The original arcade basketball company
Red Stag Fulfillment scales with Pop-A-Shot for continued growth
Revitalizing a historic brand
Pop-A-Shot was founded in 1981 by a former college basketball coach. "He came up with this idea of a basketball backboard hoop that would return the basketball to you," says Pop-A-Shot's current owner and CEO, Tony Stucker. "Over time Pop-A-Shot introduced electronic scoring, arcade versions, infrared scoring, steel frames… a litany of firsts in the industry."
In its heyday, in the 1990s, Pop-A-Shot was so popular that some people still refer to all arcade basketball games as "Pop-A-Shot", even though other manufacturers have since entered the market. By the mid-2010s, the company was only selling about 300 games a year. The founder was ready to retire, so he put the brand up for sale.
That's where Stucker enters the picture. He had previously run his own business and was ready to become an entrepreneur again.
"I was looking online for businesses for sale and up popped Pop-A-Shot," he says. "Within its category of arcade basketball games, it was the standard. It had a lot of authenticity and history."
Taking advantage of a market opportunity
By the time Stucker bought the company in 2016, Pop-A-Shot had been on the market for a year. The asking price seemed high for its revenue since it had largely been pushed out of the arcade market by suppliers offering multiple games, which allowed arcades to work with fewer vendors.
However, Stucker saw the company's dwindling market share as an opportunity for growth. And to this day, Pop-A-Shot remains the only arcade game company dedicated to basketball games.
Initially, Stucker made some basic changes: updating the logo and branding, plus building a new website. "The biggest change was that, when I was in the process of buying the company, I went on Amazon and typed in Pop-A-Shot," he recalls. The original Pop-A-Shot company only made high-end, higher-priced games and didn't sell on Amazon. However, Stucker's search turned up several competitors who were selling similar games for about a third of the price. So he thought his company could do well on Amazon, too.
So, Pop-A-Shot's new owner found a new manufacturer and created games for the home market. "The first holiday season was a proof of concept," he says. "We brought in a couple thousand games and sold out."
“I knew we would need a third-party logistics company.”
As the new owner of the company, Stucker saw the potential to market this fun game to a broader audience. But he knew they would need help to pick, pack, and ship their bulky product to its many new fans. "I had no idea how to make something, how to get it from China, how to get it to the customer," Stucker says. "I knew we would need a third-party logistics company."
After researching fulfillment companies, Pop-A-Shot reached out to Red Stag Fulfillment. Stucker recognized that his company was very small at that point, but Red Stag's rates were competitive, and he felt that his business wouldn't get lost in the shuffle. Plus, RSF's experience in shipping oversized and bulky items means that it is the perfect fulfillment partner for Pop-A-Shot.
Cost management for oversized products
One of the challenges of shipping Pop-A-Shot games is the size and weight of the products. The basketball games range from 45 to 60 pounds, and the largest box has a length of 48 inches. That puts the products on the cusp of special handling charges from FedEx.
Items that weigh more than 50 pounds are considered overweight and subject to an additional handling charge. In addition, FedEx has yet another additional handling charge for boxes more than 48 inches long on one side. If a parcel is even 48.1 inches, the additional handling charge applies. Carriers sometimes even apply the charge if a box measuring under the limit gets bent in transit, extending the length.
Because Red Stag Fulfillment works closely with our FedEx reps, we have been able to keep the length surcharge from being added to many Pop-A-Shot packages. Because the packaging is right on the line, we have had our FedEx rep measure the box to verify that it comes in under the 48-inch threshold. We have proven that any additional length is due to damage in transit and not the client’s fault.
“It was a given that, if an order got to them, it would be shipped on time.”
Learn about FBA alternatives
RSF + FBA: A Winning Combination
Pop-A-Shot works with Amazon FBA as well as Red Stag Fulfillment because that helps them maintain visibility on Amazon. Initially, Red Stag only shipped orders from other sales channels.
The holidays are the biggest time for Pop-A-Shot sales; during its first holiday with Red Stag, however, RSF shipped only a few hundred units, and the rest shipped through FBA. Still, Stucker says, "[Red Stag Fulfillment was] always very dependable. It was a given that, if an order got to them, it would be shipped on time."
Because of the size of the basketball arcade games, Pop-A-Shot products aren't eligible for 2-day Prime shipping, even when FBA does the fulfillment. That gives the company more leeway to turn to alternate logistics options during the high-volume holiday months. After the FBA inventory is depleted, Red Stag Fulfillment handles any additional Amazon orders, so holiday gifts arrive on time and Pop-A-Shot never has to miss an order.
