Q&A: Christopher Halkyard

Christopher Halkyard discusses supply chain strategy and recent innovations at Gilt Groupe

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Chris Halkyard, Gilt Groupe

How have your years of experience in distribution, logistics, and supply chain management helped you find success at Gilt Groupe?

Christopher Halkyard: The one thing I’ve always loved about doing this for a living is that it’s incredibly dynamic—it’s never really the same. I’ve been with major department-store distribution, specialty distribution, off-price, wholesale, business-to-business, and even started up e-commerce sites with previous companies, and when I first started reading up on Gilt, it seemed like a whole new challenge.

Now I’m with Gilt, an e-commerce site that offers a daily selection of merchandise for women’s, men’s, kids’, and home—everything across the board. I’d say from every company I’ve been with I’ve taken something and plugged it all in to this current opportunity. However, the difference is that it’s all online, which is completely different from any other company I’ve been with. There are no physical stores with Gilt.

What supply-chain challenges are unique to Gilt’s business model?

Halkyard: In addition to being a pure e-commerce company, Gilt has the challenge of being a flash-sale organization. We have dozens of different brand-specific sales going on every day. If you look at that from a supply chain perspective, our store is changing every single day. So what that means for my team is that if we know what’s going on sale tomorrow, I have to make sure that we have all of those items in a very highly productive area to be able to sell. So if you could imagine changing out your store—the endcaps and the display windows—every single day with new product, that, to me, is the biggest challenge of maintaining a solid supply chain at Gilt.

How have you streamlined Gilt’s supply chain strategy?

Halkyard: I really tend to look outside the four walls of the fulfillment center to optimize our productivity. So what I’ve done is put together and contracted out our own freight forwarding and logistics company, and we’ve actually systemically integrated with them.

As a result, the minute our goods are ready for pickup, we dial in directly to this outside third party, and we’re now managing all of those inbound receipts from coast to coast. Gilt’s main facilities are in Louisville, Kentucky, but no matter where our thousands of vendors are, we now have online supply chain exposure so we can meter them in and balance that to when the goods are actually going on sale. Then all the work Gilt has to do is get it up on the site, ready to be sold—photography, editorial, etc.—but we’re able to do a lot of that prior to the goods even being received in the facilities.

On the international side, our business is really booming. We’ve started to work with additional partners to be able to ship out to 180 different countries, and it’s one of our largest-growing areas right now in the organization.

How have recent innovations helped enhance Gilt’s customer experience?

Halkyard: Gilt is very fortunate to have some of the best engineers anywhere in the country, and we’ve been working on significant initiatives. We are at the forefront when it comes to personalization. Because we’re a members-only site, we learn about their shopping habits. We know what our customers want, and we use that to be able to provide them a better offering. You might have bought a dress from a certain brand. We can use that to send you e-mails regarding that brand in the future, such as “We have your favorite brand on sale tomorrow.” We try to personalize each member’s experience. I think that really sets us ahead of the competition, and it has proven to be very successful. In addition, the creative feel and execution of the site is second to none.