High return rates, fast shipping and complex inventory planning - retailers in the fashion industry have to face numerous industry-specific challenges. In particular, the fast pace and seasonal business in the fashion industry demand a lot from retailers. To master inventory planning, the optimal balance must be found between handling return shipments, storing and shipping current goods and planning future stocks.
Fast delivery of products has also become part of the expectations of many customers. To master the many challenges, retailers need a reliable shop system that, in the best case, is expanded by an integrated ERP system with digital process management. In the following, our partner Pickware has compiled three practical examples for you that show how fashion retailers can master these challenges with the combination of Shopware and Pickware and optimally handle the processes around warehouse, shipping and inventory planning.
3 Merchants and their solutions to the challenges of the fashion industry
The following best practice examples from the fashion sector give you an insight behind the scenes of Alpha Industries, Grundstoff and 4D Outfitters. Due to the different business models and local conditions of the three companies, individual requirements arise in practice. We show you how the retailers keep their returns rate low, inspire shoppers with fast shipping and always keep an overview of their inventory through the digitalisation of their processes.
Merchant 1: Alpha Industries
Thanks to its high-quality flight jackets and collaborations with trendy brands, Alpha Industries has developed from a traditional company to a pioneer in e-commerce over the years. With the modernisation of the company, Alpha Industries ventured into the B2C sector in 2010. In the meantime, the products are distributed via 10 different shops, one each for every country Alpha Industries is operating in and are thus available throughout Europe.
- Local separation of warehouse and head office
- Processing of return shipments
- Training of temporary staff
Due to the updating of all stocks in real time and the direct integration of Pickware WMS in Shopware, the spatial separation between warehouse staff and the e-commerce team is no problem. Due to the digital process management, all actions performed in the warehouse can be directly tracked by the clerks at the head office. The photo function of the mobile barcode scanners allows the warehouse staff to document the status of unauthorised return shipments by photo, for example. This enables the customer service team, who work almost 350 km away, to assess and quickly process return shipments. Real-time updates and location-independent data access enable smooth communication between the warehouse and headquarters.
The training of new employees is also uncomplicated, despite the large warehouse area of almost 5,800 m². Thanks to the intuitive user interface of the mobile barcode scanners in combination with apps for warehousing and picking, new warehouse employees quickly find their way around. Pickware WMS also supports them by displaying the shortest routes while picking, which saves valuable time especially in dynamic warehousing. Overall, Alpha Industries has recorded time savings of almost 60 % through the digitalisation of the processes around the warehouse, shipping and returns management.
"Our warehouse is about 350 km away from our headquarters. This is always a challenge in daily business, as we are not on site ourselves. We were therefore looking for a systemthrough which we can work almost error-free and quickly. Due to the distance to our warehouse, we need to exchange data as easily and quickly as possible. The function to take a picture in the app in case of an unjustified complaint is very good. This allows our customer service team to directly assess the case and take action."
– Christian Hunscha, Director E-Commerce of Alpha Industries Europe
Merchant 2: Grundstoff
The focus of Grundstoff is on unprinted basic garments and basic accessories without visible labels or logos. In addition, since 2014 the company has been focusing on selling products that have been produced under fair and sustainable conditions. Grundstoff is thus responding to an increasingly important consumer demand for more sustainability in the fashion industry.
- Delivery times
- Numerous products & variants
Although Grundstoff's business model is more in the area of slow fashion, the company promises its customers fast shipping. The company keeps this shipping promise by digitising the warehouse and shipping processes with the help of Pickware WMS as well as a structured set-up of the warehouse and the shipping stations. Grundstoff divides the shipping process into three spatially separated stations: Picking, Packing & Quality Control. For optimal capacity utilization, Grundstoff works here with up to 10 mobile barcode scanners, which are all used especially after the weekend. The aim behind this is to compensate for the increased picking effort. Thanks to the fast commissioning and digital process control, the warehouse staff can work productively until the last minute of the day. By maximising warehouse productivity, orders reach customers in the shortest possible time.
In addition to different sizes and colours, assortment changes and collection changes also provide increased management of existing stock. The seamless linking of warehouse, shipping and online shop enables Grundstoff to keep an eye on all movements of newly delivered goods, current orders, return shipments or pending purchase orders in the best possible way. Particularly in purchasing, the use of Pickware provides a better overview of stocks and enables forward planning by setting stock floors. The supplier ordering system of Pickware ERP also lists all supplier orders clearly and can be managed and controlled with just a few clicks.
"With the introduction of Pickware, purchasing has become much clearer. Before, it was difficult to keep track of several delayed, overlapping purchase orders from one supplier. Maintainable minimum stocks and several suppliers for the same product also make procurement easier. The picking processes have also become more agile, as many upstream interventions such as releasing orders or manually printing invoices have been eliminated."
– Nico Leschhorn, Co-founder of Grundstoff
Merchant 3: 4D Outfitters
With a perfect sense for trends, the Austrian company sells not only technical and unusual gadgets, but also trendy clothing. In addition to a concept store, 4D Outfitters also operates an online shop. In doing so, 4D Outfitters pursues a successful omnichannel approach, as the items are flexibly sold, shipped or returned across the various sales channels.
- Optimal use of storage space
- Scaling of processes
- Omnichannel concept
Due to the limited storage space and the fast-moving nature of the assortment, 4D Outfitters needs a maximum of flexibility in addition to a good overview of the available stock. This and the pursuit of the omnichannel approach are easily possible through the seamless linking of Pickware WMS and Pickware POS with Shopware. To make use of the full functionality of Pickware, 4D Outfitters invested in high-quality warehouse equipment. This was logically structured and set up in such a way that the limited storage space is used in the best possible way. The barcode-based process management makes it possible to optimally map the chaotic warehousing. Permanent stock-taking also works smoothly for 4D Outfitters. Since future growth plays a major role for 4D Outfitters, all processes around checkout, warehouse and shipping interlock as optimally as possible right from the start. By creating this basic prerequisite, it is also intended to prevent the possible scaling of the company in the future from being slowed down by avoidable technical or logistical weaknesses.
Despite the omnichannel approach and flexible offer of goods across different sales channels, 4D Outfitters always keeps an eye on stocks, even with a high rotation of goods. With individual stock limits and automatic order suggestions, goods bottlenecks are avoided. Through the direct integration of Pickware WMS and Pickware POS in Shopware and the data management in real time, the omnichannel advantages are also optimally utilised. Here, 4D Outfitters benefits from cross-channel discounts, the use and maintenance of customer data as well as flexible sales models such as Click & Collect.
"With the launch of our online shop, we installed and numbered modern storage systems in our warehouse to be able to pick the goods as quickly as possible. We have experienced that receiving and storing new goods can now be handled much faster and more accurately. Shipping is also more intuitive and faster."
– Giovanni Vitale, Owner of 4D Outfitters
As a technology partner, Pickware GmbH can draw on almost ten years of experience in the development of Shopware. In the Shopware 5 world, Pickware has developed Shopware ERP powered by Pickware, the official Shopware ERP system, and is focused on solving the topic of merchandise management completely in Shopware. The manufacturer also supplies a fully integrated ERP system for Shopware 6 with Pickware ERP. In addition, Pickware offers solutions for warehousing, shipping and POS, which automate the processes in the warehouse and centrally manage all sales channels in one system according to the omnichannel concept.