Across the street and into the warehouse

Oct 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

Time to visit the lifeblood of any catalog business: the distribution center. But to get to Orchard Brands’ DC from headquarters, you must cross the street. It’s not a highly traveled road but there’s no bridge or stoplight letting drivers know that people may be crossing. Remember, this is Massachusetts. It suddenly strikes me that Atttenborough is perhaps the only CEO in America who literally takes his life in his own hands when meeting with the operations folks.

Walking through the Appleseed’s 150,000 sq.-ft. distribution center you’re struck by how old-school it appears.

“We like to keep things simple,” says Dave Silva, vice president of operations and logistics. “We use RF technology for all case movement and functions like returns put-away, but we also use a simple batch pull method, where our pickers may go into a location and pick product as directed by a pull sheet for 10-18 separate orders,” he says. Lots of racking and shelving here, boxes there. Looks like well-orchestrated chaos.

“You won’t see any of the tilt-tray sorters that Blair has in here,” Attenborough notes. He’s right. What you don’t see are all the CommercialWare and legacy systems programs running in the background, from advance shipment notification/barcode receiving from vendors to returns processing, order replenishment, and various inventory management processes.

About the fanciest piece of technological wizardry on display is an inline shipping scale and overhead scanner that was installed several years ago. The combination scanner and scale scans the barcode and weighs the box before sending that information into Orchard Brands’ order management system. Packages are then loaded onto the trailers for shipment.

The distribution center fulfills for the retail and direct businesses of Appleseed’s and Draper’s and Damon’s. The Tog Shop’s direct-to-consumer business is fulfilled from here as well. As Attenborough, Beard and I depart from the DC prepare to head back across the street to headquarters, Beard asks what my story is about. “Something about how sleepy Beverly, MA, is becoming the center of the direct marketing universe,” I say. To which Beard responds, “It’s certainly getting that way.”

The Orchard empire
Catalog Merchandise category Acquired
The Tog Shop women’s apparel Aug. 2005
Appleseed’s women’s apparel Nov. 2005
Draper’s & Damon’s women’s apparel Nov. 2005
Norm Thompson Outfitters apparel, footwear, and gifts March 2006
Solutions home and garden products March 2006
Sahalie outdoor apparel and accessories March 2006
Haband apparel and home products Oct. 2006
Blair apparel and home products Jan. 2007
Wintersilks silk undergarments Sept. 2007
Gold Violin gifts and gadgets for seniors Sept. 2007