The importance of choosing the right fulfillment partner
The apparel industry faces many unique challenges that distinguish it from other sectors. The continued growth of online retail, consumer convenience, and the popularity of fast fashion brands are just a few of the critical items that have fueled the development of the apparel fulfillment services industry in recent years. That’s why a clothing retailer needs to do research and take time to vet the right fulfillment partner for its items.
Here are just a few of the top challenges facing today’s apparel retailers:
Fast Fashion and Short Product Life Cycles
The apparel industry moves fast. New styles and trends are constantly emerging. This poses significant challenges for long-term production planning, inventory management, and timely delivery. A 3PL can help with ever-changing inventory options and warehousing pain-points.
Seasonal changes, fashion seasons, and holidays highly influence apparel demand. Failure to effectively manage seasonal variables can lead to missed sales due to understocking or excess inventory due to overstocking. A 3PL can help you meet seasonal demand, which takes the pressure off of you managing this in-house during peak seasons.
Size and Fit Inconsistencies
Managing size and fit consistency across multiple clothing brands and different product lines can be challenging for any apparel company. A flexible and easy-to-understand return policy and accurate sizing information on the retailer’s website is necessary to ensure customer satisfaction. A qualified 3PL partner will make the return process simple and hands-off for you. They will provide support from logistics to restocking.
Complex Supply Chain
The apparel industry often works with dispersed supply chains. This results in the need to coordinate across multiple stages of manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution. It’s a complex supply chain structure that requires expert oversight. You can trust your 3PL to understand and master the supply chain on your behalf, allowing you more time to focus on running your business.
Inventory Management Options
Inventory-related challenges are common in fulfillment. If not carefully managed, retailers may resort to product markdowns to clear out excess inventory, which impacts profitability. A 3PL will use sophisticated warehouse management software to ensure inventory is accounted for and in good standing.
Omnichannel retailing presents both warehousing challenges and opportunities for apparel businesses. But with seamless integration between offline and online channels, retailers can achieve reliable warehouse inventory visibility, efficient order fulfillment, faster shipping, and a consistent customer shopping experience. Your 3PL partner should be well-versed in integrating multiple sales channels to provide a seamless customer experience. This will allow you to focus on product delivery and running your business.
It’s challenging to master everything mentioned above and provide an outstanding customer service experience. The right fulfillment partner can help streamline these processes to manage order and shipping issues better as they arise.
Fulfillment services to consider for the apparel industry
If you’re a retailer considering a new apparel fulfillment partner, here are the key fulfillment services to look for.
Pick and Pack Services
Kitting is a commonly used service in eCommerce fulfillment. It’s the process of packaging clothing products together that might otherwise be purchased separately by a customer.
Pick and pack services are how the kits (the packaged products) get bundled. The various methods used all help to improve distribution efficiency and also help to manage high inventory complexity.
A goods fulfillment center will pick specific products from inventory and then re-package them for distribution. Piece picking, bulk picking, zone picking, and wave picking are a few of the standard methods used.
It is critical that your fulfillment partner’s software seamlessly integrates with your eCommerce platform, ERP, or CRM, and all the major e-Commerce platforms – Amazon, eBay, and Shopify are just a few.
Seamless integrations will give you 24/7/365 visibility to every aspect of your logistics and fulfillment operations and improve the accuracy of your inventory management, sales channel data, shipping data, return processing status, and more.
Why is the strategic location of an apparel fulfillment center so important? Because having a centrally located distribution facility enables faster order fulfillment to customers – thanks to better access to transportation infrastructure, from highways to airports.
Having a strategic location also helps reduce freight and shipping costs and helps minimize the risk of delays or disruptions within heavily localized operations.
Fast, Affordable, Customizable shipping options
An experienced and reputable fulfillment partner will have relationships with the top shipping carriers and the ability to negotiate the best possible pricing for their customers.
They also have the flexibility to customize, and rate shop shipping options based on your unique business needs and ensure customer orders are delivered by the fastest and most cost-effective shipping method.