Q&A: Michael Arking of French Toast — a Leading School Uniform Supplier — on eBay Enterprise
French Toast isn’t just for breakfast — it’s also the name of the United States’ number one supplier of school uniforms. eBay Enterprise (formerly GSI Commerce) has served as a long-term fulfillment and support partner for French Toast, and especially assists the company during its peak season, between July and September each year.
Michael Arking has served as President of Frenchtoast.com, the ecommerce arm of the company, for more than a decade. The Hub caught up with Michael for an interview on how the two companies work together. Here are his thoughts.
What does French Toast do, and how does eBay Enterprise work with you?
French Toast is the number one brand of school uniforms in the United States. Moms put their trust in us to provide them with the largest selection of quality school uniforms at affordable prices. We manufacture and sell wholesale to many leading retailers, and in 1999 we launched online with our direct-to-consumer business.
We used to do all fulfillments in-house, and we have our own facility for doing that which is actually 600,000 square feet. When we realized that managing consumer orders was a very different discipline, we moved our consumer division Frenchtoast.com, to the eBay Enterprise facility for both fulfillment and customer support. They provide operators for customer service, and complete fulfillment services. We have an excellent relationship with them.
Our business is very seasonal, with about 70 percent of it done between July and September each year. At that time, we especially need operators for customer service and order fulfillment assistance to manage the high volume of orders coming in. eBay Enterprise gives us that flexibility.
Please tell us about the history of eBay Enterprise’s relationship with French Toast, and how it came about.
We were originally adopted by GSI Commerce (now eBay Enterprise) when they purchased our warehouse in Martinsville, Virginia. Prior to that, we were the first drop shippers online for Kmart and Sears in the apparel category, which was our first experience with GSI. That’s how we made the connection.
Can you provide an anecdotal example of how a particular process or service is facilitated through eBay Enterprise's solutions?
Sure, we have a custom embroidery business that eBay Enterprise supports, for doing things like providing custom logos for schools. It’s a complex part of our business, because the logos involve a lot of set up and efficiency management. eBay Enterprise has brought machinery in-house to help with this, and developed training around it. It took us a couple of seasons to really get going with it, but it’s really working well now.
eBay Enterprise also helps us manage our freight costs, by allowing us to piggyback on the billions of dollars of fulfillment they process for other partners. This allows us to obtain volume discounts we would not normally be able to meet.
What are future goals and next steps in evolving this business relationship?
We have a lot of extended relationships with third-party sellers for drop shipments. That is definitely an area that is growing. We have drop ship relationships with JC Penney, Kmart and others. It requires a good amount of IT resources to manage the programing to get these partners set up. Fortunately, eBay Enterprise has a strong IT group that helps us support this business.