Tony Davis, senior vice president of distribution and logistics at Katy, Texas-based Academy Sports + Outdoors, sees the logistics business evolving to meet growing demands of e-commerce – a retail segment that scarcely existed when he was earning his degree in the ’80s.
Davis, who, not surprisingly, enjoys spending time outdoors, shares his thoughts on the dynamic nature of logistics in an exclusive interview with the American Journal of Transportation.
Academy Sports + Outdoors executive Tony Davis looks to
logistics to fulfill e-commerce demands.
Academy Sports + Outdoors serves 156 stores in 13 states in the southern U.S. from distribution centers in Texas and Georgia. How does that logistics operation work, and what role does the Port of Houston specifically play?
We have two distribution centers today – one, with a footprint of about 1.4 million square feet, here in Katy, Texas, which is a Houston suburb where our corporate headquarters is also located, and the other in Jeffersonville, Ga., a few miles southeast of Macon. We just completed a 200,000-square-foot expansion at our Katy facility, and we’re in the middle of an expansion at Jeffersonville, adding about a half a million square feet to that facility.
Those two DCs serve our entire chain, and, with very few exceptions, all product moves through one of our two distribution centers. The Texas DC serves stores throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, and the Georgia facility covers the rest of the Southeast, including a part of Louisiana.
Whether it’s from a domestic vendor or a foreign source, the product will move through one of those two distribution centers and then on to our stores. The Port of Houston is one of three U.S. ports we use and, specifically, the Port of Houston and the port[s] of L.A./Long Beach service the Texas distribution center, and the Georgia distribution center is serviced via the Port of Savannah.
The Port of Houston is the secondary port for the Texas distribution center, with L.A./Long Beach being primary. We’ve got door-rate contracts with the ocean carriers, which arrange the movements to our door.
The Port of Houston is a great partner in the community. I recently had lunch with [Port of Houston Authority General Manager for Trade Development] John Moseley, and we’re on an executive council as one of the key shippers in the area. They like to stay engaged with the community, and we’re supporters of them as they try to attract more container capacity from Asia, and specifically China, to the Port of Houston. They’re working hard to build on that, and we hope to be a part of that, too. We also have some product that comes out of Central and South America to the Port of Houston.
We actually import from more than 30 countries, but China is our mainstay, as it is for most retailers in the U.S.
I believe Academy Sports + Outdoors is about a year and a half into its academy.com fulfillment operation. How has this operation evolved in meeting e-commerce challenges?
We’re in our second peak season as far as e-commerce fulfillment is concerned. It’s really an ever-evolving business. For us and other retailers, e-commerce has become an “omnichannel” business.
This means retailers are looking to support customers’ interest in researching, learning about products before they buy, as well as supporting their shopping preferences, whether it’s in-store, via the website, mobile phone or tablet. From the retailer’s perspective, it’s looking at how to meet customer demand, whether it’s from a fulfillment operation or store inventory.
So you end up with these channels of demand and supply really crossing each other on multiple fronts. I think that having a centralized e-comm fulfillment center and a customer being online at their desktop placing an order, that’s changed very quickly to customers being interested in learning about product and being savvy in