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Meeting customer expectations all year round: how River Island handles online shopping peaks

Added on March 24th 2020
Alongside its 350 brick-and-mortar stores, UK fashion brand River Island has a number of web shops, which ship to over 100 countries worldwide. River Island runs its e-commerce logistics operation from a large logistics center, just outside the English town of Milton Keynes.
 On an average day, River Island handles tens of thousands of articles – a number which easily multiplies on peak days, such as Christmas, sales time and Black Friday. One of River Island’s main logistical challenges is dealing with these kind of online shopping peaks, says Logistics Director Arif Ahmed: “The biggest challenge within our business, and we are not alone here, is making sure that we can meet the customer’s expectation all year round.”

From ‘man going to goods’ to ‘goods going to man’
River Island saw the potential of e-commerce early on, which is why it already decided on investing in an Optimus sorter system some ten years ago. A solution which gradually “evolved” along with increasing online demand.
“We initially started with just manual stations, where people were literally taking totes and goods to the packers. Then, we introduced some simple conveyors only. In 2012, we introduced stage one mechanical sortation equipment. And more recently, in 2015, we went on with more dispatch lanes, more exits”, he refers to River Island’s current set-up: a mechanical sorter with 140 exits, combined with pigeon holes for even greater order picking efficiency. “So yes, we gradually moved and evolved from a ‘man going to goods’ operation to a ‘goods going to man’ operation.”
 
The importance of a good partnership
What does Ahmed think is special about this particular sorter system? In short: “It is basic and simple, just like we wanted. Because we want it to be effective and we don’t want there to be complexities.”
Having said that, he emphasizes that he considers his personal relationship with a supplier at least as important as the product supplied. “It is not just about being effective, or about being efficient. It is also important to evaluate the relationship you are going to have, going forward with that company and with the key stakeholders within that company. For me, that formed a big part of the decision making process. And the truth is, we are very happy with Optimus.”
 
Able to react when customer demand spikes
Finally: does the sorter system live up to its promise? Definitely, according to Ahmed: “When customer demand spikes, we are able to react to it. Whether it’s ten thousand parcels we have to deliver or a hundred thousand; we deliver it within the customer’s expectations.”
 
Want to find out what a sorter system could mean for your own logistical processes? We would be happy to speak to you about this.
 
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