Expanding to the Canadian market was the logical next step for Wisconsin-based Legendary Whitetails, a successful designer and retailer of clothing and gear targeted specifically at deer hunters. The family-owned company had already made tremendous inroads within the United States, and strongly suspected there would be demand among Canada's hunters and their families for its high-quality clothing and products.
That suspicion proved correct, as catalogue and internet orders from Canadian consumers soon began to trickle in. But as the company soon realized, expanding beyond the United States, even to neighboring Canada, can be a complicated process, not one for the faint of heart.
Initially, the company had enlisted a very well regarded, internationally recognized transportation provider to oversee its Canada-bound shipments, so managers felt they were in good hands. Unfortunately though, it wasn't long before cracks started to appear in what was supposed to be an ironclad process.
For one thing, transit times were unusually long, with shipments taking up to two weeks to reach customers. Costs were also a concern, especially in light of the disappointing service Legendary Whitetails was receiving.
“We were being charged the equivalent of what we would pay for two-day service in the United States,” says Ben Huffman, the company’s vice president of operations, “but receiving nowhere near that level of service.”
The company’s 'word of mouth' strategy depended on flawless execution
As Huffman explains, the company’s success in Canada was highly dependent on a well-executed Canadian distribution process. “We are a very small company, and do not have the resources to advertise or market heavily in Canada. We felt that positive customer experiences and the resulting word of mouth would help spread the word.”
As such, the company developed a two-phase model for success:
First, it would provide a simple way for Canadian consumers to order products; second, it needed to avoid all barriers to entry, and ensure a seamless delivery process.
However, it soon became obvious that its transportation provider was not fulfilling its part of the strategy, and could possibly be driving customers away. “We had some customers who only wanted to buy one item, maybe two, but shipping costs were so exorbitant, that they couldn’t justify the cost,” Huffman explained.
So with high hopes that service could be improved, Legendary Whitetails called on Purolator International, with a long history of providing transportation and logistics services for shipments traveling between the United States and Canada.
“Right away, it was obvious that this was a core competency for Purolator, rather than an ancillary business,” Huffman said. “Purolator just ‘got it’ right from the start, and responded with an ideal solution that provided exactly the service we were looking for, and at the right price point.”
Finding the problems, offering solutions
The first thing Purolator’s sales team did, led by Business Development Manager Becky Roesle, was to ask lots of questions. “We basically went in and completely broke down all of Legendary Whitetails’s processes, in order to gain a full understanding of what they needed to accomplish. We looked at what was working, and took particular note of what was not working,” says Roesle. “Once we understood the problem, we went to work to customize a solution.”
Specifically, Purolator recommended its “PuroPost” solution, designed to offer fast, cost-efficient service for small packages headed to the Canadian market. Products travel to the border via a Purolator consolidated line haul, but once across the border, are transported to customers’ addresses via a partnership with Canada Post, the country’s national postal system.
“Purolator is the only company that offers a solution like this,” Roesle notes. “And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. What organization is better equipped to reach all consumer addresses than the postal service?”
Transit time halved, costs down by 30 percent
Time spent in transit dropped considerably once the PuroPost solution was implemented. Huffman notes that consumers were receiving their packages within four to seven days, versus 10 days to two weeks, time that Legendary Whitetails management deemed unacceptable. In addition, shipping costs dropped by an average of 30 percent.
“Needless to say, Purolator’s solution was very much in line with our price point,” Huffman says. “We are now in a position where our customers feel comfortable ordering a single item from us, without having to incur a huge shipping fee.”
Hybrid solution addresses seasonal business
Seasonality was another significant issue for this company. Because its inventory is wholly focused on catering to deer hunters, it sees a huge sales spike during hunting season. According to Huffman, roughly 75 percent of the company’s business occurs during the October-December period. During non-peak months, shipments fall off dramatically.
Purolator was able to offer a scalable “hybrid” solution to meet this business cycle. During peak months, daily pick-ups are made from the company’s Wisconsin manufacturing center. But during down times, packages are bundled and sent via parcel to Purolator’s Milwaukee processing center.
“Our non-peak solution probably takes shipments a day longer to reach Canada,” Roesle says, “but is much more efficient than sending a truck for a daily pick-up.”
It’s also a far better solution than the previous transportation provider’s practice of holding goods – for several days – until there were enough packages to justify a shipment to Canada.
Legendary Whitetails also benefited from Purolator’s commitment to technology. Purolator has developed a “Beacon” client portal, through which customers can seamlessly integrate their operating systems with Purolator’s. This allows for easy transfer of data, and enables key processes, including labels, shipping documents, and records management.
Huffman credits the use of technology as a key reason behind the “incredibly fast” on-boarding process. “We were up and running within two months of accepting Purolator’s proposal,” he adds.
While Legendary Whitetails’s innovative designs and quality products are certainly the main reasons customers – both U.S. and Canadian – are drawn to this retailer, its low cost and timely shipping process certainly helps. As Huffman notes, sales to Canada have increased 170 percent since Purolator took over. “Putting a solution in place,” he notes, “that definitely put us in a good place.
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