Known for their down-to-earth and comfortable clothing for uncomplicated men, Dutch menswear brand No Excess is dedicated to innovation and sustainability. With more than 1,000 sales outlets throughout Europe and New Zealand, branches in the Netherlands and Bielefeld, two own shops and completely internally organized logistics, a lean organization is essential. But how can this be implemented and where can improvements be made? We speak to new CFO Wendy Kok (33) about the latest denim line, the focus on sustainability, the right ERP package and innovative initiatives like RFID and 3D sampling.
Finance director in turbulent times
Wendy started her career at Deloitte at the age of 21 as an accountant for SMEs. After eight years of happily working in this advisory role, it was time for a new challenge. She opted for interim jobs, but she still lacked a sense of solidarity. At the end of 2019 she applied to No Excess to become a Controller and it was agreed that once the Finance Director retired she would succeed him. Due to his sudden death this spring, the entire development for Wendy went faster than planned. “It was and is a terrible time for the company. But while everyone mourns personally, as a company you have to move on pretty quickly. You have to think back to the business side, it’s a difficult balance.”
After a period of mourning, the CEO decided over the summer that it was time to officially name Wendy as his successor. “It was a strange feeling, but at some point things have to get done and the company just needs a finance director. The advantage is that we have already worked towards this on a large scale, so many formalities and powers were already settled. Of course there are points that I struggle with, but I probably would have had them otherwise. There are things that only happen once or twice a year that still make me think, oh yeah, we do that too? How do we actually do that?”
New possibilities through the introduction of Itsperfect
Fortunately, Wendy is now quite an all-rounder, not only in finance but also in IT. That’s because it started just before a major reorganization: moving to a new, integrated ERP package.
“Very soon after I started here, the introduction of Itsperfect started. I played an important role in the preparation, data transfer, process set-up and commissioning. It was a really good way to get to know the whole organization. Otherwise I wouldn’t have learned so much about our logistics process. Now I actually know exactly how everyone works here.”
Although Wendy was relieved when she applied that Navision was about to switch to this SaaS solution, this change took a lot of getting used to for many of the company’s employees.
“We had quite a bit of custom build software. So we often had discussions with users: ‘The system doesn’t do what I want’. Personally, I’ve never been a big proponent of custom build software because it keeps you very stuck in the existing processes, because it’s almost impossible to suddenly do things in a completely different way. Just going on the way you’ve always done it makes you very rigid in the way you work. And if you want to keep up with new developments, you have to work on workarounds. That makes the whole thing so complicated.”
A single complete SaaS solution for all departments
Since switching to Itsperfect this is a thing of the past. Through a single user-friendly system that, in addition to the standard ERP functions, also includes integrated modules such as Warehouse Management (WMS), Intercompany, Consignment, Vendor Managed Inventory and the B2B webshop for retail sales. There are also standard connections with Shopify (B2C), Tradebyte and Twinfield. Wendy: “For us, Itsperfect is actually the most important system we work with in our organization. From a purely financial point of view, being able to track all financial flows in one place is ideal. From inventory and intercompany to invoicing. And for our company as a whole it is a great advantage that all departments are connected to it. That’s really the common denominator, this is where it all comes together.”
Green light for innovative logistics with RFID
The system thus creates a solid basis for further innovations, such as the use of RFID on the initiative of the logistics manager. “We find that we are growing and with the addition of online activities the pressure on scheduling is increasing. Marketplace orders must be delivered next day. This demands a lot from our logistics team, especially in the pre-order season when large quantities have to be processed. Nedap’s RFID system is connected to the WMS. We have a more accurate view of our inventory because we know more about what we have received and what we have delivered. And that is also a step towards improving service and quality for our customers.”
The future of 3D samples
3D sampling, a newly introduced module within Itsperfect, is also being explored.
“We are at a preliminary stage in the process. A part of our styling team has completed the training for CLO3D. We are in the process of starting a small pilot project and the first drawings are being made. We recreate existing objects that we already have photos of in the 3D system in order to be able to compare the two. We really see future potential in this, but it also takes a lot of time.”
In doing so, No Excess examines both the internal side, such as the checking of prototypes before the start of production, as well as digital sales.
“There are items in our collection that we have in 12 different colors. If you want to know how the fabric feels, you can also order a colour. I think it’s more likely to go in that direction than without a pattern at all. We’ll have to wait and see what happens because if we’re the only ones, retailers will never get used to it. But I suspect that will prevail in the future. There was also a time when nobody believed in online shopping. The way the average consumer shops online really doesn’t need a real photo of a real product. Then a 3D image is better. The shopkeepers aren’t ready yet, but that may come…”
In addition to its headquarters in Amsterdam, No Excess also has a GmbH in Germany, where the market is very different. Not only in terms of fashion, but also in terms of store sizes and the way of doing business. While retailers in the Netherlands buy the pieces they like from the collection, things work very differently in Germany.
“In Germany you mainly find chains with many branches and large department stores with shop-in-shops. Therefore, brands have a much greater responsibility to achieve the right sales per square meter. Of course, this also places certain demands on the way you can exchange data and monitor store sales. If we supply the stores based on the sales they make, the numbers have to add up. Otherwise they get new deliveries of goods, although the store is still full. So this type of collaboration also places demands on the way we interpret and deal with the numbers. For this we will use Itsperfect’s VMI module. This allows us to monitor inventory and sales.”
Big steps towards sustainability
No Excess is already working very consciously on sustainability and has many plans for the future. “We launched a whole new denim line last year with a focus on sustainability. This is one of our NOS modules, which is always available to consumers and customers. With many new models, with new fits, materials and washes, we have implemented this on a grand scale. A real relief. From this collection, 1% is donated to the organization Spieren voor Spieren.”
The company has already joined the Better Cotton Initiative for sustainable cotton and the BSCI for better working conditions in factories. But that’s not all.
“We have CO2-neutral delivery, all cars will be electric, we will have solar panels on the roof. We are very active in this area. Steps are also taken in our collection, e.g. B. Jackets with recycled padding and products made from organic cotton. The German retailers also pay very close attention to this, so we are trying to bring an increasing part of the collection to this standard. The big question is whether consumers are willing to pay more for a ‘green product’ and if so, how much?”
Goals and challenges
Since launch, No Excess’s online business has grown significantly through integration with Marketplaces and Shopify. Wendy sees great potential in this area in the years to come.
“The fact that we can now monitor and promote our online sales and have an overview of how sales are going, including in-store, is very valuable to us. In the coming years we want to further expand our online presence and remain an important partner for our retailers. We see growth opportunities here in several European countries.”
Of course, the company also faces challenges, especially with regard to the economic climate. “The difficulties we are still struggling with in our supply chain. Likewise the increased costs for our production, the transport costs, the cotton, the dollar exchange rate and the like. And the mood in the minds of consumers.”
Nevertheless, Wendy is positive about the future: “We can’t complain, we have almost completed our new sales round for summer 2023. We are very happy with how things are going. In general, our collections are well received by retailers. But you can feel the negative sentiment affecting the market. The future will show how things develop.”
And so No Excess is making big strides towards its 35th anniversary in 2023, true to the motto: Comfort at every moment. And full of ambition.