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Thu 30 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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First serve

Prince Sport is aiming for a grand slam in the local racquets market. To help improve its service, the sports company has established a presence in Dubai and outsourced its warehouse operations to CWT-SML Logistics.

|~||~||~|Demand for tennis racquets reaches fever pitch every time there is a major tournament like Wimbledon, the US Open or the Dubai Tennis Championship; however, it can equally quickly fall back once the season ends. Prince Sport, a manufacturer of performance racquet sports equipment and clothing apparel since 1970, is tackling these peaks and troughs in demand by outsourcing its local warehouse operations to CWT-SML Logistics. Rather than having a fixed base for its operations in Dubai, outsourcing gives Prince more flexibility in its supply chain, allowing it to quickly increase or cut its warehousing space in line with demand.

The benefits of outsourcing will be clearly shown this month, as Prince has signed a deal with the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club to become the official tennis racquet and bag supplier for Wimbledon. As such, it expects business in the Middle East to soar during the tournament, as tennis fans snap up items from its Wimbledon by Prince range.

“Tennis racquets are a small portion of what we do as a company, but this market is really growing in the Middle East and Africa region and we expect it will increase after Wimbledon, so we need stocks here,” says Raza Farooqui, business development manager Middle East, Prince Sport.

“We have our own warehouse in the USA, but we felt why should we try to reinvent the wheel here when there are companies like CWT around. At Prince, we feel that if someone can do the job better than us, then we will let them do it. We have also outsourced operations at our European base as well, so we feel that this works well,” he adds.

Prince outsourced its regional warehousing to CWT-SML Logistics because it is an international company that could support Prince’s global business, and because it had the necessary warehousing space available. Prince also saw Jafza as an ideal base for distribution across the Middle East, Africa and Indian Subcontinent, because of its central position and good infrastructure. Shipments from Prince’s factories in the Far East to Jebel Ali also take just 15 days by sea. “We decided to have a hub in Dubai, as it is easy to do business here and it is a central area for us to be in,” says Farooqui.

CWT-SML Logistics set up its 3PL warehouse in Jebel Ali in 1999, and a second is now under construction. The company, which is a joint venture between CWT Distribution Ltd, SembCorp Logistics Ltd and Ali Albwardy, an Arab businessman, now stores, repackages and distributes goods for a number of companies including Colgate and Cannon. However, for Prince, CWT-SML provides storage and distribution.

“We receive on average one container a month for Prince, including racquets, balls, footwear and promotional goods. Although we have our own shipping group we do not always use them to ship goods here, instead we look for the most cost effective solution,” says Ken Lau, general manager CWT-SML Logistics.

In order to serve the market in the quickest and most efficient way, Prince mainly sends goods to Jebel Ali by sea, with air transport used for time sensitive goods, for example, promotional posters and banners. Once the goods leave the Jebel Ali warehouse, transportation across the GCC is done through Aramex. “Although cost is a major factor, reliability is key for us,” comments Farooqui.||**|||~||~||~|For stock management, Prince uses its own web-based programme which was developed by the Canadian company QCS (Quinte Computer Services). By using this system, Prince cuts down on the amount of stock that is stored in its regional warehouses as it is able to make accurate monthly forecasts to determine how much stock needs to be shipped to its warehouses in Jebel Ali and Ghent, Belgium.

Using the system, Prince can also manage its inventory across the world. Retailers are also able to order stock from Prince using the web-based application. “We have our main inventory centre based in London, and on a monthly basis we run a basic stock control to determine what needs to go where,” says Farooqui.

“Then, at the two ends of this chain are the vendors and manufacturers, who also have some access to the system in order to place orders and inventory control,” he adds.
CWT-SML Logistics uses an Oracle-based warehouse management system (WMS). This is not integrated with Prince’s back end system, but the 3PL does have online access to the information it needs.

“Prince has about 200 SKUs here, so it is important to know how much stock they have, of what type and when it will arrive. Regular checks need to be maintained, as each racquet type can have five different designs based on grip, so it is vital to ensure that the WMS recognises this,” says Lau.

“We also have to make sure that there is the right amount of stock in the warehouse. With tennis balls there is a lot of stock readily available, but with more expensive racquets there are not as many. As such, it is vital to have monthly stock checks, so that we do not run out,” adds Farooqui.

However, at times demand for certain products may soar, meaning extra deliveries have to be sent to the Gulf region. For instance, promotional material and posters featuring one of Prince’s main players, Maria Sharapova, last year’s Wimbledon champion, were in strong demand prior to this year’s event. Extra supplies therefore had to be shipped in and more are likely to be needed if she wins again this year.

“For players like Sharapova, demand for posters or the racquet she uses increases in the run-up to any major competition, and with her winning Wimbledon last year promotional goods were flying off the shelf,” says Farooqui.

Moving ahead, Prince is drawing up plans to open a chain of sports shops across the region. Again, the ability to increase its storage space in line with demand will be a key factor, so the company expects to continue outsourcing its warehousing to CWT-SML Logistics.

“Because of the increasing popularity of racquet sports in this region, especially tennis and squash amongst expats we are going to open mono-brand stores across the Gulf,” says Farooqui.

“In spring 2006 we will begin by opening stores in Kuwait and then Dubai. Within the next two to three years we expect to have 10-15 stores open across the Middle East, with Jebel Ali acting as the main base for our operations,” he adds.||**||

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