Page 1: Introduction
The Burton Group is one of the largest fashion retailers in the UK, operating nearly 1,500 outlets and 92 department stores in high streets and shopping centres throughout the country. The Group reaches its customers through six main high street brands: Debenhams, the UK’s leading chain of family department stores and the fashion ‘Multiples’ store chains: Dorothy Perkins, Burton Menswear, Top Shop/Top Man, Evans and Principles. The Group also owns the Home Shopping brands Racing Green, Hawkshead, Innovations and McCord.
The Group was founded in 1900 by Montague Burton, a Lithuanian immigrant, who established the original ‘Burton’ shop in Chesterfield. From his initial investment of £100 and a handful of staff, the business has developed significantly - employing over 43,000 people and generating annual sales of over £2 billion.
This case study focuses on the Burton Group’s strategic project to reconfigure its supply chain. The initiative was launched in 1994 and is called Fastflow. The aim of Fastflow is:
“To maximise sales by making sure that the right products are available to the customers at the time they want to buy them.”
A ‘Fastflow’ solution
One of the most crucial areas that fashion retailers must get right is the movement of product through the supply chain from source to shop floor. Large amounts of capital are tied up in stock and the longer it remains in the supply chain, the less efficient the retailer becomes. The essence of Fastflow is the creation of a more efficient supply chain to improve the flow of goods and enable the Group to become more responsive. It represents a significant change from the days when clothing retailers bought in large stocks of items at the start of a fashion season, hoping that all the stock would be sold during that period, with the surplus for the end of season sales. Fastflow involves having the right items ready for consumers and the flexibility to respond quickly to changes in consumer preferences. Ultimately, it is all about the supply chain being market led rather than production led. One of the greatest risks to retailers is stock which fails to sell at full price - being able to react more quickly to market demand removes a significant amount of that risk.