Retailers and brands have had to deal with many logistical changes in recent years. From being faced with transport and customs difficulties due to Brexit which caused serious delays and delivery delays to the increased demands for online shopping because of the pandemic, these issues have led to a lot more complexity for retailers and brands. Theory has partnered with Modexpress in order to move its wholesale/retail fulfillment services from the UK to help with its European development. This will allow it to improve its B2B, and B2C supply chains.
We spoke with Nick Fox, Head of Logistics – Europe at Theory, to learn more about Theory’s overseas logistics and fulfillment requirements, the reasons it chose Modexpress as its EU Partner, and the aspirations for its brand in the region.
Why did you choose Modexpress to be your EU partner?
Modexpress had been our return hub for several years before I joined Theory. Everything went very smoothly, so it is almost impossible to say that we even noticed them. We had to be organized quickly when Brexit happened. Although we had been planning for this event for several months, the deadline of December 31 was met quickly. We looked at six providers from a variety of locations, including Spain (thanks to a recommendation), France, and a provider from Central Europe.
Corinna Elsaesser (Logistics Manager) made the final decision. Any product we decide to sell internally had to be approved by both me and Corinna Elsaesser. There were many factors to consider, and geography was a major one (which knocked Spain out), plus access to an international freight hub and easy access to the UK.
France was next, then the Netherlands. Things like fiscal regime considerations were the decisive factor in the outcome. This is an area in which the Netherlands always wins.
The Theory Logistics Team chose between three NL providers. This is where the 3PL’s attention to detail comes into play. For me, the little things are what make a difference. First, I look for people who are interested in the work and willing to answer questions. Second, they must be able to listen to the client’s needs and not lecture us about how amazing they are. We didn’t hear a word from one provider who kept telling us how great they were.
We reached the bottom of the funnel and Modexpress’s portfolio of fashion customers, its facilities, and their ability to understand our situation won the day. We also noticed that Modexpress already had relationships with many of their larger clients for other clients. Being a fashion specialist was a great asset once more. This was also done via Google Hangouts, Zoom, and other meeting apps, so we couldn’t visit these locations. This was the place where a 3PL must work hard, and this is what Modexpress did.
How did Modexpress fulfill your logistics needs?
The project was divided into two phases. We needed Modexpress as our import station to ship onward to customers. So we quickly figured out a process to do this while we worked to get the IT in place. It was difficult as both the bureaucratic and necessary procedures required patience. We did it, and for many months we were forced to continue working in this manner. The IT development in the background needed to be given priority and developed a robust and quality integration. It was not without its ups and downs, but it ended well. We are now importing directly into the EU and have quick turnaround times.
Modexpress was always able to handle the physical aspects of the job, despite their complex working methods. But we also needed them to be able and capable of handling the IT.
How will Modexpress assist you in achieving your EU goals?
We have plans for Europe and are building our supply chain to support all types of delivery. Our volumes aren’t as high-end as Zara and H&M. However, the products must be taken care of because some can be fragile, which can prove difficult when they move around a global supply network. Modexpress is the EU hub. They have facilities and processes such as steaming which can be required from time to time. It is amazing that a steam tunnel is so useful, but it’s difficult to know how to manage stock, especially when there are orders coming in constantly and products need to be moved around.
We are also able to meet all the added value requirements of large department store customers as well as our own retail and B2C. Modexpress has been a constant resource in helping us improve our approach to these important areas of the business. We are particularly excited about the B2C and Retail areas. Modexpress has several projects that will improve lead time, accuracy, and lower costs.
How has Modexpress helped Theory to overcome the challenges of Brexit and the pandemics?
When we first started, Brexit was our number one issue. We can safely say that we would not have made the move to a European DC without Brexit. However, it was necessary. Modexpress was extremely understanding of the inconveniences that came with not being able to visit, and the Customer Service team was always very helpful. The most challenging aspect was overcoming misunderstandings. These misunderstandings could be about anything, from how to receive the correct Purchase Order to how to prepare items for certain customers. It is difficult for workers to learn when Zoom is used as a training platform. However, we made it through and Modexpress is an expert in our processes. It is important to mention that we benefited from the hard work of our warehouse workers, as well as the supervisors and managers.
How important are seamless logistics and fulfillment to the success of Theory?
The number one priority is to develop the Theory B2B/B2C supply chain. Although the operation is running as smoothly as possible, there are still many things we need to do. Both internally and externally, there is pressure to improve service and value in order to be competitive in a highly competitive market. Although we are a fashion brand it is our supply chain that makes us stand out. We might have the finest cashmere sweaters, but we don’t know that. It’s great to have the best cashmere sweaters (of course we do!). But it doesn’t matter if it’s still in a container when your competition has it on their website or in their stores. We need to continue to improve the IT and processes, as well as the delivery methods, so we can offer more options and more exciting delivery options to our customers.
These new projects will continue to be available to us, which is why Modexpress has become so important to our future.