Ritz Camera's growth makes it a company on the move -- quite literally. In the past two years, the company's warehouse has moved three times, from Beltsville, MD to Topeka, KS to Atlanta. Each move has been in the name of finding bigger warehouse space and improving distribution of its growing volume of merchandise.
Jonathan Speert, head buyer/importer for Ritz, watched as his brokerage system became cumbersome. "When we moved to Topeka, the Maryland-based brokerage house we used wasn't able to handle the customs order entry portion of our business because it did not have customs brokerage offices there," he says. Subsequently, the partner frequently outsourced shipment entry to other players in its network of customs brokerage houses. This led to multiple outlays of money and rising costs on Ritz' part, communication problems due to its dealing with multiple brokers, and a lack of shipment visibility due to the number of disparate parties involved. Additionally, lag time in cost reconciliation led to inventory pileup in the warehouse. "We need 100% accurate costs prior to doing a receiving entry so we have a true landed cost," explains Ritz Camera VP Bob Elton. "If the cost of the shipment is not reconciled in a timely matter, we end up with merchandise in our facilities that we cannot sell."
Ritz decided to entertain the thought of a new international shipping partner. The retailer was initially drawn to UPS Supply Chain Solutions (SCS) based on the fact that it had been shipping domestically with UPS for several years. The vendor's competitive rates convinced Ritz to test its service levels. After little more than a month, Ritz grew confident in UPS' ability and began switching its trading partners to UPS freight forwarding country by country. "It took a total of about seven months," says Speert.
The new solution required no new hardware or software on the part of Ritz or its partners. The retailer's single interface to its freight forwarder is UPS SCS' online Flex Global View system, which it uses to track shipments through their release from manufacturing to their receipt at the warehouse. Then it's on to UPS domestic shipping for distribution to stores and customers.