Inside Lucky Brand's "Project Leapfrog"

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Inside Lucky Brand's "Project Leapfrog"

By Jordan K. Speer, Apparel Editor in Chief - 05/12/2016
Brand longevity and industry experience go a long way in the apparel marketplace, but when it comes to omnichannel retailing — which today, is really just retailing — new start-ups often come on the scene with a built-in advantage. That is, they're not bogged down by cumbersome legacy systems whose siloed channels and custom integrations are a major hindrance to a seamless supply chain experience, for both company and consumer.

It's rare that an established brand has the opportunity to start with a clean slate on which to build its IT, but that's just what happened for Lucky Brand. The denim maker, which is positioned as "accessible premium" and was founded 26 years ago by Gene Montesano and Barry Perlman, was acquired in December 2013 for $225 million by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners from its former parent, Fifth & Pacific Companies, now Kate Spade.

Under its former owner, "IT had been one of many shared services, which Lucky Brand needed to build from scratch, in order to become an independent, stand-alone company," says Jason Richard, who joined as the team leader five months into the two-year timeframe that Lucky had been given to transition off of its legacy ERP platform while building an entirely new IT team and infrastructure to support growth of its wholesale customers, its expanding store network and increasingly omnichannel consumers. Lucky sells direct to consumer via its e-commerce website and 259 Lucky Brand store locations (many of which are currently being converted from mall-based locations to free-standing stores), and also distributes through large department store retailers including Macy's, Dillard's and Nordstrom.

How did it go? "We built an IT team while completing the entire transition in 15 months," says Richard.

Lucky Brand named its program Project Leapfrog, "a mantra to everyone that we would take advantage of this unique opportunity to completely reinvent the technology landscape," says Richard. Critical to its transformation was an ERP solution that could meet its immediate needs as well as one that would scale with its growth, he says.

Richard, who already had experience working with cloud-based applications during his tenure at Williams-Sonoma, thought that Lucky would benefit from the agility and scalability the cloud would offer to both its retail and wholesale businesses. After evaluating several ERP providers, the company selected NetSuite OneWorld for the technical flexibility that its cloud offering provided, the ability to implement on a very aggressive schedule, and the overall cost of implementation, says Richard. The system runs business processes for financial consolidation, inventory management, procure-to-pay, fixed assets, and multi-currency and multi-tax compliance management.

A key feature of the ERP solution was the integration of inventory and financials on a unified platform — having that one single version of the truth will "ultimately be the biggest game-changer," he says. "In many companies, there are often timing issues, discrepancies or reconciliations to perform, leading to questions about the integrity of data at the core. The integrated foundation is key to helping us manage our business effectively.

The trust it can now have in the integrity of its data — and having just one version of it — opens up possibilities across the organization. Internally, says Richard "our largely-millennial user base appreciates the modern feel and response of the solution" — a crucial point when you consider how difficult it can be to recruit and keep good talent. Millennials, in particular, do not want to be bogged down with systems that use clunky and counterintuitive technology.

The new system has also automated business activities that were previously manual, or required multiple entries across disparate systems, he says, which frees up time for that user base to focus on tasks that build value — such as expanding its channel offerings and getting hot new product in front of Millennial shoppers quickly.

Most companies don't get the chance to start with a clean slate. Sometimes you're just Lucky.
— Jordan K. Speer


Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this, you'll want to read up on all of our other 2016 Top Innovators.