by Melanie Semko, DBED Marketing & Communications
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in 2009, there were almost 22,000 electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in the U.S., employing some 320,721 workers. The value of retail sales by these establishments in December 2010 totaled $34 billion—the highest total for any month last year. If you are among the growing number of time-strapped consumers shopping online this holiday season, don’t be surprised if your online order is filled at a distribution facility right here in Maryland. In fact, several retail businesses announced expansion plans in Maryland this year to support the growth of online shopping.
Kohl’s purchased a 602,000-square-foot building in Edgewood for a website distribution center last March. The department store company opened the fulfillment facility during the summer and plans to expand to one million square feet by 2012, employing 1,200 within three years. Harford County site was selected as the site for its business-friendly community, strong economy, availability of a robust workforce and proximity to Kohls.com eastern customer base. “This new facility will ensure that Kohl’s is able to accommodate the tremendous growth of our Kohls.com business,” said Ken Bonning, Kohl’s executive vice president of store planning and logistics.
In May, SuperBookDeals purchased a 13,400-square-foot, two-story office building situated on 1.4 acres in Columbia for $2.1 million. A third-party bookseller, SuperBookDeals is a distribution facilitator for Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Abe Books, Half.com, Valore Books, and Play.com. This internet retailer is a one-stop source for textbooks, trade books, and books on virtually any topic and offers a wide selection at rock-bottom prices.
Simplexity, the Internet’s leading authorized seller of cell phones and wireless services, established a Technology and Operations Center in Upper Marlboro in June, creating 85 new jobs in Prince George’s County. Based in Reston, Virginia, Simplexity operates proprietary e-commerce platforms, providing affiliates and marketing partners with integrated solutions for cell phone and wireless product merchandising, activation, logistics and fulfillment. The privately held company also creates and maintains web sites for a variety of companies, including many of the largest retailers in the U.S. Simplexity’s business and technology solutions include comprehensive inventory and rate plan management, order processing, automated activation, online merchandising, high-level customer care and customer relationship marketing.
In October, Hearty Pet, a Washington County-based retailer, leased a 14,532-square-foot distribution warehouse in Hagerstown, as well as 2,026 square feet for a retail store at Hagerstown Premium Outlets. The online distributor of pet food and supplies ships orders all over the nation. Hearty Pet sells premium pet foods and treats for dogs, birds and cats, as well as accessories such as toys, collars, leashes and beds. The company, owned and operated by Tracy Blair of Boonsboro, hired five new employees as part of the expansion, and employs family for web development, accounting, marketing, packing, and shipping. The company focuses on holistic, natural and organic pet foods and emphasizes the health benefits of premium-quality foods.
Last, but not least, in November, Sephora USA signed a 70,133-square-foot lease in Belcamp’s Riverside Business Park, expanding its existing 316,524 square feet of distribution space in Harford County. Sephora is a major presence in hundreds of retail centers worldwide while Sephora.com is one of the Internet’s foremost beauty shopping sites and the company’s largest North American “store” in terms of sales and selection of products and brands. In 2006, the company became the exclusive provider of beauty products for JCPenney stores across the country, requiring an expansion of its distribution network. This prompted management to reevaluate whether to remain in Belcamp. Sephora decided to stay and extend Belcamp’s lease, thanks to Harford County’s many benefits, including its strategic location on the I-95 corridor, proximity to several international airports and seaports, and an excellent labor pool.