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Staff photo by Mike Pare / Fulex employees work at the company's distribution center this summer.

With online shopping sizzling in an already coronavirus-hot market, a fulfillment company with Chattanooga operations is conducting what it calls a "ship-a-thon" to meet holiday demand.

"We've added more shipping stations, redesigned the shipping area," said Fulex Vice President Robert Davison on Monday. "It has been tricky. We've been able to keep the wheels on."

Fulex' South Broad District distribution center is handling 10,000 orders daily over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, up from 4,000 in July, he said.

"It was pretty much at peak season then," he said about the July numbers. "We haven't slowed down. More people are buying online. It's unbelievable."

Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest e-commerce sales day in U.S. history as the coronavirus pandemic has spurred more shoppers to avoid stores.

For Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, consumers spent $9 billion in digital sales, up 21% over a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics.

Michigan-based Fulex, which also has distribution centers in Detroit and San Diego, is working seven days a week with two shifts to keep up with demand, Davison said.

Hiring at the Chattanooga distribution center off Market Street is up nearly 50% since the summer to almost 30 employees, he said. Fulex has about 90 employees nationally.

"So far, we've been able to get people," Davison said. "We've been actively hiring. It's been a little bit of a challenge due to COVID-19, but we've been able to do it."

Amazon is the giant in the distribution segment with two of its massive fulfillment centers in the Chattanooga area, one at Enterprise South industrial park and another in Charleston, Tennessee.

This summer, Chris Scanlon, Amazon's Chattanooga general manager, said the site had doubled its workforce to over 3,000 employees from its headcount in January and it was still hiring.

In September, Amazon said it had more than 100 open posts at its Chattanooga and Charleston, centers. Across Tennessee, the company had more than 1,100 open corporate and tech jobs, the company said.

Fulex, founded in 2003, fills orders for mostly small- or medium-sized companies and a number operated by entrepreneurs.

"We've added more merchants to the Chattanooga location," Davison said. "We've got a lot more new customers."

While Fulex focuses on smaller customers, it's also working with larger ones such as Walmart.com and Target.com, he said.

In addition, some customers who've traditionally done their own shipping are using Fulex due to the coronavirus, Davison said.

"You all handle the picking, packaging and shipping," he said some companies are telling Fulex.

Davison said he doesn't see a slow down this holiday season and thinks 2021 is setting up strong as well.

"I think we'll be on this ride for a while," he said. "People like the convenience of having packages delivered to their home and businesses."

For Chattanooga, Davison said he foresees the company growing the operation in the first or second quarter of next year.

"New operations, more employees, more online merchants," he said. "The goal is trying to double what we're doing there right now."

Fulex came into Chattanooga in the last half of 2019. Davison said the company needed a center in the South to help meet requirements for one- to two-day shipping. Company officials had studied Chattanooga for a couple of years before making the move.

When the pandemic hit, Fulex saw "a significant uptick" in order volume and a lot of new business came on board, Davison said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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