KIKOMO’S TAKE ON INVENTORY
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — Kikomo Ltd., the parent of Ruff Hewn and the licensee of such brands as Wrangler, Riders and Brittania sportswear for men and women, has developed a process it believes takes vendor-managed inventory to a new level.
The program, called In 7, combines a new fabric and yarn technology with a new take on replenishment that aims to increase both the turn on the retailer’s selling floor and the cycle time of merchandise.
Under the program, Kikomo will deliver initial shipments, or “floor sets.” Once that merchandise hits the floor and retailers get an idea of what styles and colors will be strong, they can replenish based on customers’ demands. Kikomo promises an unlimited range of colors and patterns of the product in seven days, a process that usually takes about 28 days, according to Neil Kukreja, president of Kikomo.
“We’ve invented a process that will make us become the fast food of apparel,” said Kukreja. “We offer flexibility in choosing color and finish and a lead time in a week. We can micromarket by door. We can test products in the store, and react quickly.”
Kikomo will start shipping men’s shirts this month to ShopKo and other mass chains, and plans to expand into women’s sport shirts in the next couple of months, said Jeff Berman, chief operating officer, who declined to name the other retailers. Within the next 18 months, all of Kikomo’s products are expected to be converted to In 7, said Berman. ShopKo will be the first to launch the program.
The plan is to eliminate all the “guesswork” stores do when buying huge quantities in different styles and colors six months in advance, said Berman.
With In 7, the garments are shipped from Asia as either cotton knit or woven shirt “blanks” to the company’s manufacturing plant in North Carolina. There, garments are finished using a new yarn technology. The yarns react to the same dye differently, allowing the company to convert a shirt into a brightly colored garment or a patterned top in one step, according to Dr. Lynn Hazlett, a former chief executive officer of QRS Corp., who was a consultant to the program.
Kikomo is using nine “modules,” or blanks, that can be converted into 28 colors, and then nine finishes and nine appliques, he said.
ShopKo will test men’s knit shirts in 20 stores in the next few weeks, and plans to expand that number to 100 early next year.
“If it works, this will give us a lot of flexibility. It will give us the ability to get in and out of styles and colors,” said Skip Chutz, divisional vice president of ShopKo, which operates 160 stores. “The concept is great, but the execution is critical.”