There must be a group of professional crystal ball readers in the Wildling team.
You think that sounds unrealistic?
Well, how else is it possible for them to know over a full year in advance which shoes customers are going to order, in which quantities, which sizes, and how often?
Exactly. For this you need a crystal ball!
Or someone who can interpret the alignment of the stars.
Or simply the Wildling supply chain team.
Let’s take a look at the work of the team in charge of the Wildling supply chain, which covers procurement, sustainability, quality management, and – of course – production planning.
First of all, we have to admit that even the home offices of the supply team aren’t equipped with crystal balls, and instead they just use regular computers like the rest of us. No dim lighting, no magic spells. Nope. The team is evaluating, comparing, and analyzing.
The objective of all of this deliberation is to strike a balance between careful, resource-conserving planning and our deep desire to satisfy the order requests of as many customers as possible.
How can you plan in a way that conserves resources to the greatest extent possible?
First of all, the team estimates the total quantity of Wildlings that need to be produced. As a benchmark, the team uses the sales figures for the current and the previous years, then conjures up a crystal ball figure for growth, and from this, the forecast for the coming year is made.
Image: Wildling Shoes/Stefano Chiolo
After the total quantity for the season has been determined, the quantities for each individual model still have to be specified. To do this, some ten or so members from different Wildling teams get together and set about the daunting task of awarding points to each of the models. There’s no right or wrong in this regard – personal taste and, most importantly, the experience of the individual team members are what counts. This is also the point at which we consider what the Wildling customers might enjoy.
To get an even more complete picture, in the future (and by “future” we mean the 2021/22 Autumn/Winter collection) we plan to expand this scoring system to include the entire Wildling team – which is sure to be tons of fun and likely a battle of personal favorites to boot ...
Once we’ve determined how the entire production quantity will be allocated to each model, we move on to size distribution. Among the different models, not all sizes are in equal demand. To obtain a benchmark for this, the team uses historical sales data (that sounds very, very archaic, but hey – Wildling did turn five this year!). We analyze how frequently similar models were sold in which sizes. Of course, this gets even more challenging when new sizes are added, such as the Wildling Cubs in 2018 or the sizes 47 and 48 the following year.
And after all these evaluations, assessments, and forecasts, the production volume is established. For the time being. But it gets more specific.
A year before the new collection is launched...
Ideally in April, but often not until May or June, the materials for the Spring/Summer collection for the following year are purchased. The amount of material is the definitive parameter for determining the maximum number of Wildlings that can be produced for a given model.
About half of the targeted quantity will be produced in time for the start of the season. After the launch, the team will then check to see if their plans were correct: How well are each of the different models actually selling?
If it turns out that a model is not as popular as expected, its production is scaled back as quickly as possible. If it becomes apparent that certain models and sizes are particularly well received, production is adjusted upwards. But that’s only possible as long as sufficient material is available and our production partners in Portugal have the required capacity.
This year, the Tanuki Niji, with its little statement rainbow, was in great demand and quickly sold out in several sizes. Naturally, a post-production phase was discussed. Since fundamental Wildling values such as resource-friendly production were also crucial and Tanuki’s special material (washi) is produced in Japan, the company decided (for the time being) against placing a new order. Of course, the brisk interest has been duly noted ;)
Why, despite this precise planning, do we have a sale every now and then?
Of course there is always the risk of error, first of all because of the long lead time and secondly because Wildling is a very fast-growing company – but this growth is difficult to plan with any amount of precision. And thirdly, there’s no accounting for taste, so sometimes Wildlings that the team regards as wallflowers turn out to be absolute customer favorites. Or, conversely, sometimes team favorites have a tougher time than anticipated gaining a foothold out in the great big world.
Even though the production quantity is planned in a highly differentiated way and as prudently as possible, and even though we respond immediately to any changes, it is never possible to plan precisely down to the level of the individual sizes.
In other words, there are always shoes left over. Which, considering the aforementioned, crystal-ball-necessitating future planning process, doesn’t amount to all that much.
Somewhere around July, we take a look at how much space is needed in the warehouse for the upcoming collection and decide whether or not to hold a sale for the current season. This then takes place before the launch of the new Autumn/Winter collection. All Spring/Summer models go on sale and will hopefully be free to embark on lots of summer adventures.
And what’s really important: No Wildling is ever thrown away! All of the shoes are allowed to stay and will be available in the online shop the following spring. The same is true for any Wildlings that don’t meet the expectations for visual appeal. For these, we regularly arrange a sale for “love at second sight” (factory seconds). Shoes whose production has truly gone wrong are usually distributed among the team or find a loving home in some other way.
And while we are looking forward to the upcoming sale and the launch of the new Autumn/Winter collection, the Wildling supply chain team is already starting to take a look into the future again and analyzing the divinations of their crystal balls for the subsequent winter ...
You can find out more about sales and slow fashion here.
Anna, Ran and the Wildlings