MISSISSAUGA – NLI International, a newly formed provider of direct to home delivery solutions for high end furniture, electronics and appliances purchased online, has taken a critical step in its development with the official opening of its Mississauga, Ont. distribution centres.
The first distribution centre opened by business partners Andrew Britton and Robert Martella is a 32,000 sq. ft., 8-bay door facility. It has been operational since April. Outfitted to warehouse up to 75,000 square feet of product, the operation is temperature controlled and equipped with the latest in security technology. Acting as the nerve centre for NLI’s national service strategy it offers warehousing and logistics products dedicated to some of North America’s largest name brand manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
Their second distribution centre, operational as of July, offers an additional 20,000 sq. ft. located directly behind the first facility. This facility’s operation is dedicated exclusively to the home delivery industry with plenty of room to expand as needed.
Having access to extra space is of prime importance to Britton and Martella, who believe NLI’s white glove services fill a market niche that will contribute to rapid growth. Since shipping its first order in mid-April, NLI International has shipped over 7,000 orders to date and president and COO Britton believes that amount will increase fourfold within a few months.
Their entire operation is run with a staff of 12 covering every function from the daily data entry of orders using the NLI International proprietary system to the shipping and receiving process at both locations. Being strategically located in Mississauga, Ont. and with access to all major highways, the airport and rail yards, NLI International can respond quickly to shipping and receiving requirements. An additional operation in Vancouver, BC., opens the door to offshore manufacturers who import their goods into Canada from all over the world.
In addition, their “Above and Beyond” program, has created a new forum for reducing returns or damage replacements through a proactive and integrated partnership between NLI, their client/partners and their team of delivery experts across Canada. “Onsite and immediate communication puts the manufacturer into the driver’s seat allowing NLI to execute instant solutions including minor repair while in the home,” Britton said.
NLI International’s white glove operation specializes in full service, in home delivery, including installation, assembly and debris removal.
“It isn’t rocket science,” says Britton, “but it takes a full understanding of the client/partner’s needs, a professional and dedicated team and above all, a passion for this industry.”
The goal is to keep the furniture in the home, keep the client/purchaser happy and reduce merchandise returns for the manufacturer, added CEO Martella.
“For any issue, our delivery agents are charged to take action immediately and, on-site. With the participation of the manufacturer and NLI, they can and do provide minor repairs or incentives to keep the furniture from being returned,” Martella said.
Martella and Britton explain this is key to serving the market for online sales of high end furniture, appliances and electronics where it is estimated that 4-8% of all goods delivered are refused at the home. Whether the refusal is due to buyer’s remorse or just plain damage caused through poor handling, the result is the same: Additional transportation costs, the potential for further damage and bottom line, lost revenue and market share. For some manufacturers, the return rates have been as high as 40% making the online proposition impossible within the Canadian market. Lower densities and greater distances between major urban centres is much harder to service than the market south of the border but Britton says that with the NLI International “Above and Beyond” program, many are seeing a direct correlation to NLI’s better practices and the client /partners’ ability to compete in Canada.
Britton and Martella believe NLI International’s services will help to bring the return rate below 4%.
“In my experience, it is the final mile delivery that makes the difference when it comes to the profitability of online sales. I wanted to create something better than what was available out there. If there is an issue with any aspect of a delivery we don’t wash our hands of it. We take care of it. We take ownership of that product”, says Britton, who has been in the transportation business for more than 30 years.
The Grand Opening of NLI International was officiated by the timeless Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion with a large number of client/partners, suppliers, friends and family in attendance from both NLI International and its parent company NLI Solutions, a provider of sales and distribution for loyalty and incentive programs as well as Tier 1 online retailers.
NLI International has adopted a non-asset strategy in forming its Canada wide delivery footprint and has partnered with 26 delivery agents across the country. The key to providing the quality of service demanded by national membership based retailers and the manufacturers who serve them is finding the right delivery agents in the first place.
“We are looking to find companies who are team players. They act as an extension of us, so that is important. We have been very selective in making sure we have the right delivery agents on our team,” Britton said.
To attract the right delivery agents and foster a team atmosphere, NLI International is organizing a co-op for their delivery partners in areas such benefits, fuel, insurance, etc., said Carolina Billings, CFO and CHRO.