Inventory and last mile management can be a challenge for any retailer, but they’re particularly complex when you’re a small company whose flagship product is a 37-lb. board game made from parts produced around the world. Cephalofair Games, which recently released its Frosthaven game following a nearly $13 million Kickstarter campaign, had to manage fulfillment to both 83,000 backers and 600 independently owned retailers worldwide.
“Most board games are going to be four to six games per carton, but ours is just like a single game per carton — so we can only fit 1,000 units on a container,” said Isaac Childres, CEO of Cephalofair Games in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We had to ship out over 100,000 units, so it was kind of an unprecedented project in the industry just in the amount of the volume. There are a few Kickstarter fulfillment companies in the industry, but they never handled a project anywhere near this big. We were in negotiations with them, but also nervous about whether they were able to do it or not, and so [COO] Price [Johnson] really started thinking outside the box, [asking] ‘Can we find someone outside of this industry, outside this bubble that we’re in, and maybe level up our logistics?’”
Cephalofair found its partner in Ware2Go, an on-demand warehousing and fulfillment company that helped the four-person team manage the complicated logistics of assembling, storing and delivering its massive product. In fact, getting the game ready to ship took nearly two years, and the company was sizing up the shipping challenges that have plagued the entire retail industry as it approached completion.
“A year or so ago, in the height of the shipping crisis with huge container costs and increasing shipping costs due to fuel shortages, we were getting pretty nervous about actually being able to fulfill the project at all based on the costs we were looking at,” said Childres.
Adding to the complications, and potentially the costs, was the global nature of putting everything together. Each Frosthaven box includes parts from China, Turkey and Bulgaria, and some of the assembled product was headed to international locations including the UK, Germany and Australia. The solution provider also aimed to simplify the complex supply chain by minimizing the time (and therefore the cost) that the incomplete boxes spent in warehouses.
Cephalofair also faced the time crunch of fulfilling as many orders as possible by Christmas 2022 to ensure games given as gifts arrived in time for the holidays. “It was a really big, complex project and then here’s the kicker: it had to be shipped in November and December,” said Steve Denton, CEO of Ware2Go in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We didn’t have the luxury of doing this in the doldrums of summer. So we started coordinating, but the containers were on the water and they wanted them all delivered before Christmas. This was peak season complexity, but the team just executed really well on that.”
A strategy Ware2Go executed on in the U.S. was to forward stage inventory close to its final destination so it could be delivered by ground whenever possible. This proved to be a good approach once winter storms grounded airplanes around the country, limiting air cargo space. If a customer is expecting their game in two or three days or even just a specific date further out, achieving an on-time delivery is far less susceptible to sudden, potentially disappointing, interruptions if the box is just one truck ride away.
“I think what customers appreciate more than two days is certainty,” said Denton. “What we see with our clients and their customers is obviously they want that Amazon Prime-like experience and we can deliver that — but equally important is certainty. If I know I’m gonna get it in three, I might take three with certainty over hopefully two. Predictability is becoming more and more important, which is why forward staging is important.”
Another benefit offered by Ware2Go was its ability to make Cephalofair’s fulfillment carbon-neutral. The solution provider offsets the emissions caused by its activities by purchasing carbon credits, adding to the value proposition of the game. Ware2Go has found that as many as 60% of consumers want to minimize the impact delivery has on the environment.
Cephalofair is planning to continue working with Ware2Go for its future projects, including a second printing of Frosthaven and an upcoming Kickstarter to make miniatures for use with the game. Both companies are still working hard on fulfillment, managing the complexity of both creating the product and getting it to doorsteps in the most efficient way possible.
“Across the board, people have just been really impressed with the quality of the game and the size of the game,” said Childres. “The first thing that blows people away is how big the box is and the amount of stuff there is in it. But even then, once they actually break it open and start playing with it, they realize how much effort and love went into it.”