4 Reasons You Need a Fulfillment Center With Apparel Fulfillment Experience
If you sell apparel from your online store, you understand the unique fulfillment and shipping challenges clothing presents. Regardless if you manage the process in-house, or work with a third party, it’s necessary to consider the many ways apparel fulfillment is different than shipping any other type of product.
In fact, the requirements of packing and shipping apparel are unique enough that most internet retailers would benefit from working with an eCommerce order fulfillment provider that has specific experience with these types of products. A partner who understands apparel will help reduce your fulfillment and shipping costs, improve inventory management, and in the end provide better service to your customers.
Here are 4 reasons it is important to work with a third party fulfillment center with experience managing apparel fulfillment.
High SKU Counts
Being able to manage high volumes of SKUs is crucial. Online stores selling apparel tend to carry large numbers of SKUs (that also often happen to look very similar) which makes inventory management difficult. Processes and technology built around high SKU counts is necessary to ensure proper inventory management. Fashions tend to evolve quickly as well, meaning SKUs can turnover fast as seasons and trends change.
Proper Receiving Procedures
High SKU counts don’t just make for difficult inventory management. All that product puts a strain on a facility’s receiving department as well. Clothing manufacturers are notorious for shipping incorrect quantities of items. Plus, quality and labeling checks are always recommended. You have to trust the receiving dock to be your eyes and ears on all inbound product – and you getting what you pay for from suppliers.
Value Added Services
Many times products are sold together (like a matching pair of gloves and scarf), yet are manufactured separately. Kitting and other value-added services a fulfillment center provides will often enable more efficient sourcing for the products. A partner experienced with co-packing gives you this type of flexibility.
Along similar lines, customer presentation is very important to many apparel customers. Therefore, it’s also helpful to have a partner to work with you to design cost-effective custom packaging (like gift wrapping and personalization) most fitting for your products when it is necessary.
Apparel Returns Management
Returns are a necessary evil of selling apparel online. On average returns on clothing exceed returns for most other consumer products. And, depending on the type of clothing the disposition of a return can be very different (think intimates vs. a poly-bagged t-shirt). All the same challenges of receiving and inventory management exist with returns as well – just in reverse.
Managing apparel fulfillment is not a good fit for every warehouse. Luckily, many will be upfront and tell you so. However many will not, so it’s also possible you are missing out on the many advantages of working with a fulfillment partner who really understands what goes into packing and shipping clothing to customers. Take the time to make sure your warehouse (whether in-house or 3PL) is prepared to handle the unique challenges apparel presents. Doing so will reduce your distribution costs and improve your brand experience.