Order Fulfillment

The Complexities of Shipping & Handling Fees
June 1, 2002

Flip to the order form of any catalog or go to the checkout of a cataloger’s Web site, and you’ll find one truth: There’s no standard for shipping and handling (S&H) fees. What a catalog charges to ship product depends on many factors, such as type of product (soft goods or hard goods) or the shipping method chosen by the customer. Others are less-than-obvious and depend on how the cataloger chooses to account for S&H in its operations. These variables make S&H a widely debated topic. According to F. Curtis Barry & Co., an operations consulting firm, about half of catalogers charge

Omaha Steaks: Focus on Fulfillment
May 1, 2002

On the surface, it’s a typical American success story: an immigrant family fleeing religious persecution arrives in the United States and starts a business; 85 years later it’s not only successful, but still family-owned and operated. Today Omaha Steaks is a meat dynasty, making the merchandising and fulfillment challenges it faced from the beginning uniquely significant. How it continues to survive those challenges highlights strategies for other catalogers hoping to conquer the perishables market. On-site Processing Omaha Steaks enjoys the advantage of processing most of its own product offerings. The company sources its—literally—raw material mainly from Midwestern producers, and then ages, trims and

Challenges of Multichannel Fulfillment
April 1, 2002

Richard Eaton, vice president, fulfillment services of Highlights for Children, and Tom Kirkham, senior consultant for ESYNC International, spoke to Catalog Success a few weeks before Highlights planned to go live with a new warehouse management system (WMS). Like many catalogers, Highlights for Children’s product-fulfillment operation contends with several distribution channels and myriad product types. Highlights’ in-house distribution center handles fulfillment for three divisions: - Highlights Catalog, a traditional children’s products catalog; - Highlights Jigsaw, an educational toy and book supplier offering products through home parties similar to the Tupperware model; and - a third division that sells business-to-business (b-to-b)

Slash Your Chargebacks
November 1, 2001

In a tightening economy, back-end fulfillment costs such as chargebacks—dispute mechanisms credit card customers use to reverse transactions—comprise a line item worth scrutinizing. Depending on the volume of chargebacks a cataloger is hit with in a set time period, fees (which are levied on a merchant) can run from $20 up to a whopping $150 per chargeback. “To say the least, chargebacks can get very expensive for merchants,” says Scott Martin, chief operating officer of EPX, a New Castle, DE-based electronic payment processor. Here’s how catalogers can reduce chargebacks generated from either customer disputes or outright fraud. Tips to Reduce Customer Disputes

How to Deal With Challenging Vendors
September 1, 2001

If you’ve ever struggled with how to effectively manage relationships with your vendors, following are some tips learned from the trenches of cataloging. Complaints About the Call Center The second hand on my watch swept past 12 ... again. I’d been on hold for 10 long minutes. Another music-on-hold tune began, and I realized I’d heard it already. I’d been on hold so long, the tape loop was repeating! As I listened, I imagined all the customers who had viewed my beautiful catalog, read my great copy, found a product they really loved, called—and now were hanging up in disgust at the

Online Retailers Deliver the Goods
September 1, 2001

Whether they’re looking for 14-karat gold rings or 14-bit drill sets, consumers are flocking in record numbers to the Internet to buy products. The question is, can Web retailers handle the increasingly heavy traffic effectively? Last year, cyber-shopping went from marginal to mainstream, as 73 percent of consumers bought products online, according to a survey by AT&T. And by next year, global Web sales are expected to reach $51.6 billion, according to a survey by Jupiter Media Metrix, a research firm. As technology improves and consumers become more comfortable buying online, the number of Internet shoppers likely will increase, too. In fact,

Hershey Direct: Staging a Sweet Holiday
August 1, 2001

As with holiday gift shopping, the best way to ensure a happy holiday season for your catalog operation is to do as much as you can ahead of time—from planning and production to picking, packing ... and even loading the trucks. For Hershey Direct, the catalog arm of Hershey’s Chocolate World, a division of Hershey Foods, the Christmas holiday is by far its busiest season, drawing a whopping 85 percent of the division’s sales activity. (The second and third busiest seasons are the spring catalog, which mails in time for Mother’s Day, followed by the Valentine’s Day catalog.) Ramping up for the big rush

From the East Bloc and Beyond
July 1, 2001

To say Sovietski Collection catalog has a unique niche would be an understatement. Indeed, a quick flip through its pages is like taking a whirlwind trip around the former East Bloc. Its product selection includes militaria, such as Soviet MiG pilot helmets and copper diving helmets, Russian submarine clocks, East German tank commander binoculars and field phones. There’s also hand-crafted Polish sabers and Czech walking sticks, Lomonosov porcelain tableware, Romanian crystal goblets and Russian-made woolen shawls. The catalog even features a genuine Soviet “Strizh” spacesuit complete with communications helmet and umbilical life-support interfaces. Sovietski sells merchandise and artifacts sourced primarily from Europe

How and When to Write an RFP
June 1, 2001

Requests For Proposals (RFPs) are the best way to escape a hostage situation with your vendors. They give you control over deadlines, quality, product requirements, service and how materials are shipped. Typically, RFPs are written to solicit a specific service from a vendor for merchandise or raw materials, telecommunications, printing, paper, ordering systems and fulfillment services. An RFP is a detailed request that provides product requirements, service terms and maintenance necessities to a vendor who responds with a list of capabilities and a price for his or her wares. Most catalogers begin searching for a vendor about year before they expect

A Fulfilling Holiday
April 1, 2001

The guarantee was to take, fulfill and ship all orders the same day for delivery the following day, right up until 3 p.m. EST on Christmas Eve. The offer was 25 roses if customers didn’t receive their orders the following day. Ashford.com, a luxury gift e-tailer, sent just 400 bouquets. Considering the volume of orders and the fact that Ashford delivered on its promise regardless of why the late delivery occurred, the number is remarkable. Ashford.com offers a wide variety of high-end products: diamonds, more than 20,000 styles of new and vintage watches, jewelry, fragrances, leather accessories, ties, scarves, sunglasses, writing instruments, home and