Inside Logistics

All geared up

Scoring one for retail replenishment

November 25, 2008
by Deborah Aarts

As Canada’s largest sporting goods retailer, the Forzani Group Ltd relies on effective deliveries to stores. The company has spent more than four years building and fine-tuning a sorting and allocation system to get the gear to customers faster. Deborah Aarts reports on how it’s all paying off.

Replenishment is everything in retail. Success at the cash registers is directly related to a company’s ability to stock its shelves quickly and accurately.

Few companies in Canada know this as well as the Forzani Group Ltd (FGL). As the owner of more than 340 corporate stores (including the Sport Chek, Sport Mart, Athletes World and Coast Mountain Sports banners) and the franchisor of more than 220 others (including Sports Experts, Fitness Source and Nevada Bob’s Golf), the company is responsible for filling more than 5.5 million square feet of retail selling space across Canada.

Most of that product is sorted at the company’s 475,000sqf DC in Mississauga, Ontario. Between 75,000 and 100,000 units, ranging from hockey sticks to bike locks to running shoes, pass through the facility every day.

Determining what goes where used to be as cumbersome as a loose pair of skates and as sluggish as a flat-tired bicycle. But an automated sorting system—designed and installed in two phases with the help of a partner—has changed all that. Today, the company can process more than 700 percent of the volume it could less than a decade ago.

All it took was some vision, plenty of planning and lots and lots of conveyors.

Shooting below par
Five years ago, FGL supplied most of its stores through a 200,000sqf building in Mississauga.

The building was cramped, and becoming more so as business grew. While the company did manage to get product out, it wasn’t doing so in an especially efficient or cost-effective way. There was no automation, and the technology in place was far from ideal. Most processes—including sorting and allotment—were highly manual and spread out across the space.

“To be successful anywhere, you have to give people the tools to do things effectively,” says Keith Lambert, FGL’s senior vice-president of supply chain/merchandise management. “In our old warehouse, we weren’t giving them the tools to do their job properly.”

He knew he could do better—and that the solution wasn’t going to occur in that facility. The company started the search for a new, larger DC that would allow it to process much more, much better.