October 6, 2005, 12:00 AM

How ShoppersChoice.com will assure growth in wake of hurricanes

Based in Baton Rouge, LA, ShoppersChoice is fine-tuning its disaster recovery plans following the recent hurricanes to support planned growth that will expand its number of products tenfold next year, it says.

Based in Baton Rouge, LA, ShoppersChoice.com LLC is fine-tuning its disaster recovery plans following the recent hurricanes to support planned growth that will expand its number of products tenfold next year, CEO and founder Mike Hackley tells Internet Retailer.

“We didn’t have a disaster recovery plan in the works when Katrina hit, but we certainly have a plan we’re working on now,” Hackley says.

ShoppersChoice operates about 60 web sites, including ShoppersChoice.com, The Grill Store and More and BBQGuys.com, selling a total of about 1 million SKUs. With the exception of the last month due to the Katrina and Rita hurricanes, sales have been growing 30-50% per month, Hackley says. And over the next 6-8 months, he expects to grow his overall product line to 10 million SKUs by expanding ShoppersChoice.com into a broader mass merchant site.

But as growth halted for a month in the wake of the hurricanes, Hackley is considering several steps to assure business continuity in the event of another disaster, he says. Although his facilities in Baton Rouge narrowly escaped the most destructive path of Katrina, much of his customer service phone service was out for an extended time due to the loss of a major telephone switching station in New Orleans. “We’re going to have to look at outsourcing some call center operations,” he says.

To accommodate growth, ShoppersChoice had already contracted for additional fulfillment warehouse space in Dallas, where its web sites are also hosted, but now Hackley is planning to also use that extra warehouse space as part of a contingency plan should he lose use of his main facilities in Louisiana. “Most of our warehouse operations will still be in Louisiana, but we could switch it all to Dallas if we had to,” he says.

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