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GUEST COMMENT Adapting fulfilment strategies to overcome Brexit challenges

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The aftermath of Brexit has presented both unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities across the ever-evolving landscape of global retail. Brands operating in and out of the UK have found themselves at a crossroads, needing to reassess their fulfilment and last mile delivery strategies to succeed in this new environment.

Sunil Nand, head of development (fashion) at fulfilmentcrowd

Sunil Nand, head of development (fashion) at fulfilmentcrowd, details considerations for retail brands wanting to overcome Brexit hurdles and thrive. 

To provide a practical example, Sunil also outlines the resurgence story of fashion brand, Ed Hardy which serves as a strong example of how negotiating these changes can lead to remarkable success; in Ed Hardy’s case, making them one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK.

How brands can adapt their fulfilment and logistics strategies post-Brexit
Previous ways of doing things will not necessarily transfer to the post-Brexit era. Retail brands need to adapt and be more agile to the changes happening around them. When it comes to fulfilment and logistics, this means finding new ways of delivering products while avoiding increased customs charges, shipping delays, and regulatory hurdles that could impede access to customers overseas.

For many this can be daunting, but retail brands do not need to go it alone. By forming strategic partnerships with international fulfilment providers that have experiences operating in Europe, many of these challenges can be overcome. This is especially the case where a fulfilment provider has feet on the ground across Europe in the areas that a brand wants to target, as it means that distribution can be localised. This approach allows for speedier delivery, reduced costs and fewer regulations to overcome.

Similarly, given the fast-paced nature of the retail environment it is important that fulfilment partners can offer flexibility and scalability to suit customer demand and peaks in sales during key seasonal times of the year. Using technology and data analytics to get clearer understanding of customer behaviours and trends is a valuable way of making logistics more accurate and efficient, especially when operating in unfamiliar or new markets.

The success story of Ed Hardy
Despite lying dormant for years, Ed Hardy is a brand that has a strong enduring legacy and relevance with many consumers. Once a powerhouse in the fashion industry with gross sales at its peak of US$700 million, the new owners of the brand had ambitious plans to re-establish Ed Hardy across the EU and the UK. Key to achieving this was capitalising on the significant latent awareness and heritage associated with the product, while also attracting a new, younger audience.

Ed Hardy planned to achieve its ambitious global growth goals through initiatives such as collaborations with other culturally relevant brands, substantial product diversification and building a presence at key fashion weeks. With a target demographic including young streetwear enthusiasts (18-25 years) as well as consumers aged 25-35 that were more likely to be affiliated with the brand in its previous peak, it needed a versatile, multichannel approach to order fulfilment.

The challenge, of course, was that Ed Hardy faced the already substantial task of re-establishing its market presence in a post-Brexit era. Like many other retailers, it was confronted with a range of post-Brexit complexities servicing EU customers from a UK-based warehouse.

This was exacerbated by the fact that territories like Germany and the Netherlands had been identified as key growth markets. The required split between the UK and EU markets therefore meant re-evaluating logistics to avoid increased customs charges, shipping delays, and regulatory hurdles that could impede Ed Hardy’s reach to customers across mainland Europe.

The role of fulfilment and logistics
Key to Ed Hardy’s success in overcoming post-Brexit challenges was its strategic partnership with fulfilmentcrowd, an international logistics services and tech provider that is highly experienced in supporting fast-growing retail brands in export markets.

The collaboration proved pivotal for several reasons:

  • Localised distribution: By establishing a warehouse in Bocholt, Germany, as well as a UK base in Cwmbran, South Wales, Ed Hardy could service its EU customer base more effectively. This move mitigated the impact of Brexit-related trade barriers and allowed for faster shipping times and reduced costs – crucial factors in maintaining customer satisfaction and competitiveness.
  • Diversified product access: With access to localised distribution centres, Ed Hardy could diversify its product offerings and tailor them to regional tastes and preferences, which is essential in fashion retail. This was particularly important as Ed Hardy introduced different product ranges targeting different segments of its audience.
  • Scalability and flexibility: The partnership provided Ed Hardy with the scalability needed to adapt to changing market demands and consumer trends rapidly. This flexibility proved vital in the fast-paced fashion industry, where trends and consumer preferences shift abruptly.
  • Data-driven insights: fulfilmentcrowd’s advanced logistics and data analytics tools offered Ed Hardy valuable insights into customer behaviour and market trends. This data-driven approach enabled more informed decision-making regarding inventory management, product development, and marketing strategies.

Ed Hardy is now one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK, setting its sights on getting back to previous levels of revenue. In 2023, its Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) strategy saw sales increase +269% year-on-year and the brand’s success, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, is noteworthy, with European sales now constituting 20% of its total.

The post-Brexit era has undeniably reshaped the landscape of international trade and retail. By embracing change and leveraging strategic partnerships, brands like Ed Hardy are not only weathering the storm but are emerging stronger.

Sunil Nand, head of development (fashion) at fulfilmentcrowd

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