Running an online clothing store can be highly profitable, but it comes with fulfillment challenges that are unique to clothing. It doesn’t matter which type of apparel you’re dealing with – shirts, skirts, socks, or even pants. They are all susceptible to some quirks in fulfillment services that arise when dealing with seasonal dips and spikes, returns, and a high stock-keeping unit (SKU) volume. Thus, it can be beneficial to outsource your apparel order fulfillment.
Reasons Why You Need to Outsource Your Apparel Order Fulfillment
- You can absorb seasonal spikes.
As weather changes over the year, so does fashion, and most clothing products are going to experience periods of high and low demands. These spikes can be challenging to handle when handling apparel fulfillment on your own since they lead to huge overhead costs. But then, this isn’t the case when you outsource order fulfillment. Most fulfillment service providers offer flexibility where you only need to pay for what you need. Additionally, most fulfillment companies have the resources to respond to a sudden increase in demand, enabling you to stay on top of your orders.
- Saving costs
Running your apparel fulfillment center implies that you incur fixed costs, such as labor and rent. Such fixed costs become variable costs when you outsource order fulfillment. Outsourcing order fulfillment allows you to scale your operations, and only pay for the space you use and the orders you send – nothing more and nothing less.
Things to Consider When Outsourcing Your Apparel Order Fulfillment
- RF scanning ability
As mentioned earlier, apparel products experience periods of increased demand over the year. Inventory management systems are key if a company has to succeed in such periods. For a fulfillment provider to be effective, they need to be using RF scanning. It’s a form of barcoding scanning that can easily and quickly bring up and transmit product status and information to the inventory management system. RF scanning can be used for receiving, putting away, inventory control, and auditing. Make sure your apparel fulfillment service provider uses RF scanning.
- Apparel fulfillment experience
Does your fulfillment provider have experience in clothing products? Running an online clothing store presents unique shipping and fulfillment challenges. Working with a fulfillment provider that understands the apparel industry can help you improve your inventory management, reduce fulfillment and shipping costs, and ultimately provide better services to your clients. Here are three reasons why a fulfillment provider with experience in the apparel industry is important.
High SKU counts
The ability to manage high stock-keeping unit (SKU) volumes is essential. Online clothing stores happen to carry huge numbers of SKUs, which makes inventory management a challenge. Technology and processes built around high SKU counts are required to achieve proper inventory management. Additionally, fashion tends to evolve fast, implying SKUs can turn over quickly as trends and seasons change.
Proper receiving procedures
High SKU counts don’t just pose a challenge in inventory management. The high number of products can push a facility’s receiving department to the limit as well. When shipping clothing products, sometimes, you’ll receive the wrong products or quantity. However, you can trust a fulfillment provider with experience in apparel fulfillment to be your ears and eyes on all inbound products.
Apparel returns management
Online clothing stores have one of the highest return rates. However, returns are a necessary evil in selling clothing products online. Returns have the same challenges as receiving and inventory control – just in reverse.
Not every fulfillment company can handle apparel returns properly. Unfortunately, some fulfillment providers won’t be upfront and tell you so. It is, therefore, crucial that you partner with a fulfillment provider that understands what goes into receiving, packaging, shipping, and apparel returns. Additionally, you should only work with a fulfillment provider who handles returns. Timely processing of returns can be an asset because the quicker the resellable items are put back on the shelves, the quicker they can be sold.
- Apparel packaging solutions
As an online store owner, you want your products to arrive neat, folded, and without creases and wrinkles. This means you need to choose a partner who takes the utmost care of the products every step of the way – storage, packaging, and shipping. When outsourcing your apparel fulfillment services, look for a fulfillment center with strict cleanliness procedures and policies.
- Shipping options
Partnering with a fulfillment center that provides a variety of shipping options makes your customers happy. It enables them to receive their orders on time or as quickly as possible.
- Easy-to-use technology
Advancements in technology have made it easier to track orders, inventory, shipment, and returns. A reliable apparel order fulfillment service will use the latest programs and systems to control and track your operations. This helps to make everything accurate and monitored. It gives you peace of mind and increases productivity when you stay up to date on orders, inventory levels, tracking information, and shipments.
You must partner with a fulfillment center that can handle your orders even during holidays and spike seasons. Choose a fulfillment provider with equipment that can handle complex or large assembly of items. This can be the difference between failure and success of your online clothing store.
- Ability to adapt to changes
Apparel is a fast business that experiences several changes each year, as items and product lines change in response to seasons and trends. A fulfillment center that can quickly switch from the old and assimilate the new can maintain smooth fulfillment operations when there’s a shift. Transition delays can hurt your business greatly. Go for a fulfillment center that demonstrates the ability, flexibility, and agility in their processes and can quickly adapt to changes.
A fulfillment partner influences many aspects of your online clothing store. Your overall success depends (to some extent) on the fulfillment center you choose. Proper due diligence is, therefore, necessary before you settle on one. Most importantly, find a fulfillment service provider with experience in the clothing industry.