The COVID-19 pandemic has upended traditional conceptions of retail, with ecommerce sales achieving a record 36% growth in 2020 – while physical stores continue to see significant drops in revenue due to ongoing restrictions.
Omnichannel retail has charted a path forward for many brands to continue delivering the experience their customers expect but poses a particular challenge for multichannel retailers. Pioneering an omnichannel approach is a major operational shift, especially when consumer expectations are changing so rapidly.
Alternative shopping journeys such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store) and in-store returns have empowered consumers to embrace shopping across channels – and this is set to become the norm. 40% of consumers now prefer returning items in-store, while BOPIS has increased by as much as 500% during the second quarter of 2020.
Fulfillment providers including Whiplash are stepping up to the plate to help retailers meet and exceed these expectations for faster, more streamlined experiences.
Calzedonia is a legwear and swimwear brand founded in 1986 as the first offering within the Calzedonia Group, an Italian fashion retailer based in Verona, Italy with a focus on high-quality workmanship at affordable price points. The Group has since expanded into further collections with Intimissimi (lingerie) Falconeri (cashmere knitwear) and Tenzenis (underwear and apparel).
Intimissimi, the second brand in the Group, was launched in 1996 and quickly became a force in the lingerie and Intimates market. The brand was created to convey sophistication and romance, tapping into unmistakable Italian style to satisfy the desires and needs of women seeking comfort, performance and quality, without sacrificing glamor.
With almost 5000 stores worldwide across 54 countries, Calzedonia Group set its eyes on the burgeoning US market in 2017, opening almost 50 brick and mortar locations nationwide by the end of 2020. Experiencing a steady rise in brand awareness and sales activity, Calzedonia sought out Whiplash to enhance its omnichannel fulfillment and distribution.
Calzedonia’s US expansion was gaining momentum by the time that the pandemic hit in March 2020. Like many retailers, ecommerce took on a newfound level of importance for Calzedonia.
As consumers began migrating towards digital shopping options, their online store saw a notable jump in order volumes. This led to questions over how the brand could better serve its US customers, especially with a lack of local fulfillment facilities:
“It was no longer practical for us to continue fulfilling US orders from our distribution centers in Europe. With ecommerce growth far outstripping initial forecasts, we needed to pivot our strategy,” says Marcello Veronesi, CEO of Calzedonia USA. “Growing online order volumes mean that we have to approach US customers differently from their European counterparts if we want to offer a true omnichannel experience.”
‘Omnichannel’ was not an unfamiliar concept to Calzedonia before the pandemic. As a forward-thinking business, they already had a dedicated omnichannel plan for further integration between online and offline product offerings, promotions, and customer care – and so required a fulfillment provider with the same level of commitment:
“The pandemic has absolutely led to an acceleration in bridging the gap between online and offline retail, with consumers growing accustomed to the ability to move seamlessly between channels,” says Brian Weinstein, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Whiplash. “Whiplash’s vast experience in omnichannel logistics makes us well-positioned to support the ambitions of brands like Calzedonia, who strive to offer a superior customer experience within a highly competitive market.”
As an experienced omnichannel provider, Whiplash has had a front-row seat to the transformation of the retail sector over the past year – as well as unique insights into how to keep ahead of consumer expectations.
A brand with complete vertical integration from design to distribution, it was essential for Calzedonia that they partner with an omnichannel provider who was able to adapt to their needs:
“Whiplash has extensive experience working with large fashion retailers and was able to integrate completely with our existing management systems – something that many 3PLs don’t allow. This combination of flexibility and expertise made them the perfect choice to coordinate our US fulfillment operation,” said Veronesi.
By integrating directly with Whiplash, Calzedonia retained full oversight of their operation while also gaining access to experienced staff, optimized warehouse space, and integrated inventory management to advance their omnichannel retail model.
“Before partnering with Whiplash there were some services we weren’t able to offer, such as in-store returns. This added a lot of friction to the customer experience,” says Veronesi. “Integrated inventory management has been a real game-changer for the Calzedonia brand – and our ability to meet consumer expectations.”
Calzedonia is currently operating out of Whiplash modern Newark fulfillment facility, a 432,000 sq. ft. operation offering fully automated distribution capabilities close to their port of entry. This first foothold in their US fulfillment operation poises Calzedonia for further expansion into regional markets, which Whiplash is ready to support via its scalable infrastructure capabilities:
“With a national footprint of 18 facilities spanning the East and West Coasts, the Whiplash network is at the disposal of growth-focused brands like Calzedonia who require multi-node fulfillment strategies to meet consumer demand,” said Brian Weinstein. “This can make all the difference to retailers’ ability to satisfy customers in a rapidly evolving retail landscape.”