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Quick tips for how you can save money shipping apparel

Clothing companies are hardly strangers to dispatching shipments to warehouses, distributors and retailers. Now, with shopping malls standing derelict across the world, those same companies have even more shipments to manage cost-effectively and efficiently, including global networks of warehouses and direct-to-consumer shipping.

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Figure 1: Getting apparel shipments right involves preparation, organization, attention to detail and good relationships with partners.

Getting apparel shipments right involves preparation, organization, attention to detail and good relationships with partners. The question on every stakeholder’s mind right now is how to meet consumer demands while keeping costs low. The following tips are great places to start if you’re looking to keep your customers smiling without breaking the bank:

1. Negotiate a better rate with your freight carriers

The largest clothing and textile companies tend to develop favorable relationships and negotiate attractive rates with the businesses delivering their products. The good news is, you don’t have to be a global manufacturer to get excellent rates on repeat business. You may have some leverage you can use to negotiate better rates:

  • Which days of the week, or weeks of the month, are the busiest for you? Is there room for flexibility in your shipping schedule if it means lowering your rates?
  • Do you pay on time, every time? If you have six months’ worth of on-time invoices to bring to your carrier, it might serve as useful leverage during renegotiations.
  • Do you ship to the same destination each time? Are you looking to expand into new territories? Depending on your circumstances, negotiating a new single-zone or multi-zone rate may lower your ongoing freight expenses.

At the end of the day, provided you already have a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with your partners, it can’t hurt to revisit the negotiating table.

2. Right-size your packaging for efficient, damage-free transit

When it comes to shipping clothing, first impressions are huge. An appealing and wrinkle-free presentation might make the difference between a satisfied customer and one who requests a product return.

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Figure 2: Right-sizing the packaging does more than guarantee products arrive at warehouses or customers’ homes in appealing, salable condition.

To that end, manufacturers and their warehouse partners should take extra care with folding and packaging their clothing for transit. Folding clothing neatly and checking that it can’t move around in its packaging ensures it arrives wrinkle-free, which reduces returns and material losses. It’s also wise to dial in the right type and amount of dunnage between the garment and its packaging to further reduce movement and friction.

Right-sizing the packaging does more than guarantee products arrive at warehouses or customers’ homes in appealing, salable condition. It’s also important for maximizing the amount of product that can be shipped at once. Single items of clothing ship well in sturdy plastic bubble envelopes. Bulkier garments and multi-item shipments travel better in sturdy corrugated boxes.

Stocking various packaging sizes or even using box-on-demand equipment ensures cost-effective, damage-free and efficient transportation for your merchandise.

3. Group shipments together as often as possible

The benefits of grouping shipments together versus having less-than-truckload freight comes down to simple mathematics. Freight companies know underutilized shipping capacity costs them money, and they pass that cost on to you. To keep your expenses as low as possible, make sure you’re working to consolidate your shipments as much as you can.

Another option worth exploring is a third-party freight broker. If you’re regularly dispatching partial shipments, you’re probably paying more than you should be. Freight brokers work with shippers and transportation carriers to consolidate shipments and save each party money.

The clothing and fashion markets move quickly — so if your products need to get to their destination in a flash, know you have options apart from letting vehicles depart your facilities half-empty.

4. Automate back-office functions where you can

Automation isn’t just about robots building car parts and iPads. It’s also a chance to eliminate human effort — and the associated labor costs — from repetitive, data-heavy or error-prone administrative tasks. These include inventory monitoring, reordering materials or products, creating and dispatching invoices, communicating with multiple shipping carriers and much more.

With this in mind, it’s probably time for your clothing or textile company to look into automation software with an emphasis on streamlining shipping. You might have multiple business partners to coordinate with, as well as several sales and distribution channels. The right software considerably reduces the chance of errors, gets products out the door quickly and saves you time and money.

5. Make the returns process more efficient

Handling merchandise returned by customers is a time-consuming and oftentimes expensive affair. Only around 5% to 10% of customers make returns at brick-and-mortar stores. Among e-commerce retailers, however, that number jumps to 15% to 40% of purchases.

By some estimates, the cost of reverse logistics will approach $550 billion by the end of 2020. Reducing the expenses involved in handling product returns is one of the most important cost-saving steps a company can take. Processing returned merchandise efficiently helps businesses recover some of the losses they incur when customers change their minds about a purchase.

Many companies turn to third parties to handle the logistics of handling — and sometimes re-selling at a discount — clothing returned by customers and distributors. This practice keeps in-house workflows from being interrupted by reverse logistics challenges. Some of the biggest names in retail, including Amazon, Macy’s, Walmart and J.C. Penney have relationships with reverse logistics partners.

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Figure 3: Clothing and textile manufacturers that ship products over great distances may very well save money by insuring every shipment.

6. Reconsider shipping insurance

Accidents do happen — and it’s usually at the least convenient time. Market forecasts predict the logistics insurance industry will reach $61.55 billion in value by 2025. That’s not to say every company’s approach to shipping insurance should be exactly alike, however.

Clothing and textile manufacturers that ship products over great distances may very well save money by insuring every shipment. It’s a way to hedge your bets against losing profits when shipments get damaged or go missing.

For shipments over shorter distances, where the risk is comparatively low, forgoing logistics insurance entirely may be the cost-saving option.

As the market valuation indicates, there are more options than ever for this type of insurance. If you don’t want to operate without this safety net in place, you can still save money by shopping around. Third-party shipping insurance is usually the more cost-effective choice compared to buying it from freight carriers themselves.

Ship clothes confidently and cost-effectively

The world’s clothing and textile industry grows more complex and competitive by the day. To protect your company and help it thrive, it’s well worth your while to revisit how you approach shipping and see where you can make thoughtful changes to improve your bottom line.

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