Lounge Underwear is celebrated around the world as one of this generation's great success stories in direct to consumer fashion. The recognition they’ve received in recent years is phenomenal and rightly deserved. From the very beginning in 2015, founders Melanie and Dan have driven a clear mission - underwear that looks as good as it feels, comfort made sexy.
They put their customers at the forefront of their thinking: whether that’s by nurturing an incredible, engaged online community (2 million Instagram followers and 1000s of influencer relationships) or developing their own digital fitting room on the website to ensure their shoppers get the best possible experience and avoid the hassle of returns. It’s a strategy that has grown sales and revenues exponentially, and most recently, seen them ranked as the 5th fastest growing company in the UK according to The Sunday Times Fast Track 100.
Whilst right back at the beginning, in typical start-up style, the founding team were packing orders from their spare room, soon they moved to their own distribution centre and looked to implement some tech that could scale with them as the orders increased from the 10s, to the 100s, with hopes of the 1000s each day. They knew that in order to continue fostering a great community of customers, the key pillar the brand was to be built on, they needed to ensure their fulfilment would be capable of delivering great customer experience and meeting the promises they made with every sale.
A period of rapid growth ensued, leading to not just one, but four warehouse moves over the next 3 years, as every possible estimate for the size and scale they would reach was blown out the water by their exceptional marketing campaigns and much-loved products. Each time, they were able to get established with robust processes and efficient workflows to handle the volume of orders in larger and larger buildings.
At the end of 2019, just ahead of Black Friday, we visited the brand new Lounge HQ, the fourth of these facilities which has now become their permanent home. They were using roughly a half of the floor space at the time, and across Peak Week, saw a huge spike in order volume. Lounge hired 35 contractors for the week and had them up and running, picking and packing orders in the warehouse within one hour. Over Peak week, the team averaged 7.5k orders dispatched per day, having received 9,500 orders in the first 30 minutes of the sale period alone! Their ability to Flex Up in 2019 meant they did not need to change their customer delivery promises. When serving more customers than ever, they did so with their optimum level of customer experience.
Highlights of our 2019 visit
But 2019 was just a taste of what was to come for 2020, a year where once again, traffic, volumes and demand skyrocketed for the brand. In the same week, one year later, the stats were mind-blowing:
We had to ask Jack, the Chief Operating Officer, how he approached it:
How were you feeling ahead of the sales launch, and what had you worked on to be as prepared as possible from a warehouse and fulfilment perspective?
"Pretty good, we were just ensuring that there was a lot of stock taking going on, making sure that every item is accounted for and it is in the correct locations. Peoplevox allows you to scale up man power pretty easily, whereby training can be a massive headache - it takes away a lot of that. Don't get me wrong, people still need training on how to use the system, but it is pretty self explanatory and it takes away the worry of people picking and packing incorrect items."
Overview of the Lounge Underwear warehouse ahead of Black Friday 2020
What are the most important capabilities (super powers!) needed for a warehouse operation to be able to handle these types of volumes - how has using Peoplevox provided some of these?
"Confidence - You need to be able to bring manpower into your warehouse and allow them to hit the ground running - knowing that your warehouse management system is going to be bomb proof and eradicate 99% of human error opportunities. You need to be confident that the millions of units you have in stock are actually there and in the correct locations and that your systems are going to let you know when those items need to be replenished. I have been told many times that the perfect warehouse would have no bulk locations with everything in a pickable location, which I couldn't agree more, but when your stock holding is up 200 - 300% to cope with the extremes of sale selling, it is not always possible to keep your pick locations replenished with the allocated stock.
One of the other big things is getting very tactical with how you action your orders. We have only really just started playing with this in the last 12 months, but by playing around with the built in actioning capabilities Peoplevox has, we found various ways to action orders that can really improve our output. Single item batch-pick is an obvious winner but, because the majority of products that we sell are in sets, this puts our average order fill through the roof. We have managed to find various ways using '1 person picks multiple sales orders in a batch' using the built in filters that are real game changers in regards to order volumes going out the door!"
Processed and packed orders making their way to the courier pick up on a conveyor belt
How many team members did you have working to get through all the orders, and how did having Peoplevox enable them to work effectively?
"We only have 25 full time warehouse staff currently - this was scaled up to 100 people across 2 shifts. As above, ease of training and removal of human error allows this to happen."
Trolleys full of picked items ready to be scanned in at the dispatch benches
You're a champion of direct to consumer brands running their own fulfilment from their own warehouse. Why is that so important to Lounge? What are some of the key benefits to running your own warehouse, especially with a system like Peoplevox.
"I wouldn't say we are champions, but we give it a good go. I think it is important that we can maintain customer service levels that we want to stick to. We are also aware of anything that is going well or not so well. One of the biggest benefits is having your customer service team liaising directly with your warehouse team: Peoplevox allows all areas of the business to have a full view on where the orders are in the processing journey."
Overview of pick and bulk locations, as well as a forklift operator moving items from pallet storage up high, making most use of their floorspace
Thanks to Jack, we can share first hand insights into the thought process and operational prep-work that goes into a high velocity sales period for a hyper-growth brand like Lounge. It’s great feedback to hear that Peoplevox gave Lounge Underwear’s fulfilment team the confidence to deliver on their customer promises. They’ve consistently met huge volumes of orders head on and handled them with smooth, effective process. Every time the brand is on show, more customers are delighted each time.
Massive thank you to the Lounge team for capturing the energy and productivity of their distribution centre with the videos and images seen here. You can keep up with them on Linkedin here as well as on Instagram.