There are many unique challenges to apparel fulfillment. Ecommerce apparel businesses interested in outsourcing their fulfillment operations do well to fully understand those challenges before they locate the ideal provider. Let’s take a closer look at the challenges of clothing fulfillment.
#1. Shipment & Packaging
Regardless of the apparel you’re shipping, how it arrives is important to your customers—this is even more important in clothing fulfillment. One challenge to consider is how your selected fulfillment center maintains your items while in their care. Their warehouse should be clean and adhere to the highest cleanliness policies.
Pro tip: Find a fulfillment operation that doubles as a food-grade facility to guarantee that the strictest cleanliness policies are adhered to. You can do your part by putting your clothing products in clear plastic storage bags to reduce the risk of dust and dirt contaminating your items. Also, do your part to communicate how you’d like your products presented when packaged. If you want items folded or re-bagged, let them know and set clear expectations for them to follow.
#2. Managing Inventory
It’s not uncommon during the apparel fulfillment procedure for your inventory to grow rapidly, causing more complexity in managing it. For example, for every style and SKU, you typically have 5 different sizes available. This is why it’s so critical to select a fulfillment company that utilizes the best logistics systems as you increase your inventory levels. Be sure to ask if they have experience working with similar apparel companies.
Pro tip: It’s equally important to barcode your products to manage your inventory. Barcoding makes it easy for your clothing fulfillment company to distinguish between items and make sure the right product is shipped. It also aids with receiving, inventory counts, and auditing orders.
#3. Return Items
You may not know it, but eCommerce apparel businesses have an average return rate of 20%. Clearly, if you are dealing with a fulfillment company that doesn’t handle returns, things can get complicated. Be sure to ask your apparel fulfillment company how they manage returns. Timely returns can save you significant overhead since you can easily resell those same items as soon as they’re returned.
Pro tip: Create metrics for your returns to speed up the process. Make it clear what items upon return should be discarded, labeled as damaged, or listed for resale. This enables them to quickly relist items that can count towards your profits.
#4. RF Scanning
Another challenge often associated with apparel fulfillment is RF scanning ability. Many companies don’t offer this. Make sure the fulfillment center you choose does. They should be able to use RF product scanning and tell you when it will be used during the process. Often, it’s used for auditing inventory, manifesting, managing, and receiving returns.
Pro tip: Ask about RF scanning in advance to make sure you partner with a company that can actually help you.
Despite its challenges, apparel fulfillment makes for a seamless experience for your company. As long as you feel confident in the fulfillment company you choose, and their ability to handle decisions based on your communication with them, you should have an excellent experience. Visit in person before you make a decision for the best results.