Browns Shoes was founded in 1940 by Benjamin Brownstein with a single store on Ste Catherine Street. In 1959, Benjamin’s son Morton Brownstein became the first North American retailer to travel to Italy and to bring Italian designer shoes to Canada. He worked directly with the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo at his original store in Florence and was the first to bring Charles Jourdan, Bruno Magli and Rossi Moda to Canadian retail. Today, the third generation is in charge, and continues to focus on innovation, in both fashion and technology. President Michael Brownstein (Morton’s son) has expanded the chain to more than 60 locations throughout Canada, also launching a new chain, B2, focused on edgy street fashion.
In 2011, with its brick-and-mortar locations growing and e-comm business on the rise, Browns realized it needed to build a better omnichannel foundation. It invested in a new state-of-the-art distribution center, with a fully automated ‘intelligent’ distribution system comprised of 63 robots fulfilling both store and e-commerce orders. With this system, products are now brought to its packing-and-shipping stations automatically and employees never have to move more than two steps to put orders together.
More recently, the retailer implemented a distributed order management (DOM) system from OrderDynamics, which includes a new order-consolidation capability that the tech provider built at the request of Browns Shoes. The feature solved a key challenge of omnichannel retailing by allowing Browns to transfer inventory from any location (store or DC) to another to streamline order fulfillment, says Alexandre Hubert, senior director of IT strategy and logistics. The capability allows Browns Shoes to include all order items in one package, improving customer service while also reducing waste and minimizing shipping expenses. If required, it also has the capability to force multiple shipments to the customer.
Additionally, Browns Shoes worked with OSF Commerce to interconnect the order management system (OMS) with Salesforce Commerce Cloud. The retailer also connected the OMS to all of its other retail systems to establish a single unified commerce solution that provides real-time online inventory visibility.
With its combined solutions in place, Browns has significantly reduced the chance of selling out-of-stock items and has optimized retail operations. It has been able to reduce the order-to-fulfillment cycle to as low as 15 minutes and has reduced average order lead-time by more than 20 percent. Browns also has achieved a 99.5+ percent order fulfillment rate. With a better view into inventory, it is much more intelligent about only showing customers products that are on hand and available.
Hubert says that with a strong foundation underneath it, Browns Shoes is now comfortable taking things to the next level and starting to leverage the advanced capabilities of its systems.
“The beauty is, now, when we say we are sending a pair of shoes, we know that we can ship it quickly and reliably to satisfy the customer, and with controlled costs to satisfy our bottom line,” he says.
Jordan K. Speer is editor in chief of Apparel. She can be reached at [email protected]
Editor's Note: Browns Shoes is a 2018 Apparel Innovator. Read about all of our Award winners here.