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Custom Shipping Integration Helps MyLocker.net Shoot and Score

MyLocker.net is a Warren, Mich.–based e-commerce business that sells custom apparel online. Customers from more than 110,000 K–12 schools have access to their own branded e-storefronts where they can instantly select and design products including T-shirts, sweatpants and gym bags for a favorite school, team or league. As business boomed, MyLocker.net founder Robert Hake wanted to consolidate his shipping with one carrier who could integrate shipping and tracking information directly into the website his team of programmers built from scratch.

Warm up

Anyone who's ever attended an outdoor sports event knows that withstanding the elements is part of the experience. In 1998, Hake created blankets with polar fleece on one side and water-resistant fabric inspired by pizza-delivery bags on the other. Customers flocked to purchase the blanket and soon asked for other items — T-shirts, hoodies and hats — printed with their team name and logo in school colors.

"The internet took off. Google became a verb. We knew we had to get online to sell our custom apparel," says Hake. "We decided to build a web system that would be very difficult to duplicate."

Coaching a winner

With the help of a team of developers, Hake began building an online store in 2005. "I have no tech background, but I've kind of become a techie," Hake says. "I can work with our developers to get them to understand what needs to be done, and then they turn it into magic."

In other words, he makes a great coach. The website launched only a year later.

Hake's next goal was getting production to run as smoothly as the online store. "We wanted to create a production system that integrated with the site so we could create one-off customized apparel very efficiently," Hake says.

They did it. The only disconnect was that shipping was not integrated into their technology. They were using multiple carriers, and the shipping information was handled on separate systems. It slowed the production process by valuable minutes and increased the possibility of errors.

Strength building

MyLocker.net already used FedEx SmartPost® for 95 percent of their shipments, because most were residential deliveries. But Hake wanted one carrier that could handle everything from overnight to international shipping — as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"They expected their volume to double," says FedEx account representative Franklin Wilkerson. "With the added volume, time was going to be critical when they hit their peak selling season from the start of school and through the holidays."
When Wilkerson and FedEx customer technology advisor Rico Jimenez saw the extent of automation Hake wanted, Jimenez suggested that their developers work directly with FedEx Web Services code to connect their software directly to FedEx servers that would feed them shipping and status- tracking information instantly.

In addition, to get MyLocker.net up and running as quickly as possible, Wilkerson suggested they apply for a FedEx Tech Award®. The program offers qualified customers a subsidy to acquire the hardware or technology needed to access and use FedEx® shipping services. The company received two awards, which they redeemed for computers. FedEx also gave them scan guns and printers to print labels and packing slips.

When the major selling season hit, they were ready — and a good thing, too. Sales exceeded predictions, more than doubling numbers from 2010.

Go team!

Since integrating with FedEx, Hake has served his customers even better. "Integrating with FedEx has helped streamline status-tracking information for our customers. Now we send shipping information in an email with a hot link. With one click they can see exactly where their shipment is."

Shipping integration has also delivered a dramatic impact on the efficiency of MyLocker.net's systems: Hake was able to reduce labor by a whopping 75 percent even though volume spiked. By automating almost all of the ordering and production processes, he didn't need the same number of people to fill orders.

Now that everything is in place, Hake plans to continue to expand. Funneling wholesale orders through the website comes next. "We're expecting another major growth phase," Hake says.

Home run

As his company continues to hit one milestone after another, he's counting on FedEx. "The relationship we have with FedEx is strategic and forward-thinking because of the support we get from our FedEx representative," says Hake. "He's on the forefront of what's happening."

With a visionary thinker like Hake at the helm of MyLocker.net, there's no doubt he's leading his team to another online retail victory.