© Boohoo
© Boohoo

How procurement became a trusted friend to the business at Boohoo

posted by Muireann Bolger
21 January 2016

Living the brand helped procurement become a strategic partner at the online fashion retailer.

"The procurement team continually smashes it!”

So says boohoo.com CEO Mahmud Kamani. It’s the kind of ringing endorsement some can only dream of. The young team at the fashion e-tailer earned this accolade after becoming a ‘trusted friend’ to the business.

When Jo Watson, now head of procurement and facilities, joined the company as procurement manager in summer 2013, her challenge was to rein in a maverick spending culture across business departments and create a project pipeline. She had to move fast to establish rapport with management teams to ensure her role was seen as a desirable must-have.

The team promoted the value they could add by holding presentations at company strategy days and commercial awareness workshops. They also ran inductions for every new employee. They realised it was key to be seen as ‘boohoo.com’ first and foremost, living its brand values of passionate, agile, creative and team.

“We prefer catchy marketing straplines to corporate business language because it fits with the personality of the brand,” says Watson. “We position ourselves as the go-to team – ‘we’ll manage and facilitate, we’ll have difficult conversations with suppliers, we’ll take the pain of contracts away, we’ll get board sign-off and save you money’.”

The team, which has expanded to four members, has played a major role in 88 projects, covering everything from sourcing, negotiating and contract drafting to project management, supplier relationship management, budget control and risk management.

In a brand-led business such as fashion, it was particularly important to win over the marketing department. This unit has 20 live projects across digital, brand, social media, international, e-commerce and creative, with 15 more projects in the pipeline over the next six months.

Boohoo.com reported sales of £90.8m in the first half of the 2015 financial year. Implementing effective procurement policies saved £3.8m up to October 2015 and procurement’s contribution goes beyond bottom-line savings. “Professional procurement practice is now fully integrated across the business and the executive board is our greatest advocate,” says Watson. “We have quickly established ourselves as a truly respected support function in a young, dynamic, agile and rapidly growing company.” 

Making fashion move fast
These are exciting times for online fashion retailer boohoo.com. In 2015, seven years after it was founded, it floated on the AIM to become a PLC. The site, which targets 16- to 24-year-olds, attracts 13m visits a month and 3m customers across 181 countries. The board’s strategic decision to create a procurement department has contributed to growth in a company that has to be as fast moving as its core market.

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