If you order a new Smithey cast iron pan or a Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. mixer online this holiday season, it’ll be one of the more than 1.3 million items shipped from Nice Commerce’s North Charleston warehouse.
In fact, Nice Commerce packs and ships orders for more than 40 local-favorite and national companies that are big enough to need help getting products to customers, but not so big to need a dedicated warehouse. These days, the logistics industry, as it is known, is a high-tech, fast-moving sector built to ensure the right packages get to the right people ASAP. But the big, bright, automated warehouses aren’t just for Amazon and major retailers. Nice Commerce aims to fill the gap for companies with two products or 200. It’s all about optimization and process.
“I feel like we have this infinitely scalable model,” said Gray Anderson, 32, founder of the company and one of its first customers as an entrepreneur with a handful of ecommerce companies under his belt.
A College of Charleston graduate, Anderson wound his way through the marketing and PR industries until he had a chance to dig in as a consultant helping online companies and optimize sales. Now with his own portfolio of brands he oversees from socks to seasonings, shutters and Alaskan king crab, Nice Commerce came about out of necessity.
Inside Nice’s Palmetto Commerce Parkway warehouse, pallets are stacked on racks 25-feet high alongside a wall of loading docks ready to send and receive the day’s haul. The wild world of global manufacturing and shipping can delay when a product arrives at the warehouse, but once it’s there and accounted for, things start rolling.
“Everything has an SOP [standard operating procedure],” said Ryan Stewart, head of partnerships and marketing, pointing to a box of tagged bags containing freshly folded sweatshirts. “There’s a process that we write up for literally everything that we do from cleaning the bathrooms to how you process individual returns for individual clients.”
There are no robots, but everything is tracked down to its precise location in the building. Back by the packing line, bins of smaller items are organized according to how often they’re shipped out. Every pair of socks, shirt, bathing suit and even collateral some companies send first-time buyers, get a bin. Larger and irregularly sized items sit on shelves toward the back, including those hulking cast-iron pans.
Packing an order from a rolling shelf stacked with plastic bins, Gabriel Long grabs a small bottle of seasoning that’s ready to go and zaps his scanner across a series of barcodes at his workstation, all hooked into the company’s customized logistics software. A computer screen updates with shipping info and he grabs the right-sized envelope — there’s an SOP for that, he said — and drops it into the appropriate shipper’s cart to be sent out the door. Nice Commerce shops for the best shipping rates and speeds that can change day to day — savings that can shave 30-40 cents off a $9 order, according to Anderson.
Nice Commerce moved into this warehouse a year ago last week, and it’s not done yet. But expansion isn’t just about growing for the sake of growing, Anderson said.
“I don’t want 10 warehouses around the country, I want three really efficient warehouses.”
There’s a process for that.
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.