Operations Execs Discuss Holiday 2014 Plans And More

Operations Summit took place at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis last week, with over 600 people in attendance.

The keynote panel, moderated by industry veteran Bill Kuipers of Spaide, Kuipers & Company, included senior operations executives from NewEgg, OSP Group (formerly Redcats), Commando, Guitar Center, and Finish Line.

The keynote panel quickly agreed that every important element of DTC operations is getting more complex.  Workforces, processes and technology are all improving, but becoming more complex to manage.  Most agreed that this is because of the increased technology in their operations, growing globally, and because of customer’s growing demands – especially around quick shipping time, lower pricing for merchandise and shipping, and better communication throughout the order fulfillment process.

Each member of the panel spoke to these topics, focusing on those that were very relevant to them.

Kunal Thakkar, Senior Vice President, Operations North America, for Newegg spoke about their strategy of building new distribution centers closer to population centers, in order to deliver fast and less expensively.

Randy Jaunzemis, Vice President, Distribution & Ecommerce Fulfillment, Guitar Center, talked about the complexities and rewards of growing globally, as Guitar Center expands their ecommerce presence in the mammoth Chinese and Japanese markets.

Dan Marous, Executive VP, Supply Chain & IT, Finish Line spoke about Finish Line’s long-time strategy of ship-from-store as a way to get merchandise from the closest point to the customer.  Finish Line ships over 50% of its ecommerce orders from store.

Chip Edgington, Executive Vice President, Operations, OSP Group shared how complex managing their 600+ seat contact center has become due to the addition of email, social media monitoring, and live chat to the telephone calls.  Chip also pointed out that the average caller knows a lot more before they call, due to the information available on the web, so the pressure on the center representative to be knowledgeable is more than ever.

Katie Langrock, COO, Commando talked about seasonal operations and the challenge of hiring seasonal help and getting them to come back each season.  All panelists agreed that the growth of ecommerce fulfillment locations, especially from Amazon, has contributed to a tougher recruitment environment, especially during peak season.

One of the hot potato topics that the panel juggled was how to deliver Holiday 2014 packages on time.  The panelists offered several ideas that they’ll be employing; use of regional carriers in addition to UPS/USPS/FedEx,  moving their holiday delivery order cutoff dates earlier by a day or two, charging more for later delivery,  and incenting and educating customers to order early.

Throughout the conference, and on the panel, speculation about Amazon starting its own delivery company was growing.  The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about Amazon testing its own delivery network in San Francisco.

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