How Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s supply chain brings the business closer to its customers  

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (A&F Co.) is a leading, global specialty retailer of apparel and accessories for men, women, and kids through five renowned brands. With an extensive global network, A&F Co.’s supply chain is a critical function to ensure the business delivers excellent customer service regardless of how the customer interacts with the brand or where they are located.  

Larry Grischow
Larry Grischow

With consumer demands constantly evolving, retail can be a challenging landscape. However, by leveraging strong working relationships to understand the unique elements customers are demanding, A&F Co. constantly stays ahead of the curve. We sat down with Larry Grischow, Executive Vice President of Supply Chain and Procurement, to learn more about the business. 

“2023 was a very exciting year for A&F Co.,” Larry opens. “A&F Co. has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, a large part of which has been our digital revolution,” he continues. “We recognized that a high proportion of our customers interact with us digitally, using our website or mobile app to place orders. With the mindset of putting our customers first, our key foundational elements are unifying data, modernizing our technology stack, and embracing new methods by moving to a more agile product-based way of working. 

“As a customer-obsessed business, our supply chain puts customers at the heart of everything we do. We want to work together to identify which areas cause the most friction and eliminate those points to add value to the customer experience. Based on this principle, we’re making meaningful improvements to our fulfilment and post-fulfilment services, as well as driving efficiencies across the entire supply chain. 

“In the parcel space, for example, we’ve implemented advanced tools to help us optimize the speed with which customers receive their order, but also to identify the most cost-effective option. We’ve focused on optimizing our parcel network, including further diversification. As a company with a global presence, we must find ways to drive decision-making as close to the customer as possible to ensure that model is successful. By leveraging relationships with regional carriers like OnTrac and putting advanced digital tools in place, we continue to deliver solutions that meet or preferably exceed customer expectations.”  

Data-driven decision making 

Another area that has seen significant transformation is A&F Co.’s post-fulfilment service. “We’ve invested in innovative technology that allows us to provide an elevated level of service to our VIP ‘loyalty-tier’ customers with benefits like fast refunds,” Larry adds. “We’re also applying modern tools and technologies to tackle the issue of retail fraud in the US. With public information showing the extent of the problem, we’re using smart algorithms to make the best decisions and ultimately, to protect our customers. 

“We’re currently wrapping up a project to enhance and modernize our visible tools, which will enable us to make decisions much faster. With evolving technologies like AI dominating conversations, we currently have several test-and-learn AI implementations ongoing, most of which are on making the associate-facing side of the supply chain more efficient.” 

However, Larry is keen to highlight that although technology is a key part of A&F Co.’s digital revolution, people and processes are of equal importance. “It’s crucial that we have technology, people, and processes working symbiotically to deliver value, as the combination of those things is greater than the sum of its parts,” Larry states. “In terms of processes, we’re leaning into more agile ways of work and focusing on data-driven decision making. 

“On the people side of things, we strive to maintain our wonderful company culture and we’ve been certified as a Great Place to Work for the last three years. One of our values is to see everyone as a leader regardless of their position; we encourage everyone to demonstrate leadership qualities like staying curious and pushing boundaries. We see our corporate purpose as being there for not just our customers but our associates as well ‘on the journey to being and becoming who they are.’ Our goal is therefore to build a culture where people bring their best selves to work every single day.” Abercrombie & Fitch warehouse

Logistics is also a critical area of the supply chain, especially as organizations must navigate the challenges and disruptions across the globe. “If we think about the processes involved from source to demand, it requires an ecosystem of multiple ecosystems,” Larry states. “It’s a highly complex environment, especially when you have a global footprint like A&F Co., so it’s important that we align with suppliers and strategic partners that share our objective to delight our customers at every touchpoint.  

“We’ve opened new distribution centers in Phoenix, Arizona and Rushden, UK. The primary drivers of these investments have been our growth, particularly in the e-commerce space. Not only do these centers enable further growth, but they also help us to mitigate risk and inject more resilience into our supply chain. 

“In Phoenix specifically, we’ve invested heavily in automation,” he adds. “We’ve installed an advanced robotic field, for example, which is our core material handling equipment within that fulfillment center. While there are some challenges with automation, we’re working with expert third party partners to ensure we can reap all the benefits of improved speed and quality, while also prioritizing the safety of our associates.” 

As our conversation draws to a close, Larry touches upon the topic on everyone’s mind – sustainability. “We’re working to minimize our carbon footprint by reducing our carbon emissions and water consumption during the manufacturing process,” he notes. “We’ve been part of the United Nations (UN) Global Compact since 2019, which ensures we have systems in place that promote stewardship throughout the supply chain as we tackle the UN’s specific Sustainable Development Goals.” 

From speaking with Larry, it’s clear to see A&F Co.’s dedication to delivering excellent customer service and operating in a way that is kind to not only customers, but employees and the environment. “We’re strategizing with a goal of delivering another incredible year across all brands and geographies,” Larry states when we ask about the future. “The year ahead is all about continued growth as we continue our journey as a global, omnichannel retailer. 

“Overall,” he concludes, “we plan to continue to leverage all the elements I’ve talked about as part of our digital revolution and supply chain capabilities to WOW our customers, drive efficiency and enable global growth. It’s an exciting time to be part of the A&F Co. journey.”