Step One underwear, the creator of the "world's best underwear," needed to deliver a world class fulfilment solution to match their bold and confident claim. Next 3PL and Step one discuss their partnership.
Following on from an idea created in 2016, Step One launched into the men's underwear market in 2017 launching its range of comfortable, stylish Lycra panel Boxers and Trunks designed specifically for men, with tongue in cheek advertising, a fresh brand, and a bold marketing campaign to suit, it was never a surprise this brand was going to explode on the scene.
Greg Taylor the founder of Step One expected the brand to kick some impressive goals from day one but even he continues to be amazed by the success and following by the men (and ladies) of Australia.
With success comes challenges though, as his runaway growth needed a Logistics solution which would also grow with the brand.
Initially Step One used a hybrid in-house/outsourced solution to manage the fulfilment.
"We had a team of casual workers and students who would pack orders daily and used a Melbourne based 3PL to take container deliveries and store the bulk stock for the first year," explained Greg.
This largely worked as the volumes grew in the early days, but the reality hit when the business experienced its first Black Friday and received 10 times daily volume in a single 24-hour period.
Chaos, late nights, and tired staff limped the business through, but it was clear things had to change.
"Like a lot of private online retailers, we liked the initial idea of the control and visibility of packing our own orders, but the lack of scalability, staff management, costs, capital investment, and many other headaches meant we knew this was not the best solution for us," Greg explained.
So in early 2019 Greg formed an RFP and went to market looking to deliver the world's best fulfilment solution to match his underwear.
All of the top fulfilment companies were selected and invited to submit proposals for the work, and given our popularity there was a large amount of interest in securing the work.
"We had done a great job of keeping our costs super-low whilst we packed ourselves over the first couple of years, so we set a very high bar for them to hit, in fact we expected we may end up paying more with a 3PL," he said.
The process quickly identified six key players, who varied in size, shape and, offering, most of whom are very well known across the market-place.
Step One used several selection processes around cost analysis, flexibility, scalability and commitment to meeting goals side by side with the business, to bring this down to a final three providers.
"It wouldn’t surprise most business owners on our last three as they probably form part of most pricing proposals for eCommerce retailers in Australia."
For Step One though there was a clear standout provider: Next3PL.
"Chris and his team have built a business model which has all the size and scalability we need, but has retained the flexibility to work with many different types of clients and product profiles," Greg said.
"He has a strong dedicated team around him that shares his passion and commitment to delivering our needs, and has committed fully to building a system in-house that is designed to suit Next’s warehouse operations with the flexibility and efficiencies needed to get the job done.
"The fact that Next also came in at the lowest cost overall as they stated, was a bonus too," he said.
Once a decision was made to move, things progressed very quickly with large volumes of stock on-route from the factory diverted to Sydney.
As a business that commits to ultra-fast turnaround Step One could not afford to have a lengthy shut down and drawn out implementation process.
The team at Next devised a relocation method where the stock was shipped to Sydney and receipted whilst orders still flowed, with a switch over occurring overnight, and a period of no longer than 24 hours for any order to be shipped as the stock moved between states.
"The overall setup, integration and implementation was seamless," Greg said.
"Within a couple of weeks from making a decision we found ourselves tidying up the packing area in Melbourne and almost forgetting thousands of orders were being shipped from a brand new facility in Sydney without really even noticing the change."
A new packing process was implemented using advanced order grouping, a high volume pick-face at ground floor implemented, barcode QC with auto-process, and auto-dimensions meant orders were now processing and shipping faster than they ever had.
The first major challenge for the warehouse was Black Friday 2019, followed by Christmas Peak and New Years sales, each adding day to day growth in excess of 1000% on average volume, and requiring tens of thousands of orders to be shipped.
"We knew these peak periods would cause a spike in activity so we communicated, planned and worked closely with Next coming up to, and through our peaks," Greg said.
"We were impressed how they scaled up their teams, opened up temporary peak packing stations and powered through the orders, without any real fuss.
"We saw no real degradation of service in any way, but knew there was no way our old in-house solution would have coped. We knew we had made the right call," he said.
Now into 2020 the business is experiencing continued, enormous growth in Australia pushing marketing heavily knowing the logistics solution is mature and running well.
In April this year Step One also launched into the UK, again partnered and delivered by Next.
Again blown away by demand uptake, Step One are expecting to see global growth throughout 2020 and 2021 and are able to confidently commit to:
"The world's best underwear delivered by the world's best fulfment."
For more information contact Next3PL, click here.
For more information on Step One, click here.