Operations & Fulfillment: Fulfilling the Promise of E-Commerce
Belk, Inc. is making all the right moves around improving its warehouse and fulfillment operations to meet the needs of its growing e-commerce business.
Belk, based in Charlotte, N.C., has more than 300 fashion department stores in 16 Southern states, with sales totaling $3.7 billion in its latest fiscal year. It also has a thriving e-commerce business that has seen sales from the channel "increase 108 percent over last year," according to Bill Kiger, director of web operations at Belk.
Until recently, Belk fulfilled all of its direct-to-consumer business in-house via its e-commerce fulfillment center in Pineville, N.C. Last May, the facility was expanded to double its original size, roughly 250,000 square feet. However, because of its growing e-commerce business, Belk quickly realized it needed even more space.
"We expanded our facility in Pineville in 2011, but given the growth in our e-commerce business, we quickly realized we were going to need additional square footage to support our needs," says Debbie Fortnum, vice president of supply chain at Belk. "We did the expansion in our initial facility thinking the extra space would last us a couple of years, but by the end of the calendar year 2011, just several months after the expansion, we realized we needed additional space, and we needed it quickly."
Enter Belk's new 515,000-square-foot e-commerce fulfillment center located in Jonesville, S.C., which opened in June. The center, a $4.5 million capital investment, was formerly a direct-to-consumer fulfillment facility operated by Disney. The facility is being leased by Belk, and the company is expected to create at least 124 jobs at the center over the next five years.
"We were fortunate to find the center," says Fortnum. "It was well-suited to our business. It serves us well from a location perspective, and the available workforce in the area is really great." What's more, "there's high unemployment in Union County, where Jonesville is located, so we were happy to have an impact on that by hiring so many former Disney employees and others who were without jobs."