Amazon FBA charges higher storage fees during the peak holiday season, in addition to limiting storage space. Red Stag Fulfillment does not limit holiday inventory storage or raise our fees during times of peak demand. We're here to provide quality 3PL services every day of the year, from your slowest sales day to your busiest.
The opportunity to scale up seamlessly
In 2020, Red Stag Fulfillment filled an additional role for Pop-A-Shot: FBA overflow shipper during the holidays. Because, as mentioned above, Amazon limits the amount of inventory it will store for FBA shippers during the holidays, the company's products end up out of stock in Amazon's warehouses. Amazon orders keep coming in and would be backordered if not for Red Stag.
“[Red Stag] literally were shipping 1,000 products a day,” Stucker says. “The ability to scale was great.”
During much of the year, Red Stag ships just a few of their basketball games a day. During the holiday season, however, daily orders often number in the hundreds. Pop-A-Shot doesn't have to scale its fulfillment operations; Red Stag can absorb the extra volume without breaking a sweat.
"Red Stag Fulfillment has been exactly what I'd hoped for when I started," Stucker says. "I never envisioned that we would have had this much growth — and they have grown with us seamlessly."
Learn about carrier capacity limitations
Working through COVID-19 disruptions together
When the pandemic sent everyone home, Pop-A-Shot’s fun and compact basketball games were the perfect way to have fun and stay in shape. As sales were booming, though, carrier capacity limits during the 2020 holiday season put on-time deliveries in doubt.
"COVID was very good for our business," Stucker says, adding that logistics have been challenging.
Companies of all sizes had to contend with delivery delays in the fourth quarter of 2020. The major carriers just didn't have enough truck space or personnel to transport the additional volume of eCommerce orders. Unlike many other fulfillment warehouses that ended up with orders sitting on the docks for days, Red Stag Fulfillment was able to come up with workarounds. We found additional capacity by using smaller, regional carriers.
When Pop-A-Shot ran up against these shipping limitations, they immediately called their Red Stag Fulfillment Project Manager, Matt Novak. Novak worked with Pop-A-Shot over a period of several days to resolve the issue and come up with a plan to keep shipping the arcade basketball game orders in time for the holidays.
When Red Stag Fulfillment clients have a problem, they get to talk to a human being who will work with them to solve it. That's very different from the impersonal customer service at large companies, where your only way to report a problem is to send an email and hope for a response, someday.
“We try to provide services that other 3PLs don’t to better serve our clients.”
Kitting services keep Pop-A-Shot orders moving
Red Stag Fulfillment doesn't just pick and pack Pop-A-Shot orders. We also provide kitting services, as needed. An example might be a manufacturer's mistake that left a component out of the box. Rather than going through the cumbersome and time-consuming process of retrieving the inventory from Red Stag and sending it back to the manufacturer, we were able to step in and help out. Red Stag repackaged the games with the right accessories, saving Pop-A-Shot money and getting inventory ready quickly during the busy holiday season.
In addition to kitting to build up a unit, we can also un-kit. For example, when Pop-A-Shot needs components for replacement parts, we can deconstruct a set and repackage the individual items to ship to customers.
Not every 3PL offers kitting and un-kitting services. But at Red Stag Fulfillment, we consider kitting a core part of our work. This is because kitting services turn a major supply chain glitch into a minor problem that we can quickly solve.
"We try to provide services that other 3PLs don't to better serve our clients," says Novak.
Red Stag Fulfillment helps the original arcade basketball game reach more people
By allowing Pop-A-Shot to pay only for the warehouse space and 3PL services they need, working with Red Stag Fulfillment has enabled the company to grow. In the last four years, Pop-A-Shot's revenue is up more than 40x, and the number of units sold has increased by almost 20,000%.
"As far as a partner, I take them for granted now," he says. "When you're a company as small as us, that's vital. That reliability — it's one less thing to worry about."
Pop-A-Shot hasn't finished growing. In addition to indoor and outdoor games and a choice of one or two baskets, the company will introduce new technology next year, and new licensing. The company currently sells games with the logos of every NBA team and will soon be adding even more college basketball teams to its product line. "By next year, we will return to the arcades," Stucker says. "That's really exciting."
One of the things that makes the Pop-A-Shot brand stand out is its customer service. "We really back up our products," he says. "Our customer service is unparalleled." So whether you need help with setup or a quick turnaround on a replacement part, the company is there to help you keep having fun.
In that respect, Pop-A-Shot and Red Stag Fulfillment are very much alike. At Red Stag, we take pride in helping our clients solve their logistics challenges. Every time we ship a Pop-A-Shot basketball game, we know we're delivering a big shot of fun to a happy customer. And that's our version of a 3-pointer.