Casa fast-tracks e-commerce

Retail Retail Transport & Logistiek Transport & Logistiek

CASA Shops took a rigorous step in their e-commerce strategy in 2020. They put their entire range of stylish gifts and home furnishings & accessories online in one go. Walter Goossens, the Supply Chain Director, explains the enormous impact this had on their European distribution centre in Olen, Belgium, which had until then focused purely on store replenishment. “We deliberately opted to integrate everything in the existing WMS from our supplier, Centric.”

The number 2020 is doubly significant for the home furnishings & accessories chain CASA. When the company split off from its parent company, Blokker Holding, in 2016 and was positioned directly under the family-owned foundation, management announced a radical innovation programme. Not only was the look & feel of the stores to be revitalised, but also

the entire range of products, the marketing and

the communications. Logistics were centralised in a brand-new, automated distribution centre in Olen. This operation was given the working title of CASA 20.20, a combination of CASA 2.0 and 2020, the year in which the metamor phosis was to take place.

In addition to creating inspiring stores - there are 462, 36 of which are in the Netherlands - the range of products was also completely overhauled: it was modernised with new, stylish collections aimed at young people and families. We also started selling larger objects, such as tables, chairs and garden lounge sets,” says Goossens. “They were delivered to customers’ homes from the point of view of convenience, but we only worked with real e-commerce on a limited scale. The new online store gave customers the chance to order some 700 larger articles; we temporarily outsourced fulfilment to a logistics service provider.”

Breaking point

And then it was 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic erupted. “That was a real breaking point for us. On the one hand, it was disastrous, because lockdown meant we had to close all our stores and our cash flow came under serious pressure. On the other hand, it was also a blessing, because everyone had to stay at home and they started paying more attention to their home décor.” CASA’s new range of products became very popular. To meet the enormous demand and be able to offer the end-of-year collection online too, the company decided to speed up its e-commerce plans and offer its entire range of products online in one go. This had huge logistics consequences because the company CASA had previously outsourced its fulfilment activities to was unable to take on this quantity of work. Goossens:

“There was nothing else for it than to fast-track the insourcing of our entire e-commerce activities and take on fulfilment ourselves. There was one major challenge however: the new central distribution centre in Olen had been purely set up to replenish stores.”

Well-oiled machine

It was a major challenge, but it had to be solved quickly: the end-of-year peak was in sight. The company didn’t want to lose any time and decided to start by handling the exploding e-commerce operation manually while incorporating it as quickly as possible into existing processes in the meantime. “These processes were running like a well-oiled machine

at that time. The new distribution centre was fitted out with the most modern equipment, such as an automatic bulk warehouse with autonomous reach trucks. We used Centric’s Locus WMS for planning and management, which we had already worked with in our previous warehouses. This WMS was fully fine-tuned to ensure that the automatic store replenishment would run as efficiently as possible, but we weren’t using e-commerce in this warehouse yet. We knew that Centric had acquired a lot of experience at other retail customers of integrating B2C deliveries in store-based warehouses.”


In conjunction with Centric, the new processes for handling consumer orders were drawn up in no time. A new picking zone for consumer orders was set up with dynamic picking locations and packaging lines connected to the shipping department via sorting conveyors. All movements of goods had to be regulated by Locus WMS such that the right speed, quality and productivity could be achieved. “For us, quality primarily means delivery accuracy,” explains Goossens. “It’s something that is always important, but for e-commerce it’s crucial. Consumers are much less forgiving than store staff when orders are delivered wrongly or late. We have built in additional checks using scanners and tablets to be certain that every shipment contains the right articles. Locus WMS has built-in checks & balances for tracing and correcting picking errors immediately.”

Specific challenges

Some creative solutions were found during the project for activities which take place differently in B2C than in B2B. Special packaging had to be developed to ensure that breakable items reached the consumer in one piece. There were also all sorts of specific challenges that had to be solved within Locus WMS, such as picking combined articles or articles stacked together.

Suppliers deliver baskets ‘nested’: large baskets with a few smaller ones inside and they are normally sent to the store as a single package. Consumers, by contrast, generally only order one basket of a particular size. A picker therefore has to remove it from the pile and return the others to the shelf. Goossens: “These types of specific situations first have to be worked out and integrated into the WMS before you can go live. You can’t do an implementation like this by halves. In the end, everything worked out well and in time for the end-of-year peak in 2021.”

Now, six months on, Goossens is happy that he opted for the integrated solution for store replenishment and consumer deliveries. “Because we have incorporated everything into Locus, we can build on our employees’ existing knowledge and the training they have already had. The quality of the order deliveries to consumers has also improved tremendously: Locus WMS has greatly reduced the number of errors.”

“We have built in checks and balances in Locus WMS for tracing and correcting picking errors immediately”

Walter Goossens Supply Chain Director, CASA Shops


Something Goossens and his team continue to work hard on is increasing productivity. “Efficiency could be improved somewhat in order picking and in packaging consumer orders. One of the ways we’re going to do this is by working more with order profiles and developing separate flows for them.”

CASA Shops is a company with an ambitious omnichannel growth strategy, and since 2020 it has focused on further expanding its e-commerce activities and making them more professional. “We will have to streamline things more to be able to cope with this growth from a logistics point of view. The current distribution centre in Olen is big enough for us to quadruple our online revenue, but we would need to take a good look at how we grow, and develop the right processes to do so.” Goossens hopes that Centric will continue to give him full support in the future too. “Given our experiences up to now, I have complete confidence that they will.”

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