You can almost hear Miguel curse while he’s navigating his 40-ton truck across the cobblestones and up a steep hill. After 2000 km on the road from Portugal this is the challenging finish. Here in the hills outside Cologne, in Engelskirchen-Grünscheid to be exact, lies the heart of Wildling: the warehouse. No Wildling goes out into the world without having seen this building from the inside.
Miguel and his truck have made it. The truck’s covers are being lifted, and already warehouse manager Sascha and his team are there to help: Maté, Sabine, Natascha, Mustafa, Nazike and Denis line up to take each box to its spot in the warehouse. 250-460 boxes (with 10 pairs of shoes each) arrive here each week.
Inside the warehouse, shelves are lined up, packed with Wildlings almost to the ceiling. Sorted according to model and size, so that each pair can be found quickly once an order is logged. In the next room there are boxes filled with laces, waterproofing spray and socks - the accessories from the shop.
On the other side of the building is a hall with computer workstations and the “packing stations”.
This all started in Anna and Ran’s attic. Sascha - a police man in a previous life and a first generation Wildling - offered to clear his cellar and ship the shoes from there. “There were boxes piled up to the ceiling in our 2m wide hallway and we had a 60cm wide path to squeeze through in the middle.” When it became clear that Wildling would keep growing, Sascha started wondering whether to make this part-time job a full-time occupation.
1. The attic - where everything began
2. The "wearhouse" in Saschas Cellar
“The decision wasn’t taken lightly, of course, and the whole family was involved. You don’t just quit a job with the state after 20 years. But honestly - I’ve never regretted the decision even for a minute. Here I can play a real part in something instead of doing a job”.
Sascha with his first Wildlings
For three weeks Sascha has been wearing Wildlings, too - finally. “Now I know what all this is about. Until then I may have been the person to have handled the biggest amount of Wildlings worldwide, but I’d never had a pair on my feet,” he says, laughing. “It’s simply sensational what has happened here in the last 1.5 years, and what is still going to happen.”
Not only the warehouse grew with the Wildlings: processes also had to be optimized constantly: “Fulfilment quickly grew over our heads. In the beginning it’s possible to handle a few hundred orders manually and note down packing lists with a pencil. But this quickly reaches a limit. Then you need better software systems, faster printers, a more sensible warehouse structure. A little problem with the interface can have a catastrophic effect as we had to learn last autumn. We also got the odd return due to packing mistakes,” Sascha remembers with a smile. “But we’ve learned our lessons. Jacques - our specialist for IT and processes - has worked hard to integrate all our systems. Each order is identified by a barcode and our scanners only print the shipping label when all correct items have been placed in the box. That way we’ve been able to reduce mistakes.
Our Wearhouse in Engelskirchen
We’ve also improved our packing line so much that we can now pack 100 pairs of shoes in an hour. This only works if the team works well together. Although my colleagues come from Hungary, Macedonia and Germany, they’ve all caught the Wildling bug and work with their heart and soul.”
If this has made you curious and you’d like to catch a glimpse behind the scenes, you can come and visit Sascha and his team in the warehouse. We don’t only ship shoes from there - you can also try them on and - if it’s love at first step - take them home with you.
A short notice up front: “Until now, nobody has left without taking a pair of Wildlings with them.”
Run Wild - Anna, Ran and the Wildlings