October 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

The Children’s Place plans to invest $20 million in web fulfillment

Anticipating further online sales growth, children’s apparel retailer The Children’s Place plans to spend an estimated $20 million to upgrade e-commerce fulfillment operations in its new Alabama distribution center.

Children’s apparel retailer The Children`s Place Retail Stores Inc. is upgrading its e-commerce fulfillment operations in its Fort Payne, AL, distribution center to the tune of $20 million. The retail chain runs its e-commerce fulfillment operations on technology developed in-house and has begun integrating a new conveyor system from Dematic Corp. and a new unit sorting system from Beumer Corp.

The Children’s Place, No. 149 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, moved its e-commerce fulfillment operations from New Jersey to Alabama in June to enable expansion as its online business, at ChildrensPlace.com, continues to grow, the company says. It expects to roll out the automated distribution system during the second quarter of 2010.

E-commerce is the fastest-growing sales channel for The Children’s Place. Last week the company announced that online sales had increased by 54% in the five-week period ended Oct. 3. Higher site traffic and increased conversion since a web site redesign in September 2008 are the key sources of the growth, says a company spokeswoman. E-commerce sales accounted for $10.5 million, or 6%, of reported sales of $174.7 million for September, which was a 9% increase from $160.7 million in the prior year period. Web sales accounted for about 4.5% of sales - $7.2 million - in September 2008, the spokeswoman says.

September comparable-store sales increased 2% in the U.S. and declined 1% in Canada in September. Year-to-date sales were $1.03 billion, down 1% from $1.04 billion in the prior year period. The company’s 2009 fiscal year ends in January 2010.

E-commerce sales in the first two quarters ended Aug. 1 increased about 36% to $50.2 million from $36.9 million. Total sales for both the first and second quarter declined about 2.8% to $717.6 million from $738.2 million and comparable-store sales decreased 3%.

Acting CEO and board member Charles Crovitz has led The Children’s Place since former chairman and CEO Ezra Dabah resigned in September 2007. In August the company said it planned to name a permanent CEO by the end of 2009.

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