The name Wolvenberg may not immediately ring a bell, but the Castelli brand will warm many cycling enthusiasts. Especially now that Remco Evenepoel of the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team, of which Castelli is an official partner, has won the Vuelta and become world champion. And the semi-professional cycling team of Volker Wessels is also very successful in Castelli cycling clothing. They won the Tour of Slovakia and the GP Rik van Looy this fall. When it comes to sports, Wolvenberg is doing great, but how does this distributor of cycling clothing arrange its processes at the back? And can fashion brands learn something from this approach?
To find out, we travel to Kontich, Belgium, where Wolvenberg has been active for almost 45 years. We talk to Laurent Baeyaert (e-commerce manager), Toon Geukens (operations manager) and Wouter Weytjens (general manager) about cooperation, quality, innovation and focus on the business. And of course about their passion for cycling.
Other kind of sport?
With a sporty team of 30 people, Wolvenberg focuses on importing and distributing cycling clothing. As the exclusive distributor of the brands Castelli, Sportful, Roeckl, Uvex, HJC, Sealskinz and Born, the focus is on quality and long-term cooperation. For example, they have been working with the Italian brands Castelli and Sportful for 35 years and two transports take place every week. Which are then delivered the same day to the 200 dealers in the Benelux. Logistics and sales therefore play an important role at Wolvenberg.
Something you may not immediately think of when you see the traditional yellow jersey and polka dot jersey, is that cycling clothing also works with seasons and collections.
Wouter: “We work with two seasons, winter and summer. We take the pre-orders about seven months before the season. We also work with drops, but concentrated at the beginning of the season. For the summer, we start delivering at the end of January and everything is out by the end of March.”
Future-oriented software for core processes
In order to organize all sales and logistics processes more efficiently and to work more autonomously, the need arose for a new system for the back office.
Toon: “SAP Business One was not sufficient in the long term, we were looking for a system that was more future-oriented. Which also involved less development. Plus links with B2B and B2C options. SAP actually had its system combined with many external suppliers that we also had to connect to create a good system. This resulted in a lot of customization and consultancy hours.”
Laurent: “If we wanted to implement changes, the various parties had to work together, which did not always go smoothly. Then they didn’t want to implement things because it had too much impact on their own system. And what we think is extremely important in recent years is that we can work with the systems ourselves as much as possible. Without always, in IT terms, having to send a ticket to support to resolve it.”
ERP system with experience in fashion
When searching for a suitable solution, Toon and Laurent explicitly looked for a complete ERP package with experience in fashion.
Toon: “With colours, sizes and seasons. Prices are also a challenge, because it is a mix of prices throughout the season. Current prices during the re-order period and new prices we have to apply during the pre-order period. So basically at the same time. To make it concrete: In January we take winter orders for August and September. Those products have price B. While the summer season starts in February and the same product can then have price A.”
A challenge that many fashion brands and distributors of clothing will recognize. But how do you find the right solution? The Wolvenberg team did not take any chances for this. To make the right choice, six ERP providers paid a visit, from custom-made to existing SaaS solutions. In the end, Itsperfect made the best impression.
Laurent: “In the selection we were often taken back to the 1990s. Especially when it comes to look & feel and user-friendliness. And not really with a focus on the fashion industry. That was a requirement from us, that the party we were working with knew about all the difficult data issues in fashion. Itsperfect was also the only solution that has a direct link to the B2B webshop, fully integrated.”
Wolvenberg opted for the ERP system for all core processes, the B2B portal for dealers, the Warehouse Management System (WMS) for the warehouse and a link with Shopify for the webshop. After several intensive months of collaboration, the system went live at the beginning of this year. And that difference was immediately noticeable.
Laurent: “We can now link directly to Marketplaces, to shipping partners, to our webshops. We recently installed PowerBI, which also provides a data connection with Itsperfect. Our finance manager is very happy with the link with Exact, our accounting package. And we now work with automatic billing, the cash register system, debtor management. All of this was not possible or not so extensive before.”
Smooth logistics with integrated warehouse software
It will not surprise you that the largest part of the Wolvenberg building is reserved for the warehouse. Every year, around 500,000 articles are processed, both for dealers and consumers. With 9,000 locations and around 180,000 items in stock, good warehouse software is key. Toon Geukens, responsible for customer care and the warehouse, knows all about that. He therefore consciously made the switch to the integrated WMS of Itsperfect.
