Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giant New BJ's Center Keeps Retailer's Stores Stocked

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giant New BJ's Center Keeps Retailer's Stores Stocked

Article excerpt

Byline: Gregory Richards, Times-Union business writer

Think of it as a big BJ's Wholesale Club. Multiplied by four.

The giant 480,000-square-foot distribution center for the Massachusetts-based company opened at the end of March to serve 32 stores throughout the Southeast. It's a cavernous space where pallets packed with all sorts of shrink-wrapped products -- from canoes to salad dressing to Country Time lemonade -- are whisked from truck to truck on forklifts to keep the retailer's stores stocked.

But there's very few goods that are stored in the center. And that's the point.

"The whole idea is to get it in, quantify it, and get it out as quickly as possible," said Joe Munley, the center's manager. BJ's wants the products on its store shelves where customers can find them, not in the center where nothing is for sale.

The roughly $25 million center, off Pritchard Road on the Westside, is BJ's third hub. The chain, which has stores from Florida to Maine, also operates a 630,000-square-foot center in New Jersey and a 143,000-square-foot facility in Massachusetts.

Built in a T-shape, the narrow part of Jacksonville's center holds 176 loading docks. Trucks from suppliers pull in, and goods are unloaded and then sorted on the other side to trucks destined for BJ's stores. BJ's operates two stores in Jacksonville, though a third is planned for Philips Highway, officials said.

With 100 trailers unloading every day, tracking everything is a big issue. Bar codes help to make sense of it all. Bar-code scanners mounted on the forklifts make sure the pallets are going to the proper stores. Knowing where everything is at all times also helps to keep costs low, said Ray Sareeram, BJ's senior vice president of logistics.

However, some merchandise is stored, either if BJ's bought it at a really good deal -- that's why several dozen pallets of ketchup is sitting in the center -- or if BJ's expects it to be in strong demand, like gas grills destined for summer cook-outs. …

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