Laura Ashley and Federal Express Strategic Alliance Laura and Bernard Ashley began their global presence on their kitchen table in London in 1953 printing textiles hoping for a lifetime in the retail world.
Growing to become a famous designer of woman’s affluent clothing , fabrics and home furnishings, their style was that of the English rural life and quality to the consumer. The company’s competitive edge was strong as they focused on the needs of women with good tastes, yet still had their feet grounded to reality and responsibility.In 1990, even though Laura Ashley stores were aplenty, 481 to exact, their money woes and financial structure were even more of a disaster.
Their own supply chain originally was an asset to the company, but due to its ever changing needs and complexity, outsourcing became inevitable. With their growth, management felt the strains as a underdeveloped old aged information system kept them steps behind others trying to make a name for themselves in the retail markets both domestically and internationally.Out of stock merchandise along with inadequate warehousing facilities and distribution centers were enough for Bernard to hand the reins over to Jim Maxmin, a former CEO of Thorne EMI in 1991 to salvage what was left of the once popular company.
Maxmin jumped right in and put a revitalization process into play and restructurized the company focusing on global coordination. Brand management also became important to Maxmin as did licensing to open up doors that may not have been opened during previous years.Unfortunately one very dismal area was their warehousing and inventory that would take years to recreate if Maxmin started from scratch.
Not wanting to turn his shipping operations over to exporters, he had to find a way to reach out and think outside the box in order to stay in the game. Maxmin took the initiative and approached Fed-Ex to see if a strategic alliance could occur. This alliance would allow Laura Ashley’s company to re organize their distribution system and create an integrated system through cross functional project teams.Warehouses in various areas would play vital roles in the alliance such as the Newton facility that would serve as the central processing for Laura Ashley while other warehouses would close. Satellite processing would occur and direct ships would be a thing to look forward to.
Linking it all together is the key to the success of this operation jointure. Tracking systems would be set in place for both companies and it would follow the process from cradle to grave so complete information would be provided to them for customer satisfaction.All in all the combination of these two companies is a win- win for both of them as they can now benefit from each other’s expertise in the retail and logistical fields. Laura Ashley can rest easy knowing that her company, born on a table top in a flat in London many years ago, will survive in today’s market with the help of Fed-Ex.
References Global Operations and Logistics: Text and Cases, 1e ISBN: 0471120367 Author: Philippe-Pierre Dornier, Ricardo Ernst, Michel Fender, Panos Kouvelis copyright © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc