The apparel market is rapidly evolving, and many retailers are turning to 3PL services for a competitive advantage. Canadian apparel retailers are experiencing a very different market landscape than what existed even just a few years ago. E-commerce shifts are continually causing consumer purchasing habits to change, and their expectations for service and accessibility are changing right along with them.
Apparel retailers are under increasing pressure to provide a more personalized shopping experience for their customers, while simultaneously streamlining a complex and well-established supply chain system. As you can imagine, this can be exceptionally difficult for many businesses, and the limited resources of time and capital aren’t making things any easier.
Nevertheless, there are solutions to many of the supply chain problems faced by apparel retailers. In this article, we will illustrate some of the key trends affecting the world of apparel retail, and how the services available from third-party logistics companies (3PL) are helping to change the game for many apparel retailers.
Balancing Inventory Levels with Fashion Trends
The fashion industry has always moved pretty quickly, with new styles traditionally arriving each and every season. However, digital media has accelerated this time frame dramatically, and new fashion trends don’t wait for seasons to change before the demand rises. With trendsetters constantly sharing the latest and greatest looks from all over the world, 24/7, demand for a particular style or product can change literally overnight.
Retailers who used to invest in stocking millions of units of the same products to distribute across their nationwide locations are now realizing that they need to adapt to a nimbler method. This is called “fast fashion”: smaller quantities of products in far greater ranges of variants are needed now, and the demand patterns are often unpredictable at the local level.
Agile warehousing and rapid transportation services that are offered by 3PL logistics companies can help ensure that your apparel business is able to quickly and effectively get new product in to the right locations at the right time to capitalize on this challenging consumer behaviour.
Package Consolidation & Duty Fees
International shipping carries its own set of challenges for apparel retailers, too. For shipments heading to the US, it often makes more sense to ship individual orders directly to customers in order to avoid incurring duty fees associated with packages that hold a larger dollar value. In these cases, individual shipping right from the factory works quite well.
On the other side of the 49th parallel, Canada presents a different problem with high shipping costs for smaller, individualized packages. Many US retailers are learning to save costs by consolidating multiple packages destined for individual customers in to one main shipment as it enters Canada. Once inside the country, the larger package is then broken down at a 3PL facility and the individual packages are shipped out to their final recipients.
3PL companies that provide picking, packing, and shipping services alongside advanced inventory management and material handling capabilities are able to deliver a great deal of value to apparel retailers. Because of these advantages, 3PL companies can quickly and accurately get high volumes of orders fulfilled and shipped to customers in less time.
Increasing Levels of Product Personalization / Customization
If you’ve ever bought a shirt that fits great around the body but the arms are either way too long or way too short, you know the frustrations that are inherent in standard apparel sizing. To provide a better product and an enhanced customer experience, many apparel companies are now choosing to offer a level of customization in their products that was not possible previously.
Online tools such as videos, infographics, and tutorials are provided to instruct customers on how to accurately gather the necessary measurements and style criteria for their items. To simplify the process, forms are often used and the customer can select from a range of pre-determined options for things like fabric, colour, trim, or other essential elements.
Based on the details provided, software tools then compile the data and assemble a digital pattern that follows the customer’s requirements. This pattern is then provided to the manufacturing facilities where the product is made to spec, packed, and shipped out.
Because of these extra steps in the process, retailers who offer customized apparel are under immense pressure to reduce the time between receipt of an order and the moment it ships out the door. 3PL logistics services that focus on more efficient material handling, accurate inventory management, and speed through automation are extremely valuable for apparel companies who are choosing to offer increased customization for their customers.
Choose a 3PL with Apparel Experience
It’s quite clear to see the advantages that partnering with the right 3PL can provide, but it’s also important to choose one that has experience in dealing with the retail apparel industry. When it comes to clothes, customers have high expectations of what their shopping experience should be like, and that includes fulfilment and delivery times, packaging, and even the returns process.
Canadian 3PL businesses such as SCI are experienced in the world of apparel retail logistics and have the knowledge and capabilities to deliver a world-class solution for your apparel business. Our team of experts will work closely with you every step of the way to ensure the solution that is implemented provides the competitive advantage your company needs to succeed and thrive.
To learn more about 3PL services for apparel retailers, contact our team of logistics professionals today. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.