Managing the delivery of new store fixtures

Managing the delivery of new store fixtures

David Coulter

Before one box is moved, make sure there’s an open, fluid line of communication between the store manager and the supplier.

The situation: You’re overseeing one or more stores that are getting all new fixtures. Or maybe you’re racing the dock on a remodel. In a lot of cases you’ll have, perhaps, 24 to 48 hours to take out the old and bring in the new. And it’s not only the delivery of new fixtures you have to coordinate. Several other suppliers and vendors will need access to the dock while the store is being prepared to open. The logistics can be pretty tricky, but it can be done. Here’s a refresher on points to remember when dealing with your fixture manufacturer, the carrier who will deliver the new fixtures to the store and other suppliers who will play a role in getting the store ready for business.

“There are two basic goals that hold true with any transport–but are especially important to store managers when new fixtures are coming in,” notes Jim Finch, vice president of sales for Ace WorldWide Moving & Storage Co., an Atlas Van Lines agent based in Milwaukee. “The two most important issues are getting the fixtures to the store at the right time, and making sure there’s no damage to them during transit and unloading.”

DIRECT LINE

Communication is the most vital element in the logistics of furnishing a store with new fixtures and products. And to effectively bring together the components of this kind of job, a direct line of contact between store managers and their suppliers is needed up front so that scheduling and any change of plans can be relayed immediately. Store managers and move planners should make sure their key suppliers have the phone numbers needed to reach them easily, whether or not they’re on store premises, says John Hanson, shipping supervisor for Capitol Inc., a fixture manufacturer in Peshtigo, Wis.

“It’s important that the store contact can be reached at any time–especially if there’s nobody on store premises who can give direction when deliveries arrive,” Hanson notes. “Store move coordinators should provide a cell phone number, a beeper number, a home number–whatever is necessary to make sure they can be reached when plans are starting into motion. Suppliers should also make themselves easy to reach during those times.”

The communication of any questions, problems or last minute changes in plans–by either side–will be critical in avoiding situations that disrupt deliveries and setups at the store, Finch says. “You can have a situation where a store has to delay a fixture delivery for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks,” he says. “If that information is not communicated in time and to the right people, the fixtures might already be on the road–or waiting at the delivery dock–before the supplier and driver ever get the message. That’s where you can run into some real headaches, and possibly into considerable extra expenses.”

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Coordinating the times that the fixture carrier and other suppliers pull up to the store loading dock is critical not only to ensure that a line of trucks aren’t waiting to unload, but because in a situation like this, time really does mean money. If a crew hired to unload a trailer full of fixtures has to wait an hour or two before they can do the job–or have to come back on another day–the costs for employing that crew can add up unexpectedly. When a separate crew of installers is also waiting to do its part, costs can keep climbing.

On rare occasions, the entire delivery has to be returned to the supplier or taken to a local warehouse because the timing glitch couldn’t be worked out in a day. That is unfortunate for a couple reasons, Finch says. “If the store has to warehouse the new fixtures for a time, they’re going to run into unanticipated costs for storage and for the second delivery of those fixtures. We want to help avoid that situation whenever we can,” he says. “The other consideration is the additional handling of the fixtures when they have to be stored away from their destination. It’s best not to move the displays any more than necessary because each time they’re moved or re-transported, there’s an additional risk for damage or that a piece will get misplaced.”

On that note, Finch adds that store managers should inspect all new fixtures for any damages as they’re brought into the building. Another important detail, according to John Hanson is to make sure there are enough people on hand to unload the fixtures from the truck into the store. “Some of these displays are very large and very heavy,” he says. About 95 percent of the time, Hanson says, store planners or managers are responsible for bringing in the workers who will unload the fixtures from the truck. The fixture builder, he adds, normally provides the crew that will install the new fixtures.

The order in which goods are received is another factor that will impact progress on move-in days. Previously delivered fixtures, displays and goods not yet in their places can take up space that was planned to hold an incoming delivery. In some cases, the waiting fixtures will have to be transported off-site until room is created. “That kind of problem is preventable with the right kind of planning.” Finch asserts. “And I would also tell store managers to remember that they don’t want three or four of their major vendors sitting in line behind our truck while a crew unloads new fixtures. Moving fixtures in can take an hour or two, but the trucks behind us might only need 10 minutes to make their deliveries. Keeping details like that in order will help the process run much more efficiently for everybody.”

THE ART OF ANTICIPATION

While effective communication and detailed planning go a long way toward furnishing a store successfully and with few surprises, anticipating some of the possible scenarios can prepare store managers to deal with unplanned circumstances, should they occur.

“Store planners and fixture suppliers should talk about alternative plans and options that they can go with if they have to move to a plan B,” Finch says. “It’s a good idea to do some checking on off-site storage and the availability of additional labor and transportation services while the planning is still underway, just in case they’re needed. In most cases, with careful planning and management, they’re not.”

David Coulter is assistant vice president of marketing for Atlas Van Lines Specialized Transportation Group headquartered in Evansville, Ind. He has 21 years of experience in the commercial goods and specialized transportation industry. With 600 agents across the U.S. and Canada and nearly 800 worldwide, Atlas Van Lines is the nation’s fourth largest van line and ranks as third-largest carrier of household goods.

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