June 20, 2011, 12:04 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: Virtual staffs and truckloads of free boxes

Stone Edge and two small retailers tap the IRCE crowd for money-saving tips.

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If you ask, the U.S. Postal Service will send you a truck load of free boxes and may brand them with your company's logo, Dave Reeder, president of outdoor adventure products retailer Captain Dave's, told attendees last week at the Internet Retailer's Conference & Exhibition 2011.

"Over the past five years, we've seen a tremendous change in the USPS' attitude because they are hurting," Reeder said. "They used to act like shipping our products was a burden, but now they embrace us."

That was just one of the tips from the "Small Retailers" track at IRCE 2011 at in a sort of brainstorming session where speakers and audience members shared creative ways to save cash. Reeder said he was able to improve his bottom line by taking advantage of special offers like the one on packaging supplies from USPS, as well as by trimming fixed business costs such as office Internet services.

“Every dollar that comes down to the bottom line helps us expand or it comes home to me because I’m the primary shareholder,” he said. “As small business owners you need to manage these costs.”

Emily Widle, a marketing specialist at web-only retailer Pegasus Lighting, told attendees that the e-retailer curtails office rental and other costs by having most employees work from home. Pegasus Lighting also saved $30,000 in credit card processing fees by switching to PayPal and saved $100,000 since switching from a custom e-commerce platform to a web store hosted by Yahoo.

Barney Stone, president of order management firm Stone Edge Technologies, had some tips on maximizing time and labor in the warehouse. “Did you know you can save warehouse picking time by taking your most popular items and putting them at eye level?” he asked. “Or take your fastest-moving items and moving them right next to your packing stations.”

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