talking heads

PAULA QUENEMOE, Executive Vice President, Jagged Edge Mountain Gear, Moab, UT

We got into trouble, and our viability came into question. It was at that point that we decided to restructure the way we do everything. We closed the warehouse and call center and outsourced operations to Propeller, in Orem, UT.

[Ed. note: The firm relocated from high-rent Telluride, CO, to Moab, UT, and closed down its online operations for three months.] Catalog sales are now tracking well and the average order has increased from $95 to $124.

CHUCK WHITEMAN, VP of marketing, Diver’s Direct, Deerfield Beach, FL

We had a customer who had a great experience with our service reps. The customer was so impressed with us that he proceeded to write this glowing e-mail about how wonderful it was to do business with Diver’s Direct. This e-mail was really effusive with praise. “It’s nice to know that I now have another ‘local’ dive shop even though it’s 900 miles away. You’ve hooked me as a customer for life.”

So I happily replied to the customer and graciously thanked him for his order. Only to find out that they messed up the guy’s order by sending him an incorrect light used for scuba diving. So after all that, I had to get on the phone with the guy and apologize for the mishap. Those incidents are rare for us. Our target is to ship accurately 99.25% of the time. We worked it out, but it’s quite embarrassing.

JOHN ZIMMERMAN, Co-owner, Twins Help, Columbus, OH

Since we’re a small company, we maintain our own warehouse. The catalog [which sells products for the parents of twins] has a 1,200-sq-ft. warehouse.

Twins Help processes about 30 orders a day and fulfills them within 24 hours, just like most larger catalogers. When there are only three people taking all inquiries and orders as well as packing them, we don’t need a computer to let us know what is in stock — or when it will be replenished, for that matter. It gets quite harried from time to time.

NICOLE EDMUND, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Edmund Industrial Optics, Barrington, NJ

I see two fulfillment hurdles: One is that postage rates keep going up, and the other one is that we have over 12,000 SKUs that we try to maintain here. We just implemented a new enterprise resource planning system, and that’s our biggest hurdle right now, trying to make it work.

GREGG ALTIMARI, Owner and Founder, Graffiti, East Northport, NY

For our upcoming catalog, the infrastructure is set up already. Our customer service would share both our Web customer base and the catalog customer base. Both distribution channels would call into the same customer service department, and they would both e-mail the same customer service department.

We’ve been doing this [e-commerce direct-to-customer fulfillment] since 1997, so we’ve pretty much worked out most of the kinks, although every day does supply a new challenge.

DAVE VANDER ZANDEN, President and COO, School Specialty, Greenville, WI

We’ve purchased about 40 companies or so in the last ten years, and we’ve had a lot of integration of those companies.

Our plan was to be able to offer the schools products in every category they buy in — every discipline: science, math, physical education, and so forth.

From a distribution standpoint, we’re putting together all of those distribution centers so that if a school wanted to place one order with us and get one delivery and one invoice from across all of the companies we bought, we can do that for them. We’re about 90% there right now, so some of the challenges we’ve had in the past are integrating some of those companies to be able to provide that service.

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