What supply chain issues at Puma can teach about resilience

Sakshi Agarwal, a third-year marketing student who wants to someday make a splash in the fashion industry, receives a lesson in resilience in her co-op program with Puma, where she works in the U.S. offices of the German sportswear company.

“I make sure that we have enough inventory in the warehouses, which is a very important task,” she explains, as her team members use this information for planning future inventory. Agarwal closely monitors inventory using specific software to determine if products have arrived or, if not, when they will.

“They give me a job that really matters in the company,” she says.

“They give me a job that really matters in the company,” says Sakshi Agarwal, marketing manager for his cooperative at Puma’s US headquarters in Somerville, MA. Photo by Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

Making sure there are enough things on the shelves is the lifeblood of the retail industry. But global supply chain issues affecting the sneaker and clothing brand, as well as dozens of other industries, are teaching it to accept what is out of its control and get out of sticky situations.

“Unless we get product from the port, there’s not much we can do there,” says Agarwal from Puma’s US headquarters in Somerville, Massachusetts. “We are trying to work with the inventory that we already have.”

If, for example, a particular product is listed as out of stock on the website but there are 1,000 pairs of sneakers in the warehouse, Puma will ensure the shoes arrive at their destination, including in the warehouse. Outlets.

Changing product lines based on inventory is one method of stocking store shelves.

It works like this: if Puma planned to display product A for the month of September, but the inventory did not arrive on time, then it changes the product line and puts in store the product B for which it is has sufficient inventory. Product A is then put in store a month later when inventory finally arrives.

“This way, we are trying to give our customers new products even during the pandemic by changing our in-store plans,” Agarwal said.

Indeed, a few days before Agarwal’s interview with News @ Northeast, Puma chief executive Bjorn Gulden told reporters port congestion and container shortages were to injure Short-term supply of Puma products. He predicted that supply constraints would continue for the rest of the year.

Agarwal has three pairs of Pumas, including the classic buckskin. Photos by Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

Agarwal works in the company’s retail department, which allows him to keep an eye on the products and understand where the fashion trends are going. Puma’s new US office brings together sales and design teams under one roof in the hope that the company will stay ahead of the curve in an industry where trends can change overnight.

Sales of footwear, its most popular offering, rose sharply by 21% in the third quarter, which ended in September. “When it comes to sneakers, Puma suede does the best,” says Agarwal, referring to the iconic line. She owns a vintage pair herself, as well as two other styles.

man in a blue jacket running on a bridge

Despite grunts from the supply chain, Puma has new merchandise coming out next year. Agrawal was careful not to divulge anything, but was more than happy to talk about the company’s past collaborations with top stars.

Singer Rihanna launched a line of chunky-soled Puma Creepers several years ago that reportedly sold out within hours. She followed up with the unveiling of her Fenty clothing and footwear collection at New York Fashion Week. Dua Lipa is currently promoting the brand.

Puma is a major brand in India, where Agarwal’s father owns a steel business. Virat Kohli, captain of India’s national cricket team, has a sponsorship deal, as does Indian actress Kareena Kapoor Khan.

When not keeping an eye on the inventory, the Agarwal Co-op also offers her creative time. She will often come up with designs for T-shirts and shoes. “Every day is different and I work with all three departments: shoes, clothing and accessories. Whenever someone asks me about my co-op, I can’t help but talk about it, ”she says.

The experiential work opportunity ends in a few months, and the experience has allowed her to double her career in fashion. She is pursuing a minor degree in fashion at Northeastern. And the D’Amore-McKim School of Business marketing courses taught people such basic skills as PowerPoint and Excel.

These workplace skills, along with the self-confidence that has developed with working in person at Puma, have helped her navigate different work cultures. “It really helped me grow,” she says.

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