Toon: “The previous WMS was slightly older, less extensive and not that easy. The various EDI connectors that are available, the apps that are available to provide extensions. Of course, that’s all a big improvement, because back then we regularly needed customization.
The connection with the B2B, the API’s towards the webshop and the follow-up of picking overviews in the WMS also make a big difference. Especially in the cooperation between the departments.
Toon: “The warehouse and customer care actually have the same picking overview. So they immediately speak the same language, and it is easy to work together. The scanners work very intuitively, you can pick an order with just a few clicks of a button. Moving, checking and putting away stock also all runs very smoothly. Because it works in the cloud, you can install it with any scanner and off you go.”
Still, there is always room for optimization, reason enough to keep a close eye on the new features that come out every quarter.
Toon: “Those release notes are always very interesting. We are currently investigating the app regarding expected delivery date and sales orders to give our customers even better insights for future deliveries.”
When it comes to innovation, the focus is currently on the dealer network, with around 200 dealers in the Benelux.
Toon: “We are working to help as many customers as possible with their digitalization so that we can improve our cooperation. Our top 15 dealers are fully into automation, but mainly with their own package. We are now trying to assist them with that. In order to also be a better supplier.”
E-commerce in top gear
Future-proof choices have also been made in the field of e-commerce. Where Wolvenberg previously used a separate B2B webshop, the new portal is fully integrated with the ERP system. And that offers a large number of advantages, says Laurent Baeyaert, responsible for e-commerce and digital marketing.
Laurent: “In the past, our dealers could not place re-orders and pre-orders on a single platform. Now they just switch seasons with a switch at the top. That works very easily. In addition, there are many things possible that were not possible in the past. For example, dealers can see the outstanding invoices in their own account, the status of their orders, and how much has been delivered. And they can download documents, such as packing slips. It has become much more transparent towards the dealers.”
In addition, each affiliated dealer has its own B2B environment. In which it is determined per dealer which brands he can see and order.
Next to the B2B webshop, which still takes care of most of the business, Wolvenberg also has its own webshop: Passionforcycling.com. Sales are made via this platform in the Benelux.
Laurent: “With Passionforcycling we want to be the digital extension of our dealer network. They often do not have the resources or time to manage their own webshop. We want to support them in this in order to market our brands even more strongly.”
Part of this strategy is the presence on social media, with Strava being spot on for this sporty target group. And as a Marketplace, some of the products can also be found on Bol.com.
Laurent: “We really believe in an omnichannel approach. For example, by implementing click & collect in our webshop. So that consumers can place orders and have packages delivered to a dealer nearby, and thus also generate traffic to them.”
When it comes to the future, Laurent doesn’t think much needs to change in terms of focus, product range and brands.
Laurent: “We want to develop further as a specialist in the market and continue to build on our brands. Naturally, we are increasingly looking at data. We are always searching for ways to work more constructively and transparently with our dealer network. That is still the most important thing for us.”
Shared passion for quality and service
Where Wolvenberg has a passion for quality and service, a good match has been found in the collaboration with Itsperfect.
Wouter: “The package is extensive. If you think of something, you will usually find it in Itsperfect. And it is intuitively and logically structured.”
Laurent: “You notice that the Itsperfect team is open to what is happening in the market. With a new version with cool functionalities. That gives us a great way to build on that. This way we remain innovative and future-oriented.”
Get smarter together
With the go-live of the complete ERP system, not only a new course has been taken towards more autonomy. Working together and learning from each other is also of great added value.
Laurent: “For us it really feels like ‘getting smarter together’. We should not think that there is nothing more to learn for us in the fashion industry. The fact that Itsperfect works with so many customers in fashion, who have also developed a very good way of working. Which then translates into new functionality. That is a great way for us to become better at everything we do.”
Wouter: “If the software is not a daily topic of conversation, which is a sign that it works, then we can get on with our business. It supports us in the innovation and adjustments. We can do our business and Itsperfect helps us do our business. And we are not bothered by glitches or shortcomings.”