The Tom Tailor Group is on its way to becoming a global player. The company’s successful expansion strategy is based on a logistics service that is both efficient and flexible. When it comes to air and ocean freight, the company relies entirely on DB Schenker.
Aluminum containers are being rolled out from the cargo hold of a Boeing-777. The “Triple Seven,” which has just touched down, carries eagerly anticipated freight in its “belly.” This freight will decide on the success of the next collection. It consists of various designs for new jeans and ladies’s cardigans – “urban style” for well-dressed and casually-styled city dwellers. “We work according to the principle: no samples, no business,” says Andrea Burmester. “After all, the purchasing managers of our key customers will only place an order if they’ve viewed the sample collection beforehand.”
Burmester is Head of Supply Chain Management Execution at the Tom Tailor Group. Efficient and smooth-running logistics operations are just as important to the business of this ambitious Hamburg-based fashion company as the right choice of color and perfect tailoring. Speed, flexibility and reliability in all delivery processes matter a lot when it comes to global competition for the outfits of fashion-conscious customers.
“Each of our product lines changes on a monthly basis as fashion trends have become extremely short-lived,” Burmester explains. „Simply put, for us that means having the right product available in the right quantity at the right time in the right place.”
As Supply Chain Manager, Andrea Burmester is responsible for the continuous flow of goods from the manufacturer to the point of sale. Her appointment at Hamburg Airport includes a meeting with Karl Rahnenführer, her Key Account Manager at Schenker Deutschland AG. It is the international character of the textile business that appeals to the experienced logistics manager. “Transporting numerous collections in all conceivable sizes from a host of suppliers based in China, India, Bangladesh or Turkey – that’s what makes fashion logistics so very complex,” says Rahnenführer. “But it’s also what makes the business so very exciting!”
“We benefit enormously from DB Schenker’s broad positioning in Asia – and from its know-how beyond the core markets,” says Andrea Burmester. “Even though IT systems and control processes have now become the keys to success, it is invaluable to have service providers who know whom to call in an emergency to ensure that deliveries remain within the stipulated time frame.”
However, in day-to-day operations it is essential that the procurement process is kept both efficient and flexible at all times, adds Karl Rahnenführer. “That is where we can rely on our overseas colleagues at DB Schenker. They are in direct contact with the suppliers, and if needs be, they can assign entire orders to new delivery windows with shorter transit times even shortly before loading.”
To ensure that the entire operation runs smoothly, Andrea Burmester and her teams work with the supply chain IT tool OSCA/Setlog that accompanies every step of the process and guarantees transparency and rapid response times.
DB Schenker is connected to the system and has access to the shipment details in the country of origin as well as to notifications of incoming consignments. After all, significant volumes of goods are at stake here, and they need to be continually readjusted. In 2014 alone, 3,000 TEU of freight were transported across the oceans on behalf of the Tom Tailor Group. A major part of these shipments are handled via the ports Chittagong (Bangladesh), Shanghai (China) and Tuticorin (India).
The goods are generally transported as ocean freight for financial reasons, however, occasionally some of them need to be in Hamburg a lot faster – by aircraft. And, as mentioned above, there’s nothing doing without samples. Before a design goes into production, the sample has to be sent to Hamburg for quality acceptance. “Sports jackets made from high-quality material are usually imported on hangers by ocean freight,” says Marcus Mangerich, who is in charge of purchase logistics and tender management in Andrea Burmester’s team
Many a garment has unexpectedly turned out to be a big selling item. “If that’s the case, then it’s definitely worthwhile switching to airfreight so that we can get the products into the stores as quickly as possible,” says Mangerich. If certain garments are identified as bestsellers, then Tom Tailor can reacquisition the items through flash programs using airfreight with shorter lead-times. This gives Tom Tailor the chance to respond to trends immediately.
“When necessary, an airfreight consignment can be transported extremely quickly from the Far East to Hamburg. It takes between 24 and 48 hours,” says Britta Lecloux, Head of Air Freight Import at Schenker Deutschland AG. “Another option for speeding up transport are the sea-air solutions from DB Schenker. This involves sending the consignment to Dubai by ship and then forwarding it on from there to Europe by aircraft.” Tom Tailor uses this combination in instances when a supplier cannot complete a delivery on time or when customs authorities fail to release a consignment in time.
The up-and-coming collections can be viewed in a showroom in the Tom Tailor company headquarters only a few kilometers from the airport. Britta Lecloux, the fashion-conscious DB Schenker logistics manager, received the exclusive chance to marvel at the new summer collection on display – an opportunity not afforded to everyone. Apart from fashion, the “lifestyle worlds” on more than 1,200 square meters of exhibit space also include accessories like pillows, handbags and shoes.
In order to be successful at the point of sale, trends have to be recognized at a very early stage. This is the responsibility of various trend scouts and designers who travel to all the major cities in the world looking for inspirations for the ideas workshop in the Hamburg headquarters. A daily analysis of the sales figures in the company’s stores reveals which products are proving particularly popular with customers and how best to manage the replenishment of stock.
Andrea Burmester stands in front of a world map in the foyer. The map is in keeping with the vision of the Tom Tailor Group: “In the medium term, we want to become one of Europe’s leading fashion and lifestyle companies,” says the logistics specialist, who has been a part of the company’s successful development for many years. “The focus continues to be on extending the retail segment in the core markets Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and the Benelux countries,” says Burmester. With the two umbrella brands Tom Tailor and Bonita as well as apparel in the medium price bracket the company appeals to a large target group. As a result, Emirates and DB Schenker will no doubt continue to be delivering samples to Hamburg Airport in the future – from baby outfits right up to fashion for the young-at-heart, older generation.