Looking way down the road
At 3 a.m. one morning this past summer, a group of still-sleepy, slightly punchy men convened in the deserted parking lot of a 6th Ave. Electronics City store on Route 4 in northern New Jersey. They piled into a huge SUV, filling up three rows of seats, and pulled out well before dawn, beginning a pilgrimage of sorts, a road trip to the mecca of CE e-commerce, Crutchfield, in Charlottesville, Va. “In e-business, there’s Crutchfield, and then there’s everybody else,” says Tom Galanis, 6th Ave.’s Vice President of Operations and the man at the wheel of the SUV that morning. “We wanted to get the look and feel of the organization first hand.”
It should have been a five hour trip, but the guys hit traffic, so they passed time by alternately making fun of Tom’s driving and talking business. There was a lot to discuss. In the next few months, this group of buyers and managers would launch a new Web site, open a brand new $5 million customer service center, and throw a Grand Opening party for their tenth store. They’d oversee a consumer electronics retail operation on track to do $200 million in sales by the end of 2006. That morning, though, the delegation was intent on studying the best practices of fellow PRO buying group member Crutchfield, a company that’s been able to build a strong online reputation that’s now pulling in over two thirds of its business. Sixth Ave. currently does about 10 percent of its business online.
“They were very focused, even after that long drive,” says Crutchfield’s Executive Vice President of Merchandising Rich Souder. “And we were happy to show them how we do things, our warehouse operations especially, [and] how to fulfill packages. We ship out 800,000 packages a year. We were also showing off our databases that our sales advisors use when working with customers.”