Sports retailer FatStick Boards is a UK brand based in Bournemouth which sells paddle boards – also known as Stand-Up-Paddling (SUP) boards – to sea lovers in the UK. Launched in 2012, it sells 1,000 boards per year – direct-to-customer and via retailers – but saw orders hit almost 1,400 during 2020 due to staycations amongst Brits as international travel restrictions were enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The retailer was able to scale-up quickly and manage the uplift of orders because of its partnership with Diamond Logistics Bournemouth which FatStick outsourced its fulfilment to back in 2018. Being able to outsource the inventory, picking, packing and delivery of the boards to a local business, meant co-owners Andy Warner and Reuben May were able to concentrate on selling and marketing the boards, reaching record numbers.
2020 was an interesting time to sell or rent-out SUP boards. The pandemic led to a surge in staycations, which led to a surge in UK holidaymakers trying paddle boarding for the first time; a sports activity for the family which allowed social distancing. This brought the community-focused brand to a new and larger audience, ahead of schedule.
Andy predicts that 2021 will be similar to 2020. The staycation boom in 2020 led in turn to a boom in sales of campervans and caravans. He suspects orders from these holiday makers – and other families committed to a UK holiday – to be made early April.
Andy describes how Diamond Logistics “picked up the slack when sales accelerated, and maintained a seamless operation. They understand the fragility of the paddle boards which are easily damaged. And they get the boards where they need to be without fail. Diamond is an extension of the FatStick team.”
For Andy, a major benefit of partnering with Diamond is being able to go into the warehouse to see and touch his boards, 200 of which are usually stored there, each one at least 10 feet long. Once an order is placed, he can let go, as it’s up to Diamond to fulfil the rest. Of course, he still checks in via Diamond’s software despatchlab, which gives him full visibility of stock.
Diamond Logistics Bournemouth is an ideal fulfilment centre for watersports retailers because of its proximity to the sea. Centre Manager Craig Brixey has a good relationship with the FatStick family. “Andy usually joins us when the container arrives.” Explains Craig. “As we unload it he assesses the condition of each board. This allows him to contact the shippers immediately if there’s a problem.”
Andy recalls an occasion when, “an order of 300 boards came in at 9am. They were unloaded by the Diamond team, and some reached customers by 11am. It was awesome to see Craig and his team in action.”
Diamond offers a number of services which make them a good match for FatStick. Its SameDay service is fast, direct and safe. They also offer overnight delivery through all the major carriers.
Craig admits that FatStick Boards requires more heavy lifting and TLC than other clients like Books that Matter and Sacred Gin, because of the size of the product. “The inflatable stand-up paddle boards come in boxes at 16 kilos each. We also store the hard boards, which are 3.6 metres long and 20 kilos in weight.” But Craig enjoys the challenge and watching the brand grow with his bespoke support.
“The containers arrive from China via a freight forwarder at 8am.” Craig shares some of the process. “We unload the boards by hand which can take up to three hours, and split them into colour or product variants.”
“Stock data is then uploaded into our warehouse system which is powered by our own software despatchlab. We then start dispatching the orders on pre-sale to clients.”
Since working with Andy and Reuben, Craig is out on the sea regularly with the FatStick duo, enjoying the waves, with a bit of logistics chat.
Andy says he’s in a fortunate position. Even if they grow too big for the Bournemouth site, Craig and the team will help to find a solution within the Diamond Network.
And grow they will. Andy says the company’s brand is as strong as its boards, and can see them developing new products soon. “We’re thinking of clothing and wetsuits which are affordable too.”
Andy welcomes the switch of focus, this trend he’s seeing in sports retail, from football and rugby pitches to mountains and oceans. From balls to boards. And he imagines major retailers like Mountain Warehouse and Millets are set to reflect this moving forward.
His plans? To continue to develop the online business – a business which was originally set up to support the mental health of ex-surfer Reuben – forced to give up surfing due to back pain. Now a confident business with broader objectives, it’s committed to engaging with community projects, including research with Portsmouth University’s Sports Science, Marine Biology and Mental Health Divisions, which are assessing the benefits of SUP Boarding for mental health, and how it can improve access to the South Coast’s marine life, due to the fact it doesn’t have a noisy engine attached.
The FatStick story has only just started to unfold, and as it does, with support from its fulfilment partner Diamond Logistics, it’s guaranteed to be an interesting read.