Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Jim Barnes, CEO at supply chain software and consulting firm enVista, discusses what Walmart gets right and why wholesale is the new retail.
Name: Jim Barnes
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
I do not think there is a “best run” supply chain by industry. There are companies, however, that have well-run supply chains, including Walmart. The company’s ability to plan, buy, sell, fulfill and transport merchandise is best in class and a qualified competitor to Amazon. What makes Walmart truly best in class is their focus on continuous improvement through relentless pursuit of cost optimization, driving waste out of the supply chain, optimizing omnichannel fulfillment and achieving end-to-end visibility.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
As a consumer, I am a buyer versus a shopper. When I want something, I pursue it and go get it, rather than shop around or peruse. With that said, I prefer quality over quantity. I tend to favor merchandise that is well-made and timeless.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
The key for me is customer service and care. I appreciate the one-on-one relationships I have developed with sales associates at certain retailers, including Nordstrom and REI, as well as the quality of the products they sell and their associate knowledge. I am willing to pay more for their products because of the service and care they provide. For me, once value is created and trust is established, you have a customer for life.
What is your typical work uniform?
Pre-COVID it was a pair of jeans (denim or colored), casual button-down dress shirt and sport coat, with a pair of tennis shoes. Now it is sweatpants or shorts with a hoodie sweatshirt. I miss consistently dressing up for work. The right clothes make you feel good and more comfortable, putting you in the right frame of mind to have a successful day.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
I am a product of Generation X and love the punk movement. For me, it was liberating to wear clothes that were individualistic and not the same as the person next to you.
Who is your style icon?
I am not sure I have one style icon. People with styles I admire include Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Grace Kelly (wicked) and Bryan Ferry. [Also] fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
What is the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Realigning our organizational structure to match our go-to-market (GTM) strategy has ensured that our organization remains focused on our most important business goal: our customer.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Customer obsessed. As a software and consulting firm with nearly 20 years of experience, we are hyper-focused on providing solutions that solve our customers’ challenges, and we are uniquely positioned to do so across both physical and digital commerce. In our highly transparent organization, we hold ourselves accountable for our clients’ success.
What can companies learn from COVID-19?
This is a hard one because COVID-19 has impacted so many of us, as well as organizations, differently. Inventory remains a top challenge for nearly all companies. With regard to sourcing future orders, retailers are trying to balance declining consumer demand with cutting off supply lines and potentially putting manufacturers out of business.
The biggest lesson learned is to make smart, fast decisions to protect and preserve cash. Constantly communicating and staying connected with your stakeholders, providing guidance and staying unified has helped organizations adapt and respond. COVID-19 has also made us realize what is important: our health, loved ones and families.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Wholesale is the new retail—embrace it. I would seriously think about how to become more vertically integrated. Consider nearshore production, if applicable, to compress time from plan and make to fulfillment. Improve end-to-end supply chain visibility and analytics and expand into digital as fast as possible.
What keeps you up at night?
We need a government that leads with unification. Things that keep me up at night include getting back to some level of normalcy, if possible, and the public health and welfare of all citizens, not just the privileged.
What makes you most optimistic?
The future generation of leaders who have compassion and lead with unity, vision and love.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
Speed is essential for omnichannel organizations today. We recently launched a full suite of Accelerate solutions across supply chain and commerce for quick-hit impacts and business results. EnVista is accelerating omnichannel transformation for clients and enabling critical omnichannel fulfillment capabilities in a matter of weeks versus months, leveraging our agile, cloud-native Unified Commerce Platform, alongside our exceptionally experienced nimble team of experts. We recently helped GNC, Toys R Us Canada and other clients expose store inventory online and enable BOPIS, curbside pickup and ship from store in two to three weeks across their store networks.