillment and greater inventory management throughout all channels.
- Currently, the apparel retailer fulfills most online orders through its two distribution centers (DC) in Connecticut and North Carolina.
While Brooks Brothers prides itself on classic styles, its supply chain needs to be cutting edge.
The soft spot of this new distribution philosophy centers on the potential inefficiencies of order processing away from the distribution center (DC). Order processing at a DC can be thoroughly tracked, and problems can be identified and solved. It is a controlled environment with reasonable efficiencies and process control around pick, pack and ship.
Those same efficiencies are not necessarily found on the front lines in the retail locations. Staffing, training and process controls often vary due to staffing store traffic and even employee attitudes. Adding another responsibility to their already busy roles may actually slow down the important pick, pack and ship process at the retail location.
I worked in a department store while in college. It was busy enough to handle the day to day traffic, but once in a while there was a need to transfer inventory to another branch or ship an item directly to a customer.
Those orders languished for days and ultimately fell to the department manager to handle, as most employees ignored the special orders. "Too busy" typically meant "I don’t care." (And yes, I am one of the ones who ignored those cumbersome and out of the ordinary special requests.)
I am not saying that will happen in the Brooks Brothers fulfillment process. But it certainly can happen. Unless there are dedicated personnel at the retailer to perform this work, the prevailing attitude of the worker may be to focus on the customer in front of them — and not on the online customer represented on the picking ticket.