Apparel fulfillment offers many unique challenges. For apparel ecommerce companies looking to outsource their order fulfillment operations, having a solid understanding of those challenges is extremely beneficial when seeking out an order fulfillment provider. Before making your final fulfillment center selection for your ecommerce apparel company, it’s important to take some time to learn about these potential challenges.
- Complex Inventory
Often times with apparel, the inventory can grow rapidly and become rather complex. For every style and SKU, there are typically 5 different sizes that all look the same. This can make it extremely difficult for your fulfillment company’s staff to manage. Before selecting your fulfillment company, be sure to gain the confidence that they have the correct systems and procedures in place to manage your growing inventory. Ask them if they have experience working with similar customers both in the apparel industry and outside the apparel industry.
Having the ability to barcode all of your products will also be helpful in managing the inventory, especially since a size medium red shirt might look identical to a large read shirt. A quick way for your fulfillment company to tell the difference is going to be the barcode. This can also help with receiving, inventory counts and auditing orders.
Ecommerce apparel companies have one of the highest return rates at roughly 20%. For fulfillment companies that do not handle returns, this can bring in some major challenges. Ask the fulfillment company how they are currently handling returns for other customers. Processing returns timely can be a huge asset because the faster resalable products are put back on the shelves, the faster you can sell them.
Setting up metrics for your returns can also help speed the process along. Make sure that the fulfillment company knows what is to be considered damaged, resalable and discarded. This will allow them to make quick decisions based on your metrics and ultimately receive in the resalable product quickly.
- RF Scanning Ability
Earlier in the blog we touched on barcoding and having the ability to use RF scanning. For apparel fulfillment, it is necessary for your fulfillment company to have the ability to use RF scanning. Make sure the fulfillment company you are looking at has the ability to handle scanning your product and also at what stage in the process is this used. For most companies, they should use RF scanning for receiving, put away, order auditing, manifesting and inventory control.
- Packaging Requirements
No matter what you are shipping, presentation is always important and this especially holds true with apparel. Make sure that the warehouse and fulfillment center you are selecting is clean and has a strict policy on cleanliness of the facility. Finding a fulfillment operation that is also a food grade facility will help to ensure they have these strict policies and procedures in place. Placing your apparel products in clear bags for storage will help to prevent dust from getting on your product.
Work with the fulfillment company to make sure they understand how you would like your product to be presented when it ships out. If the clothing needs to be folded, re-bagged or packaged a certain way to meet your company standards, it is important that the fulfillment center have a very clear understanding of your expectations and then make sure that there are policies in place to ensure it leaves the facility that exact way.
While there are many challenges to apparel fulfillment, finding the right company that can handle the demands can be extremely beneficial to an apparel ecommerce company. Make sure that you feel comfortable with the company you choose, and that they will be able to handle all of your needs before making a decision, be sure you visit their facility so you can see their capabilities in person.