OPERATIONS

CSA Exclusive: At Home supports store growth with new cross-dock facility

BY Dan Berthiaume

A fast-growing, value-based home goods retailer keeps cost and risk low with cross-dock supply chain investments.

At Home, based in Plano, Texas-based, operates 188 stores across the U.S. The chain has historically utilized a cross-dock supply chain strategy to rapidly move inventory into its stores.

“We have always cross-docked,” Peter Corsa, president of At Home, said in an interview with Chain Store Age. “Cross-docking is an efficient model; it brings product straight to the stores and on the shelves.”

Operating stores that average 100,000-sq.-ft., the retailer helps keep costs low and labor lean by utilizing cross-docking, which uses distribution centers as short-term waystations rather than long-term storage facilities. At Home operates a 540,000-plus-sq.-ft. distribution center at its Plano headquarters with capacity to serve 220 stores, as well as an accumulation facility in Garland, Texas to hold overstock.

However, preparing for expansion and seeing potential for growth up to 600 stores in the U.S., At Home has opened a new 800,000-sq.-ft. cross-dock distribution facility in Carlisle, Penn.

“The Carlisle facility can support 135 stores,” said Corsa. “It takes risk out of the system. We have incorporated the accumulation center directly into the Carlisle facility. We move product efficiently and quickly down lane to stores. We bring it in and get it out as clean as possible. We turn trailers within 24 hours. The two facilities learn from one another.”

In the Plano facility, the chain supports operations with a Dematic distribution management system. At the Carlisle center, it utilizes an Intelligrated distribution management solution.

Offering advice to other retailers who are considering employing a cross-dock supply chain strategy, Corsa said remembering the human element is key.

“You need a great distribution team,” stated Corsa. “You can have all the technology in the world and all the space, but if you don’t have a great team and hire for a great team, the results won’t be as good. The challenge is you don’t pick, pack and replenish goods in the distribution center, you do it in the store. If inventory gets backed up, you have to flow it through.”

Since the store essentially serves as a mini-distribution center in the cross-dock model, Corsa said it is helpful, but not mandatory, that stores be of a larger size.

“We have 50,000 SKUs in our store warehouse environment,” explained Corsa. “If you have less square footage in the store, you must be really cognizant of what comes in and goes out.”

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