Lesson Learned: Focus on Your Strengths
Problem: Your catalog company’s management team is stretched too thin to concentrate on order-taking, pick/pack/ship, call center operations and returns management.
Solution: Outsource the duties to a specialist.
FrenchToast.com, a Web and print cataloger of school uniforms, did just this in 2000 when it partnered with NewRoads, an outsource fulfillment provider. Today, NewRoads handles the Dayton, NJ-based cataloger’s order-taking, shipping, customer service/call center operations and returns management. In all, New Roads handles fulfillment for about 30 catalogers.
“Outsourcing allows us to do what we do best: sales, marketing and product development,” says Michael Sutton, president of FrenchToast.com, which is the direct marketing arm of Lollytogs, a company that has been making school uniforms since 1958.
French Toast, the catalog division, was established in 1999, and for about a year, Sutton and his staff tried to do all of the fulfillment tasks in-house. “That was until we realized it took too much time—from a systems aspect—to focus on order-management and other customer-service issues. I decided that if we were going to grow as a company, we’d have to focus primarily on the product development, sales and marketing aspects of the business,” he says. “We needed to find a partner with the expertise and the systems in place to run the day-to-day operations for us.”
Another factor in Sutton’s decision to outsource fulfillment: The school uniform business is seasonal—most orders come in during the summer months. So Sutton was reluctant to invest in too much fulfillment-related infrastructure that probably would be under-utilized nine months of the year.
Once he decided to outsource fulfillment, he did a thorough search of available companies and services. “We wanted a company that had decades’ worth of industry experience in call center operations, warehousing and receiving,” he recalls. “When we met with NewRoads, we could see they really understood fulfillment and had extensive experience in apparel in particular. They know, for example, how to receive apparel, steam it, handle returns, allocate sufficient hanger space in the warehouse and keep the products dust-free.”