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Toy store giant to open Pa. facility

April 11, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The e-commerce arm of Toys R Us Inc. will open a 700,000-square-foot distribution center in the Chambers-5 Business Park this summer, employing 300 people year-round and another 500 seasonal workers for the holidays.

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"This could be a billion dollar business in four or five years," Toysrus.com Chief Operating Officer Jonathan F. Foster said during a Tuesday ceremony inside the cavernous warehouse on Nitterhouse Drive. He said the toy store giant is leasing the building, currently under construction, from WCN Properties Limited Partnership. He did not disclose terms of the 10-year lease.

Jobs at the plant will range from hourly workers on assembly lines to shift supervisors, managers and support personnel, Foster said. He said he did not know how much positions would pay.

"This facility right here will ship more product than either of our other facilities" in Tennessee and California, Foster said.

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By Christmas, the three distribution centers will be making 100,000 shipments a day, he said. Although there is a rail line near the building, Foster said the merchandise will be shipped by truck.

He said the company had recently narrowed the site search to Chambersburg and another building in New Jersey. Toys R Us determined the road system near the plant could handle the traffic, he said. Chambers-5 is situated near U.S. 11, U.S. 30 and Exit 5 of Interstate 81.

Foster said Toysrus.com did $51 million in business last year, but $49 million came between September and December as the holidays approached and the company beefed up its Internet service.

He said the company did $300,000 in business in the first quarter of 1999, but $10 million in the first quarter of this year.

That growth shot Toysrus.com from the 200th ranked e-commerce Web site at the beginning of 1999 to fifth by the end of the year, Foster said.

Foster said the 550,000-square-foot center in Tennessee was no longer adequate, prompting the company to seek East and West Coast distribution facilities.

Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David G. Sciamanna said the deal on the property was finalized in late March.

The building is on 50 acres that the Chambersburg Area Development Corp. sold to WCN Properties for $2.8 million, Sciamanna said. Last year, WCN Properties received a building permit for a 480,000-square-foot, $6.4 million building.

Sciamanna said the expandability of the building was one of the draws for Toysrus.com.

Foster said the company will invest about $25 million to equip and staff the center and will have $50 million in inventory by fall. He said the center should open in July, in time to gear up for the holidays.

Foster said the state offered the company $500,000 in incentive grants, with about half of that to be used for training new employees.

Consumers will be able to order over the Internet, selecting products from 34 categories, according to a corporate fact sheet. Employees at the automated center will pick, pack and ship products to buyers through UPS, Federal Express and other shippers.

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1948, Toys R Us is an $11 billion corporation with 1,552 stores and 60,000 employees worldwide.

Chambersburg Area Development Corp. Vice President William Snell said Toysrus.com will be the last major development at Chambers-5. When Toysrus.com opens, the park will have 29 tenants employing an estimated 2,000 people, mostly in manufacturing and distribution.

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