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L.L. Bean automates forecasting and replenishment

LL Bean store
L.L. Bean is increasing its supply chain accuracy.

L.L. Bean is improving its sales and merchandise forecasting.

The iconic outdoor retailer is leveraging Blue Yonder merchandise financial planning, forecasting and replenishment technology to more accurately predict sales, appropriately buy products from its vendors, and get the right merchandise to the right stores, based on localized customer demand.

A longtime user of Blue Yonder enterprise technology, L.L. Bean found the financial planning, forecasting and replenishment capabilities of the vendor’s solutions especially helpful when COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020. Months of the retailer’s inventory, especially in categories like bikes, boats, and camping supplies, were sold in a few weeks due to sudden, unexpected shifts in consumer demand. 

L.L. Bean had to read and react quickly to changing demand signals to be able to maintain normal operations and avoid widespread fulfillment delays and out-of-stocks. The retailer leveraged Blue Yonder technology to generate new insights and information virtually overnight – a process that would have been impossible if attempted manually.

Because of this agility, L.L. Bean was able to exceed sales plans in many categories by more than 130% while also reducing inventory liabilities in other areas that were negatively impacted by the pandemic.

In addition, in 2019, L.L. Bean implemented a forecasting method called “slow mover logic,” which places more reliance on prescribed safety stock instead of imprecise forecast on the lowest level, addressing the majority of SKUs.

This approach helped the company when the pandemic hit because it allowed L.L. Bean to utilize inventory for direct sales when stores were temporarily closed. Once stores reopened, the company utilized dynamic allocation based on historical need variables of prior week sales for deployment calculations. L.L. Bean was also able to prioritize orders based on store tiers, product profile and product exposure.

These pandemic responses occurred in addition to L.L. Bean creating accurate forecasting not only for the coming year, but achieving long-term visibility and planning capabilities for several years ahead.

L.L. Bean operates 56 stores in 19 states across the United States, along with 24 stores in Japan and eight stores in Canada in partnership with Jaytex Group.  The company was founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean and began as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe. Still family-owned, Shawn Gorman, great-grandson of Leon Leonwood Bean, was named chairman in 2013.

Walgreens opens inventory visibility

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Brian Amend, senior director, supply chain systems, Walgreens, about the drugstore retailer’s decision to enhance its inventory management capability with Blue Yonder technology.

Walgreens stores remained opened during the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic as essential businesses. However, given the sudden sharp increase in customer usage of omnichannel shopping features, the retailer realized it needed to accelerate having more advanced algorithms and capabilities to support these offerings.

Walgreens decided to deploy Blue Yonder inventory management technology, which is part of the supply chain management solutions company’s order management systems (OMS) suite.

“At Walgreens, we view OMS as a supply chain solution,” said Amend. “There is tremendous value in knowing where inventory is and how to best fulfill it. A ‘rip and replace’ of the whole OMS platform is a full-year project and higher risk.”

Instead, Walgreens performed a five-month pilot of Blue Yonder inventory management technology across the chain. “The algorithms and the decisions on where to get inventory are better, but the process has not changed,” said Amend. If a store doesn’t have a specific item a customer placing an omnichannel order wants, another nearby store may be able to fulfill it.

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