Director of Sourcing Operations and Imports, Paul Seymour, talks openly about the increasing importance of an ethical supply chain in the retail industry.
Prior to their closure in 2021 Debenhams were one of the early retail pioneers, searching for visibility and control over their supply chain. Paul Seymour, Director of Sourcing Operations and Imports for Debenhams at the time, introduced a nominated packaging program for branded packaging
Despite rationalising the packaging references to leverage the volume metrics, we had consistently failed to deliver the volume sales through our nominated sources. We knew the volumes we were negotiating against were real, we had updated our T&C’s, mandating that all packaging must be bought from nominated sources, however we lacked any visibility into what was actually happening within our supply chain, and possessed no real power to enforce the new policy.
Debenhams wanted a solution to provide insight and control of their supply chain. “We were looking for a platform which would enable us to upload our order book and, in real time, watch our suppliers transacting their packaging orders through our nominated sources” said Seymour.
Debenhams partnered with Segura, the world’s leading platform for next generation transparency, who provided a solution that allowed them to export a copy of their orderbook as a CSV file and share it directly on the platform. Nominated packaging suppliers then uploaded their packaging references, allowing garment suppliers to order from them directly from them and capturing that data, giving Debenhams instant visibility of their tier 1 and 2 supply chain.
“Anyone with any experience of running global supply chains will agree that 10 years ago, this was ground-breaking” commented Seymour; "Within our first year we were able to increase compliance of packaging ordering from 40% to over 80%. More than doubling our previous attempts and giving us deeper insight and understanding than ever before".
Commercially, Debenhams elected to operate a packaging rebate scheme. “Although we previously monitored volumes as closely as we were able to manually, with the new platform we were finally able to confirm volumes automatically. As a result, we saw a direct and significant increase to the bottom line as-well as a greater transparency of our supply chain. We could confirm that our packaging was being ordered by the right supplier, and also the elected audited factory.” The increased visibility of costs allowed Debenhams buying teams to validate open costing sheets, which directly drove an improved brand experience with consistent packaging throughout the store.
It (Segura) improved our communications with buying teams and potential suppliers on new packaging launches, and allowed us to align packaging production and product manufacturing locations to ensure that all packaging was available in country of product manufacture. Reducing lead times and costs. There was also an efficiency saving for our suppliers who, rather than buying packaging from multiple nominated sources, and filling in multiple order forms, could now buy the packaging from one source and have it delivered from multiple nominated suppliers. During our second year with Segura, we were able to again increase compliance further to above 98%.
Although Debenhams has subsequently ceased trading the importance of a fully transparent supply chain has only grown. The landscape of supplier sourcing is changing rapidly and the demand to bring more visibility, control and accountability to retailers and brands is constantly growing.
“Working with Segura enabled us to achieve an ethical, sustainable and compliant multi-tiered supply chain. We were able to access real-time information giving us the assurance that our suppliers were both sustainable and ethical.”
Peter Needle, Founder and President at Segura says “Our aim is that one day every product will come with provenance: accessible, trustworthy information about origin, journey and impact. We want to empower brands and support their journey in making a positive impact on people and planet.”
Paul Seymour now works as an independent consultant, working with brands, private equity, NGO’s and governments advising them on sourcing and supply chain topics, creating platforms for growth, promoting sustainability and the circular economy.