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Eileen Fisher Fine-Tunes Sustainable Merchandising Process

With the clock ticking down to Eileen Fisher’s deadline of achieving 100 percent sustainability by 2020, the venerable women’s sustainable-apparel brand has made a last-minute pivot.

“We were mapping our path to 100 percent sustainability, and [we] realized the way we were operating was not moving us toward our goals,” explained Regina Reyes, vice president of omni-planning at Eileen Fisher.  

The problem, she said, was the firm’s merchandising planning. Because it wasn’t firmly coupled to a financial goal, Eileen Fisher was “constantly in reactive mode,” Reyes said. 

To help it run its merchandising workflow in a more holistic way—and meet the environmental and social milestones laid out in its Vision2020 campaign—Eileen Fisher hired Columbus Consulting International to help it craft an integrated business process “from design to distribution.”

The Columbus, Ohio-based consultancy, which specializes in retail business systems, spurred Eileen Fisher to launch a new, more flexible and responsive merchandise financial planning function, as well as a company-wide universal calendar that supports cross-functionality across all business units.

“Our end-to-end process was made up of a large amount of cross-functional work that needed to come together into one company timeline,” Reyes said. “It became evident that it would be difficult for us to do it on our own.”

And Columbus Consulting understood the firm’s challenges off the bat, not to mention its progressive company culture and strategy, she added.

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“We wanted to work with a consulting firm that acknowledged our objective of achieving operational excellence without losing our DNA, without losing what makes us Eileen Fisher,” Reyes said.

Eileen Fisher’s fine-tuned roadmap is an “enhanced approach” that not only bakes in fluidity, trust, accountability and creative latitude but also incorporates customer-centric data and cross-functional partner input, the brand said. Meanwhile, the universal calendar—dubbed the “virtual binder”—will ensure that each step toward Vision2020 informs the next while providing transparency throughout the organization, it added. 

“From a change management perspective, it can be very helpful to have an outsider’s point of view,” said Patty Heilman, organization development partner at Eileen Fisher. “It’s been a very collaborative process. We combined our collaborative approach with industry expertise to move us forward in an amazingly short amount of time.”

Working with Columbus Consulting, Heilman said, has bolstered Eileen Fisher’s ability to meld data with intuition.

“That’s really transformational for our company and we are excited about the future,” she said.