Teamwork Helps Fat Brain Toys Open New Distribution Center in 48 Hours

Aug 02, 2012 2:44 AM  By

Due to a need for additional space sparked by double-digit revenue growth last year, specialty toy retailer Fat Brain Toys opened a new 75,000-square-foot distribution center in Omaha, NE on Monday. And pulled it off within 48 hours.

Mark Carson, president and co-founder of Fat Brain Toys, said in an email that his staff moved the company’s inventory from the old 40,000-square-foot distribution center last Friday through Sunday and the new space became operational on Monday. The company has a year-round staff of about 15 employees and more than 150 during the holiday season.

Carson said his company began to outgrow the old distribution center as the retail business grew and the wholesale business has seen dramatic growth.

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“But probably more important than raw space was our pursuit of additional efficiencies,” Carson said. “We’ve had a number of dramatic changes to our fulfillment methodology in mind for years, but we needed the right kind of space to make it a reality. It’s a little premature to tout it as a success, but the new systems have come together very nicely.”

Carson said the single biggest change was moving from paper picking to paperless, “but we’ve employed a number of off-the-shelf solutions to achieve that include the use of iPods and iPads for picking.” He added the company is using a new storage methodology that allows for better handling of SKU count and volumes.

Thrilling customers with great service is absolutely essential, Carson said, and the only way to do that is to deliver beyond their expectations time and time again.

“That’s usually a challenge with a hyper-seasonal business like toys,” Carson said, “but the systems we’re putting in place will allow us to scale with the season and ship just as fast and accurately on Dec. 10 and we do on July 10.”

Any company can provide good service during the off-season, Carson opined, “but only the very best can do it at the peak. Our new distribution center will allow us to ship same day even during our heaviest shipping periods.”

Fat Brain Toys has aggressively pursued social media in the past year, Carson said. Fat Brain Toys was one of five companies out of 11,000 entrants to be chosen by Facebook and American Express OPEN to spend two days with Facebook experts. Fat Brain Toys had entered the “Big Break for Small Business” contest.

As a result, Fat Brain Toys attended a two-day boot camp at Facebook headquarters. Carson said the key takeaway he learned was to “bake social media into our business,” which his staff has done, particularly with last weekend’s move to the new distribution center.

“As we planned out our moving weekend, I wanted to let our customers in on the adventure,” Carson said. “We held our own feet to the fire by telling our customers that we would close on Friday afternoon and be ready to ship by Monday morning and we were.”

Warehousing and distribution may not be the sexiest of subjects, Carson added, “but it is one of the fundamental parts of our business and what allows us to compete with some of the biggest corporations in the world. Based on the feedback, our customers genuinely enjoyed seeing the people behind the move.”

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.