A Century of Success: Red Wing Shoes Innovates for Continued Growth

Marc Kermisch, VP & CIO at Red Wing Shoe Co.
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Marc Kermisch, VP & CIO at Red Wing Shoe Co.

A commitment to innovation, quality and customer service has propelled Red Wing Shoes to a company whose leadership has stood the test of time. With roots that date back to 1905, Red Wing Shoes knows industrial footwear and knows it well. The company’s founder, Charles Beckman, saw a local necessity for shoes specifically designed for the demands of the mining, logging and farming industries. He started Red Wing Shoes in the small mining town of Red Wing, Minn.

A History of Mobile Sales

Red Wing Shoes’ innovation is a big part of the company’s success. In 1940, the company launched the first mobile shoe store. Trucks that contained miniature showrooms drove up to worksites and sold shoes to workers on the spot. Not only did the shoe trucks improve sales, the company also found them a valuable way to get customer feedback.

Today, Red Wing Shoes has 500 retail stores and its products sold in more than four thousand registered retailers including Bass Pro Shops, Mills Fleet Farm and REI. The company has also partnered with big name retailers such as Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom and J. Crew for its consumer footwear lines.

  For us to be competitive, we knew we needed to provide an online channel for our products 

Determined to make “truly good shoes” Beckman created a benchmark of excellence for providing quality footwear. This approach is still very much a part of the company’s fabric. Red WingShoes’ purpose-built footwear has always been at the forefront of innovation for work boots. Its focus on quality coupled with its commitment to providing exceptional and personalized service, which has given Red Wing Shoes its enviable reputation.

A New Retail Landscape Brings Change

Over the years, Red Wing’s primary business has been in the B2B segment, but the company also serves the consumer market with fashion, hiking, and hunting boots. Red Wing recently launched a line of boots designed specifically for women. The company is working hard to continually evolve its brand beyond work boots and has tapped in to new segments and engaged diverse shoppers to ensure it is capturing its slice of the $50 billion footwear industry —all while keeping its core market of work boots intact.

Company leadership realized years ago that in addition to products changing, the retail landscape was changing. With the rise of mobile devices and the ability to order anything from anywhere, anytime, Red Wing Shoes knew it needed to evolve to keep pace with the rising expectations of today’s consumers. Consumers are savvier than ever, making it increasingly difficult for retailers to satisfy their digital needs. For us to be competitive, we knew we needed to provide an online channel for our products.

E-commerce was a new initiative for us and we had to get it right but still continue to run our physical stores effectively and support our retail partners. To do this, we turned to technology to support our growing operations both on-line and in stores.

In addition to advancing its online presence, the team at Red Wing Shoes also knew its current supply chain solutions were in need of an upgrade. We were looking for a partner that could expand with them as they were quickly out growing their legacy systems. Moreover, onboarding new trading partners with the company’s previous EDI provider was a lengthy process of six to nine months and the delay was getting in the way of the company’s growth.

After a thorough review of supply chain software providers, Red Wing Shoes selected SPS Commerce for cloud-based solutions for fulfillment, assortment and analytics.

Red Wing Shoes selected SPS Fulfillment to manage the transfer of purchase orders, invoices, and other documents with major retail chains, primarily via EDI. Having SPS Commerce’s Fulfillment solutions in place provides improved visibility to orders across all channels and automates many functions to make operations run more efficiently.

We really wanted a fulfillment partner that could grow and scale with our business. SPS Commerce understood our business needs and what we wanted to do. They were the right company to take our supply chain solutions up a notch.

With SPS Fulfillment, Red Wing Shoes can onboard a trading partner in weeks rather than months and one connection to the SPS Retail Network provides access to 65,000 trading partners.

Red Wing Shoes also selected SPS Commerce Analytics to make fact-based decisions about product assortment and inventory. With cloud-based Analytics, the company accesses in-depth point of sale (POS) data in real-time to track and address consumer demand by store location.

Analytics also provides the retail insight in to how specific products are performing in stores to ensure that the right inventory is in the right place at the right time. For example, easy-to-use dashboards give Red Wing Shoes the ability to track how its Irish Setter line of hunting boots is faring across several large retail chains. Buyers at Red Wing Shoes have determined which metrics to track to continually monitor sales and inventory levels. The historical sales trends that Analytics provides also help Red Wing Shoes better predict what will sell when and what will sit on the shelf so that the company can take immediate corrective action.

There are so many factors involved in what sells by store based on things like region and weather so having this type of granular, real-time data, helps us quickly make changes, which helps us to sell smarter.

As More Sales Channels Emerge, Red Wing is Ready

In addition to its consumer e-commerce site, Red Wing is planning to launch a B2B e-commerce site open to any business that wants to purchase industrial work boots and other products.

As Red Wing continues to build out operations and infrastructure to support online and store sales, it will continue to improve customer satisfaction through innovative product designs, in-stock inventories and rapid fulfillment. As a company, we aim to better personalize interactions with our customers based on their known interests, to continue to improve our inventory management, and better forecast and plan product assortments to support buying trends by region and store.

Becoming a true omnichannel company has been very exciting. We’re fortunate to have found a technology partner in SPS who has played a big part in getting us there and helping us compete in digital retailing.

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