Bruce Kulp Scores Big
Bruce Kulp is senior vice president, supply chain and refurbishment, at video gaming and consumer electronics retailer Game Stop, in Grapevine, Texas. He has held this position since 2010.
Responsibilities: Procurement, distribution, store allocation, transportation and logistics, refurbishment, materials management, research and development.
Experience: Vice president of distribution, vice president of logistics, Electronic Data Systems (Centrobe); senior vice president, operations, Home Shopping Network; vice president of logistics, vice president of worldwide supply chain, Tech Data Corp.; president, Gigalife LLC.
Education: B.S. in business, marketing, Miami University, 1988
Game Stop is unique because it is a major retailer that also runs a manufacturing operation in the United States. We sell new games, gaming systems, and accessories in more than 6,600 stores around the world, and through an e-commerce website.
We also sell refurbished products, which we obtain as trade-ins from customers. Those products include games and gaming systems and—since 2011—media players, mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. I’m responsible for the entire supply chain for the retail operation and refurbishment center in Grapevine, Texas.
Gaming consoles come to us from the manufacturers’ distribution centers. Sometimes vendors deliver the consoles to our DCs in Grapevine and Louisville, Ky. Other times, we arrange transportation to pick up the product.
Managing the software supply chain is particularly complex, because we usually receive games just seven to 14 days before a title’s street date—the first day we can start selling it. We have about one week to deliver precisely the right quantity to each store to fill hundreds of thousands of advance orders, and predict the right volume to satisfy walk-in customers. Gamers have high product availability expectations, and we must meet their demands.
Our refurbishment business is complex, because the supply chain for pre-owned products starts with the consumers who trade them in. The components for repair come mostly from Asia.
Determining which materials we need, in what quantities, by what date, involves significant work. I’m also responsible for the research and development team that performs the engineering necessary to return those products to saleable condition.
It can be difficult to forecast which products customers will trade in, and which pre-owned products they’ll want to buy. One strategy is to keep an eye on new product releases. When a popular game console launches, for example, we know customers will trade in a significant number of past-generation consoles.
One proud achievement in my career was helping Game Stop get into selling refurbished mobile devices. While visiting a few Game Stop stores, the CEO and I observed that consumers were spending a percentage of their disposable income on mobile devices such as iPods. The CEO asked if we could refurbish those devices as we already refurbished gaming systems.
The company considered acquiring a business with expertise in refurbishing mobile devices. But my team was working on refurbishment solutions for some of those devices, to prove that we could do the job internally. Today, more than 350 in-house technicians are dedicated to mobile device refurbishment and repair.
One recent initiative involves two new retail businesses that Game Stop has acquired. The first is Simply Mac, an authorized Apple reseller that operates in secondary markets, where Apple wouldn’t usually open its own stores. The second is Spring Wireless, an authorized reseller of AT&T Mobile products and services.
For both businesses, we’ll leverage our experience in dealing with major electronics providers such as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. We’ll integrate those new companies into our existing logistics and refurbishment operations—but only where we see efficiencies that will benefit the business and the consumer.
The Big Questions
What one trait should every leader possess?
The ability to create a culture of constant process enhancement and improvement by leveraging innovation.
What surprising discovery have you made in your career?
In a past job, I found it was better to ship high-value electronics—whose prices tend to drop quickly—directly to customers by air from Asia than to import them through the regular supply chain.
What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
Gaming, of course, as well as swimming, rock climbing, and spending time with my family.
Which Game Stop product do you find most addictive?
I’m a particular fan of the Bioshock series. As for hardware, I have an Xbox, a PlayStation, and a Wii.