About a week ago Dan Haight, CEO of BuySeasons Inc., took me on a tour of the company’s bustling HQ and distribution center to show me how an e-retailer ramps up operations for peak sales season. For a majority of online retailers, that’s Q4, covering the winter holidays, but for BuySeasons, where the largest e-retail site is BuyCostumes.com, it’s the run-up to Halloween.
Haight told me that during the rest of the year, the company fulfills an average of 5,000 to 10,000 orders each day across its family of e-retail sites. The day I was there, the company’s was on track to ship 50,000 orders. “This is our Christmas,” Haight says. There was the obvious bustle in the warehouse, with forklifts replenishing boxes of stock, pickers zipping around on modified scooters and sealed boxes being packed Jenga-style into waiting tractor trailers. The e-retailer adds nearly 2,000 seasonal employees and was vetting more the day I was there. In the offices, most of the company’s nearly 300 customer service seats were filled with agents, a crew of tech guys monitored site performance from a pseudo-war room and the site’s buyers were evaluating racks of costume samples for inclusion in next year’s inventory.
While a 900% increase in order activity in such a condensed period of time might seem overwhelming and sometimes is, Haight told me that the company prepares all year for this season, and is constantly looking for ways to improve efficiencies. He and chief operating officer Terry Rowinski proudly showed off their latest warehouse upgrade, an automatic package scanner and sorter that speedily routes packages to the right shipping trailer, which the e-retailer installed during the last year. The company also added 110,000 more square feet to its warehouse this summer and expanded the space allotted to its custom-made business. The e-retailer prints banners (about 800 a day) and party goods emblazoned with personal messages and pictures consumers upload to BuySeason’s party-themed sites, CelebrateExpress.com, BirthdayExpress.com and 1stwishes.com, and Haight says he’s expecting that business to quickly expand. BuySeason’s will also be implementing a new warehouse management system soon.
I speak with a lot of e-retailers during the holiday season—or at least when they can pause a second to answer their phones—and the prevailing sentiment I hear is that during Q4 everything is whittled down to the essentials of taking and fulfilling orders. They’ll get back to planning and executing on strategy come January. The impression I left BuySeasons with is that everything it does is in pursuit of its long-term strategic goals, at all times of year. Yes, there’s much more activity and people about in peak season, but there’s a roadmap this company is following and it’s not taking any breaks. E-retailers, can you say the same come December?