Apparel's 2010 Innovators: Vera Bradley

Vera Bradley
Fort Wayne, IN

Nominated by: Manhattan Associates |

Every company wants to grow and become more profitable. And while rapid expansion and growing popularity are both things to envy, they come with their own unique set of challenges.

Those were the challenges facing Vera Bradley, the accessories company known for its colorful prints and quilted purses, when it decided to take on the big four challenge: automating ordering processes, implementing ERP and supply chain solutions, and moving into a much larger 200,000 square foot facility. At the time, the company's operations couldn't sustain the double-digit growth it was experiencing.
"We really didn't have a choice," said Matt Wojewuczki, the company's vice president of operations. We had an outdated ERP system, we didn't have any automation, we didn't have a WMS. We didn't have the facility."

"If anything, we should have done it a year earlier," he added.

It's better to be late than never, so Vera Bradley started looking for ways to make its operations more efficient and flexible. After evaluating a number of companies, Vera Bradley enlisted the help of Manhattan Associates, a New York-based company that specializes in supply chain optimization. Vera Bradley planned to implement Manhattan Associates' Integrated Logistics Solutions when it moved to its new, larger facility.

But, there were problems at first. For workers who had been doing picking by hand and who'd never used an RF gun, there was a little bit of a learning curve when they first started at the new facility.

Manhattan Associates came in two days after it heard about the problems to help with inventory and weighing, and showing employees around the new system. It's exactly that kind of attention and teamwork that made Manhattan Associates such an appealing choice, Wojewuczki said.

"They were really there with us every step of the way," he said.

Since the new system launched in February 2007, Vera Bradley has been able to make its operations run faster and cost less. Order fulfillment times have gone down, and peak order processing increased from 1,500 a day to 6,000 a day. And though the company has grown substantially, it's much nimbler for the move.

"It really has helped us become much more flexible," Wojewuczki said. "Our SKU count, our product offering has changed. The tempo has changed -- we release more often than we did before."

If that weren't enough, Vera Bradley was also able to bring its e-commerce back in house from an outside provider. In addition to saving the company money, having e-commerce in house is a way for the company to control that much more of its brand.

"If our marketing group wants to change something about the packaging, or they want to put a different card in, or they want to do a promotion, it allows us to be flexible."

That flexibility came in handy during the past holiday season. Over Thanksgiving, Wojewuczki estimates, demand exceeded the forecast by 80 percent.

"If we were using an outsourced company, I don't know how motivated they would be to hit that," Wojewuczki said.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds