Textile logistics: 3 challenges of the fashion industry

Textile logistics: 3 challenges of the fashion industry

Cathy Carpetta

Cathy Carpetta

February 7, 2024

In 2025 European consumers will spend $999 each on fashion products. And in 2024, 60% of fashion purchases will be made online, up from 47% in 2023.

Fashion e-commerce brands, unlike other sectors, have to manage product seasonality, changing trends and collections, consumer expectations, and high return rates…
This significantly impacts the whole supply chain including the sourcing of the products, transportation, types of storage, and product returns management. 

By outsourcing your fashion logistics to a third logistics partner (3PL), e-commerce businesses can solve easily those challenges. 

Let’s see the 3 main challenges of textile logistics and how brands can adapt to become the best at fashion logistics! 

Source: Statista

1. Rising costs and supply chain challenges in the fashion industry

In 2024, fashion industry leaders are worried about global issues like political tensions, economic instability, and rising prices.

Despite a slight dip in global inflation (from 6.9% to 5.8%), concerns remain. 

The market is expected to divide, people who will still buy fashion products while others will turn to second-hand options due to sustainability and budget concerns, or personal preferences… 

Rising costs for raw materials, energy, and transportation also impact profits and make clothes more expensive for consumers.

Effectively coordinating the transportation of goods from the supplier to the warehouse and then to the customer involves navigating complex processes. This is crucial in shaping overall logistics costs. 

Relying on just-in-time production and global distribution networks can make transportation disruptions have a big impact, causing longer wait times and higher operating expenses.

Bigblue Tips
Optimise your transportation costs with
Bigblue’s Smart Carrier selection. 
You provide the best delivery guarantee to customers, streamlining the decision-making process and ensuring the most cost-effective and fast delivery.

Fashion trends come and go in shorter cycles, with retail giants like Zara and H&M changing collections every 15 days to keep up the pace with trends. Because of that, consumers demand ultra-fast deliveries.

The entire supply chain optimisation has become a great challenge for the fashion industry. 

2. Managing the omnichannel complexity: The fundamentals of your textile logistics

With customers often browsing in physical stores and making purchases online, the logistics process must support a cohesive customer journey. This includes ensuring the availability of products in-store, on your website, and at retailers, facilitating easy returns, and optimising storage for varied product types.

Ensuring a consistent brand experience throughout various customer journeys poses a challenge for all brands, particularly in the fashion industry. Clear size policies and images, enhanced by user-generated content (UGC), are crucial.

2.1 Efficient storage for fashion logistics

Different storage methods are used in warehouses for fashion brands depending on the product type. 

Easily wrinkled clothes are typically hung to prevent damage, while less sensitive items like cotton t-shirts can be folded and shelved, saving space and allowing efficient handling of numerous orders. 

Dynamic racks enhance storage and selection efficiency for various products, including non-fragile clothing, shoes, and accessories.

Bigblue tips
When choosing a logistics company or a warehouse partner to work with, it is important to look for a suitable infrastructure for textile storage. Check if your 3PL partner’s warehouse has hanger racks or structures for overhead storage.
At Bigblue, we offer specialised stowing options for
fashion brands, including hanging racks, pallets, and shelves. 

We operate a dedicated Fashion warehouse, leveraging our expertise to ensure optimal storage solutions for our clients' garments.

Also, more and more luxury clothes and accessories are being sold and bought online. Nearly 57% of luxury customers make their orders online, leading to strong growth in the haute-couture market. The problem is that luxury products do not cost the same as mid and low-end products. The risk of theft is therefore much higher. 

Bigblue Tips
To manage inventory effectively, it's recommended to use unique SKUs (stock-keeping units) for each product variant (colour and size), reducing errors and returns. 
Outsourcing to a logistics company like Bigblue allows a focus on sales and marketing, while we handle storage and organisation. We ship from the same warehouses as the main actors of the fashion industry like Sézane or Inditex. 

