October 18, 2022

In late 2013, Ryan Cohen, cofounder and then-CEO of online pet products retailer Chewy.com, was facing a decision that could determine his company’s future. Should he stay with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) for all of Chewy.com’s e-commerce fulfillment or take that function in house?

Cohen was convinced that achieving scale would be essential to making the business work and he worried that the company’s current 3PL may not be able to scale with Chewy.com’s projected growth or maintain the company’s performance standards for service quality and fulfillment. But neither he nor his cofounders had any experience managing logistics, and the company’s board members were pressuring him to leave order fulfillment to the 3PL. They worried that any changes could destabilize the existing 3PL relationship and endanger the viability of the fast-growing business.

What should Cohen do? Harvard Business School senior lecturer Jeffrey Rayport discusses the options in his case, “Chewy.com (A).”

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