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Sweetwater prepares to open Arizona facility, speed up West Coast deliveries

Photo Supplied/Sweetwater

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business): Fort Wayne-based music retailer Sweetwater says it will be hiring 375 additional workers for its Allen County distribution center as the holiday shopping season prepares to kick into high gear. That growth is on top of the approximately 170 workers the company will be hiring for its new 350,000-square-foot distribution center in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale. Announced in June, this is the company’s first fulfillment facility outside of Allen County.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Sweetwater President and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins said the facility was needed to speed up deliveries to the western U.S.

“Right now, when we ship from Fort Wayne, often it takes five or six days to get to Los Angeles, Phoenix, even Western Texas,” said Hopkins. “When we put a circle around that [region], it could be 30% of our business is taking several days longer than it should take to get to customers and to get them satisfied.”

He expects the shipments will be reduced to one to three days with the opening of the Arizona site.

The musical instrument and audio equipment e-commerce retailer held a job fair job this week to grow its Arizona workforce and Hopkins says the response from prospective employees has been “shocking.”

“We got an IT person in Phoenix, that we hired just a week or two ago, that quit his job before he even got hired by us because he was so sure that he wanted to work for us,” said Hopkins. “It’s one thing to know [us] in Indiana, and have a reputation here, but we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve got just a great nationwide reputation.”

Hopkins says over the next few months, it will be adding about 80 people to the west coast operations, followed by another 80 in the first quarter of next year.

He says the new facility is still awaiting final occupancy approval from regulatory agencies, but Hopkins says storage racks are in place and ready to receive its first shipments of product later this month.

“And then in October, we’ll start shipping product out the door. So, it’s coming on quickly,” said Hopkins. “We’ll ramp up shipping quickly to shipping about 1,000 orders a day. And then we’ll ramp up from there through the holiday season.”

He says the goal was to get the facility up and running and to work out any problems in the facility before the big holiday rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, especially as it grows market share in the western U.S.

“That’s the one place that we feel like we’ve got the best opportunity to increase customer satisfaction. So that’s what it’s really all about is customer satisfaction for us,” Hopkins said.

In February 2020, the company unveiled its 480,000-square-foot warehouse in Fort Wayne, quadrupling the size of its previous facility. Hopkins says the Arizona campus will take pressure off the Indiana distribution center.

“We’re unloading a good percentage of the businesses currently shipping out of Fort Wayne. Even if we don’t get the whole 30% out, if we get 15% or 20% out, that extra capacity will last us for a few years in Fort Wayne. So, we don’t plan to expand the building in Fort Wayne anymore for the next few years.”

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