Cecilia Cano is Operations Manager at Brownie. 31, degree in Business Administration, fitness fan, fashion retail and cooking passionate. Cecilia started her professional career at Deloitte Audit Services, in finance, but switched to fashion retail and found her path. She spent 7 years at Oysho, Inditex, as a Buyer and Project & Product Manager for the online store.
The Fashion Retailer: Could you define what Brownie is?
Cecilia Cano: Brownie is a company that transforms its personality into fashion. Easy wear clothes and bohemian style are the main characteristics that define Brownie from 2006.
Our 24 stores + e-shop are focused on women between 14 and 25 years old who look for an urban and natural style.
We bet for original and natural beauty and I think this is key factor that makes our success, Brownie has been successful in understanding Millenials and Generation Z women, completely involved with social media and brand communication.
TFR: What do you feel is/are the key factors that explain Brownie´s successful case? (design, customer service, quality of the products, trends identification and time-to-market, inventory management…?)
CC: Brownie has been very smart identifying a market need, niche. There is a group in Millennials and generation Z women that not only need (desire) fashion and low prices but look for differentiation. Brownie expansion has occurred during the economic crisis, so price should have been a factor of competition, but it wasn’t. What Brownie offered was differentiation with a good quality-price relation.
The company also offers weekly new arrivals in every store, that are the main source of revenue. This could define us as fast fashion company but we are reluctant to this concept as our customer service is very personal and close to our clients. Most of the times store manages act as personal shoppers and give our clients advices and different options. We are not a one-transaction-only company. We like to take care of them.
TFR: What’s your role at Brownie?
CC: While studying an Executive Master in Marketing & Sales, I was hired as a Controller at Brownie. Now, my current position is Head of Operations & Logistics.
TFR: What is a “day in the life of” an Operations & Logistics Manager?
CC: From the Logistics side, my daily tasks are checking stock level in every store that means numerical analysis in a daily basis and daily distribution to stores. We decide every unit that is sent to every store. This fact implies direct communication with stores and warehouse. It may sound simple but we always face with mishaps and we should be fast decisions makers taking on account the company strategy and objectives.
There is a permanent obsession: improve performance from warehouse to stores and instore stock management. This is why I am also involved in Operations projects. RFID implementation and Omnichannel strategy are now two of the projects that I am working on, from planning to coordination, implementation and analysis of results.
TFR: What do you think are the most important skills to succeed in the role?
CC: The first of them is passion for your job and it applies for every position. Without motivation there are no results.
Logistics and Operations need a lot of numerical analysis so you should be a Microsoft Excel “lover” in order to avoid taking wrong decisions.
It is also necessary to have a 360º company overview: every decision you take in Operations affects every department and not always in a good way. Sometimes, to improve a strategic factor that impacts the whole company, we need to focus locally. This obliges us to change internal processes.
To be organized is essential as there are always a lot of different projects in different stages and you should coordinate them all.
TFR: You have previous experience in a leading fashion retailer. Could you describe what are the main differences between such a multinational and Brownie, as an employee?
CC: Before entering Brownie, I was working at Oysho (one of Inditex brands).
The most important benefit of working in a multinational is to experience the best practices, so I could learn from the best players in market. This kind of companies have big budgets in every department, so you can develop big scale projects that makes a difference in company performance and affects customers around the World, that means a huge responsibility.
Of course, it’s always a deal. You can learn from the bests in exchange of your time. It shouldn’t be a problem if you like your job but there is a time when you have to decide if it’s worth it. Another negative point is that in a multinational company, according to my experience, it is very difficult to move horizontally, so you are stacked in your role and you lose the overview of business and focus in your function.
Changing to a medium company (Brownie) in expansion phase has given me the opportunity of feeling the business, to know how every decision is taken and make decisions on my own, affecting completely the company evolution. That is, you feel responsible because you really are. Small and medium companies make you realized that budget is no longer a number, is everyday single effort.
The worst thing of small/medium companies is that you should be able, be capable and available to develop tasks beyond your position. That means, one day you are making decisions about omnichannel strategy and next day you should solve problems with suppliers invoices. For me it’s not a bad thing as it gives you the chance to see all the implications the management has.
TFR: You are responsible of Brownie’s RFID transformation. Could you explain what is RFID and how fashion can profit from its benefits? We know Zara has adapted RFID into their inventories management and this could be the trend for many competitors in the fashion industry. Why is Brownie investing in RFID?
CC: RFID (radio frequency identification) is a technology has existed for many years ago but nowadays is one of the most reliable methods of stock control. It consists on tagging every garment unit the company produces with a sticker with a RFID chip. This chip sends out radio signals and with the appropriate reader you can detect close points of emission.
RFID enables end-to-end visibility and traceability
Fashion retail benefits from this technology because it allows having a better, faster and more reliable inventories. So is that, inventories can be made every day in only 15 minutes with a 99% of accuracy. Apart from this obvious benefit, RFID can be the leverage for omnichannel implementation, be a good method of reducing internal loses and reduces to minimum administrative tasks of store managers (it can be used as an alarm and merchandise validation is no longer one by one, as it can be done in less than a minute with the reader).
Zara has already RFID stock control and 2017 has been pointed out for several companies as the year of RFID implementation, including a couple of Inditex brands.
Brownie decided to implement RFID last year as the company has the focus on omnichannel. Stock accuracy was a need. It was also the right time, as we have an ideal number of stores that allow us to make the roll out and be scalable in a fast way. It’s better to test, invest and improve processes with small number of stores as problems and improvements can be detected and solved faster and better than with a lot of stores.
TFR: How important digital and big data are in fashion retail?
CC: Brownie analyzes its data every single day. Brownie sends to stores new clothes almost everyday, so sales and stock analysis are crucial to take the right decisions. In small/medium companies a bad decision has more impact than in a multinational, as reaction time towards problem is longer and more expensive in relative terms.
TFR: Are you using any analytics software/system to implement RFID?
CC: Yes, we are. New technologies and processes need new softwares to have a good control and usually is provided by the RFID company.
TFR: Does RFID requires a complete change in terms of people, process and system?
CC: RFID implementation is not only changing every internal process, it’s also a change in company culture´s.
Every department is involved and internal processes change totally, from supplier to store managers, this is why a good communication and coordination work should be done by Operations Department.
Read more on RFID: “5 Examples of Innovative Uses for RFID Technology in Retail”
Watch a video of Inditex RFID deploy here