2.2 Avoid overproducing or stockouts for your fashion e-commerce business

If you manage an omnichannel brand (combining in-store sales, an e-commerce platform and resellers), stock management can be quite complex. 

Avoid overproducing to prevent dead stock while ensuring you don't run out of popular items. It's about finding that sweet spot for successful inventory management. 

Keep in mind that out of 100 billion garments made yearly, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills. Manufacturers and retailers contribute significantly, producing 13 million tons annually due to overproduction—around 30% of clothes made each season go unsold.

You can optimise your stock management process by analysing your consumers' behaviour to help you determine whether your products are selling more in-store or on your online store.

By studying these statistics, you can adapt your purchases and stock distribution according to the most advantageous distribution channels. 

If you run an omnichannel brand, you might face a problem where you run out of products. This happens when there's a mismatch between what you have in your system and what's physically available, or if you misestimate orders. Running out of stock during busy times can hurt your sales.

While you can't control how fast your supplier makes things, you can plan to have extra products to cover times when sales go up or when you release new items. 

You can decide to look at past sales data for your popular items (empirical view) or think about what might happen in the future based on economic trends and what people want (forward-looking view). It's your choice to pick the method that fits your online store best.

Bigblue Tips
To avoid running out of stock, you can set up alerts to know how much you have in real-time and optimise your forecast so you can better plan with your suppliers. It's easy to do on your
Bigblue dashboard!

2.3 The importance of packaging for your fashion brand

Receiving their parcel is the first physical point of contact with your brand. As they are eager to open up and try on their new outfit, 4 out of 10 of them will share their unboxing experience on social media. So make sure your parcel is camera-ready!

Make it a point of honour to choose a package packaging that represents the values of your brand image. Whether it's the colours, the materials used or the designs: everything must be consistent!

At the same time, a lot of bad buzz related to excessive packaging can hurt the reputation of e-commerce businesses.

Whether it's the colours, the materials used or the designs: everything must be consistent!

Bigblue Tips
Creating packaging in your brand's colours tends to appeal to customers. However, beware of the risk of theft! Branding a package (putting distinctive signs that it belongs to a brand), especially on the outside of the box, can lead to more theft. 
At Bigblue, we recommend using internal branded packaging and adding a personalised flyer! 

3. Smart management of returns for fashion logistics

For online clothing brands, effectively managing returns is essential. 

The average rate of returns for online shopping is around 30%, and sometimes it goes up to 50%!

Reverse logistics plays a key role in the supply chain, ensuring a smooth and efficient process for handling returned items. 

Many fashion companies are forced to throw away almost 25% of returned products due to poor reverse logistics management. A serious loss of profit which can be avoided!

This involves setting up a process for handling returns, whether due to size issues, defects, or other reasons. 

From checking the condition of the product to the return of defective clothing (recycling, donation, etc.) to standard returns. The entire returns policy must be studied!

It's important to have a clear returns policy, especially if the return address varies based on the reason for the return, like quality issues or size mismatches. 

Transparency in communicating this policy is key to avoiding logistical complications. 

Bigblue Tips
Bigblue's Return portal offers a seamless, branded experience, saving time for support teams and providing insights to improve product collections.
Transform your
returns into a customer retention tool with a store-credit system, minimising refunds and encouraging exchanges.

Successfully managing fashion logistics relies on strategic integration, and adapting to the surge in e-commerce and consumer expectations. Overcoming challenges in the supply chain, omnichannel management, and returns becomes pivotal. Whether enhancing your internal processes or collaborating with a 3PL partner, embracing technology and customer-centric approaches positions you at the forefront of the dynamic world of textile logistics.

Bigblue, your 3PL partners with the best fashion logistics experience

Working with major fashion brands in Europe like From Future, Muji, Cabaïa and Believe Athletics, we can help your brand automate your fulfilment. 

We're eager to discover your brand and enhance your customer experience. Let's make a difference together!

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