Case Studies How KURU Footwear Puts Its Best Foot Forward

Key Highlights

  • High-volume fulfillment for one of the country’s fastest-growing online stores
  • Have supported at least 10 – 15% annual growth for over 12 years
  • Accommodated 2X increase in order volume during pandemic
  • Redesigned packaging increases efficiency, reduces costs
  • Mobile printing and point-of-pick packing achieves 20% productivity improvement

A Fresh Approach to Footwear

Do you have sore, aching feet? Then you probably haven’t come across KURU Footwear yet. The direct-to-consumer (D2C) shoe company is on a mission to eliminate foot pain.

Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, the company is the brainchild of Bret Rasmussen. He spent two-and-a-half years perfecting and patenting KURUSOLE technology to ensure the perfect blend of heel, ankle and arch support. (Fun fact: In 2022, Rasmussen was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year™ for the Mountain West region.)

Since the company’s launch in 2008, millions of pairs of shoes have hit the doorsteps of customers, who have experienced the unique style, superior support, and incredible comfort of KURU. The shoes have been featured in Runner’s World, Wired and Forbes. With a relentless focus on innovation and commitment to endless comfort, KURU continues to define the future of how footwear should feel.

At KURU Footwear, the customer always comes first. We wanted to work with a company that shares our dedication to surprising and delighting our customers.”

~ Bret Rasmussen, Founder, KURU Footwear

Emphasis on Fulfillment Excellence

KURU got off to a strong start, and Rasmussen quickly recognized the need for order fulfillment expertise. After researching several fulfillment providers, he landed on Saddle Creek Logistics Services in 2010.

Rasmussen was impressed by Saddle Creek’s high standard of service and commitment to continuous improvement. He also appreciated the company’s focus on collaboration and strong partnerships with its clients.

Related: Watch the interview with KURU Footwear

“At KURU Footwear, the customer always comes first. We wanted to work with a company that shares our dedication to surprising and delighting our customers,” Rasmussen explains. “After meeting the folks at Saddle Creek, we knew we’d found the perfect partner – and they’ve been proving us right for twelve years!”

KURU Supply Chain Manager Joel Carlin, who has worked closely with Saddle Creek for the past two years, also values the partnership.

“The customer experience is one of our main tenets at KURU Footwear. Saddle Creek helps us provide that great experience with a seamless process, accurate fulfillment, fast delivery, and excellent customer service,” Carlin says.

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Pandemic Drives Record Demand

Over the next decade, Saddle Creek supported KURU as the digitally native brand experienced steady, organic growth of roughly 10 to 15% every year.

Then the COVID pandemic hit.

Instead of shopping for shoes in stores, consumers moved online – in massive numbers.

KURU’s annual sales revenue climbed 30% in 2020 and an astounding 55% in 2021.

“In 2020, we had the best year in company history, and sales volume accelerated even more in 2021,” Carlin says. “Of course, that’s exciting. But managing that growth can be challenging.”

To complicate matters, supply chain issues extended production and transit lead times for many products. Now those items are arriving all at once, resulting in above-average inventory levels.

In addition, the company’s newly expanded product development team added fresh styles and colors. About 80% of KURU’s 3,000 active SKUs are new for 2022, he says.

Scaling for Growth

Saddle Creek worked together closely with KURU to manage unprecedented order volume. They adjusted goals and plans, identified actions items and reviewed KPIs weekly in order to ensure peak performance.

To accommodate increased inventory, they expanded the operation from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet – still a comparatively compact footprint. High ceilings, very narrow aisles, efficient racking and shelving, and dynamic inventory slotting maximize storage density.

While KURU’s fulfillment footprint has expanded 25% since the pandemic, overall fulfillment output has nearly doubled.

Saddle Creek’s top-tier warehouse management system (WMS) and order management system (OMS) streamline order processing and ensure timely turnaround. In fact, 99.9% of orders received by 3p.m. ship the same day.

Saddle Creek’s centrally located fulfillment center in Lexington, Ky., helps ensure efficient and cost-effective deliveries. In fact, 72% of U.S. consumers are reachable within two days via ground service.

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Continuous Improvement & Innovation

Saddle Creek comes to the table with innovative solutions to help us surprise and delight our customers and make it easy for them to do business with us.”

~ Joel Carlin, Supply Chain Manager, KURU Footwear

Growth is a constant for KURU, so Saddle Creek is always on the lookout for opportunities to create efficiencies and improve operations.

“Saddle Creek comes to the table with innovative solutions to help us surprise and delight our customers and make it easy for them to do business with us,” Carlin explains.

When increased order volume drove up shipping costs, Saddle Creek worked with KURU to design a shoe box that could serve as a self-mailer. Eliminating the need for additional packaging allowed for faster order processing. And since the new, environmentally-friendly box is optimized to reduce dimensional (DIM) weight, the change resulted in significant cost savings.

After implementing the new box design, the Saddle Creek team identified an opportunity to increase efficiency even further by incorporating point-of-pick packing and mobile printing technology for packing slips and mailing labels. They collaborated with KURU to convert its traditional paper packing slip to a 4-inch by 6-inch format that is compatible with mobile technology.

Point-of-pick packing and mobile printing technology require 26% less labor and improve productivity by 20%.

Now, when associates pick KURU orders, they print and insert the packing slip in the box and print and apply the mailing label right there in the aisle. This process requires 26% less labor than traditional pick/pack – a definite win in the current labor market.  What’s more, Saddle Creek was able to improve productivity by 20%.

It is worth noting that, while KURU’s fulfillment footprint has expanded 25% since the pandemic, overall fulfillment output has nearly doubled, thanks to improvements like these.

Effective Returns Management

Saddle Creek has also helped KURU to process returns more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Returns are a critical part of any footwear business, and it’s crucial to make the process fast and hassle-free – especially for a customer-centric company like KURU.

More than 10% of KURU’s products are returned. As sales volume climbed, the company outgrew its in-house returns process and assigned reverse logistics to Saddle Creek.

The 3PL implemented a system-driven returns process with end-to-end integration. A new returns module streamlines the process, allowing for better communication and timely refunds. Saddle Creek also performs quality inspections and conducts the grading process for returns.

Moving Forward Together

Saddle Creek and KURU look forward to continuing to improve operations and grow together.

“We’re extremely happy with Saddle Creek. They’re always coming up with smart solutions to help us improve,” Carlin says. “Even if our rate of increase moderates a bit this year, I know they will be looking for ways to become even more efficient and help grow our business.”
Saddle Creek Logistics Services plus Kuru

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Related to: Footwear Fulfillment, Fulfillment Technology, Increasing Productivity, Managing Growth, Managing Returns, Selling Online