Are you in the market for the best 3PL logistics company for your clothing and apparel business? Or maybe you only have a faint idea of what 3PL is and want to find out more to see if it is a good fit for your business.
Either way, this post is for you.
One of the most challenging aspects of running a clothing and apparel business – both online and offline – is handling order fulfillment. In doing so, you’d have to take care of warehousing, packing and shipping, logistics (and reverse logistics), order tracking, customs clearance and many more.
The problem, however, is that there are only so many hours in your working day – you can’t possibly handle all these tasks. You’d overwhelm yourself.
Recruiting extra helping hands might help, but can bloat up your operational cost, and possibly constrain your supply chain management operations.
What to do: Hire a 3PL service company.
Short for Third-party Logistics, 3PL service providers are companies that provide outsourced logistical and fashion e-commerce fulfillment services to apparel retailers and manufacturers.
One major upside to outsourcing order fulfillment to a third-party company is that it saves you a lot of costs.
In this post, we will dive deep into 3PL to help you better understand the concept. We will also talk about some of the inherent benefits of working with a third-party clothing fulfillment provider and how to find the right one that suits your needs.
Let’s get right into it.
Put simply, 3PL is the concept of hiring a third party logistics provider to handle storage and order fulfillment for your business. This often includes warehousing, shipping, picking and packing, and even customer relationships.
So why contract this aspect of your business out when you can do it all by yourself?
For one thing, leveraging an e-commerce 3PL service provider is cost-effective.
When you work with a 3PL company, you only get to pay when an order has been successfully processed. This is way cheaper than hiring a logistics team you have to pay regardless of how high or low your revenue is.
Secondly, partnering with a 3rd party logistics provider can make your fulfillment process more effective, thus lessening customer dissatisfaction. We will get into details shortly.
While just anyone can use 3PL regardless of industry or niche, our focus in this post is on clothing businesses.
So let’s say you run an apparel retail business online and want to work with third party logistics providers. How will this arrangement work? Let’s break it down into steps:
Although this is a no-brainer, we deemed it fit to mention it here because the 3PL service provider you work with can make or break your business. So you can’t afford to get it wrong.
Keep in mind, though, that 3PL isn’t the same as freight forwarding and on-demand warehousing. Having this at the back of your mind will help you make a better decision.
Once you’ve found the best 3PL for your clothing business, the next step is to send over your inventory for storekeeping.
Doing this helps ensure fulfillment starts the instance you get an order. You wouldn’t want your customers to wait for too long before receiving their orders.
While you wait for customers to order your product, it’s important to safely store them where they can be easily retrieved for shipping.
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about this – your 3PL company handles it as they offer warehousing and distribution services.
Picking and packing start when you receive an order from a customer. This involves retrieving the ordered product from the bin or shelf where it is stored and packaging them for shipping.
Depending on the arrangement with the 3PL company, this can be done manually using a spreadsheet or automatically using a dedicated apparel management software like Uphance. The former is definitely a no-no if speed and efficiency matter a lot to you.
Using Uphance lets you send order notifications to your third-party logistics company, thus ensuring orders are picked and packed faster.
Once an order has been picked and packed, the next step is to ship it. While most 3PL companies handle shipping themselves, some others outsource this part of order fulfillment.
So it makes sense to find that out from the company you are looking to work with before making any commitment.
Product return – or reverse logistics – is one part of selling you can’t avoid no matter how great your products are. The best you can do is to prepare way ahead of time for them.
Thankfully, most 3PL services can help you handle reverse logistics for a small fee.
Is investing your hard-earned money into 3PL worth it? The long and short answer is a definitive yes!
But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here are reasons why using a 3PL makes business sense.
Acquiring and maintaining a warehouse can be capital-intensive. On top of that, you will also have to spend money procuring logistics vehicles, which equally cost money to maintain.
Outsourcing order fulfillment to a 3 party company will save you those costs. This is because 3PL companies have warehouses and fulfillment centers spread across several locations.
Additionally, working with clothing fulfillment companies lets you enjoy discounts on volume order shipment, further reducing your overhead cost.
Most importantly, leveraging 3PL services will help you minimize shipping errors which are expensive to correct, further reducing your shipping costs.
You will need a bigger warehouse as your business grows. If you have a warehouse already, you will either have to expand it or secure a new one – and neither option is cheap.
But this wouldn’t be much of a concern if you work with a contracted third party warehouse provider. They have robust warehouse management system that is capable of handling your inventory volume no matter how fast your business scales.
Furthermore, you won’t have to spend much on days when sales are down. So it’s a double win: scalability and flexibility.
Looking to expand your e-commerce business beyond the borders of your country? 3PL is the way to go!
Many 3PLs have warehouses and supply chain networks spread across many countries and continents, offering . By working with them, inventory delivery, storage, and shipping are handled for you out of the box, allowing you to channel your time and energy toward growing your business.
If you are dropshipping or selling hand-made-craft from home, you are better off steering clear of 3PLs.
However, 3PL is ideal if you check off any of the following:
One of the major tell-a-tale signs that you need to hire a 3PL is when order fulfillment starts to get overwhelming and it feels like you can’t handle it all.
While we can’t exactly peg a number to it, 10 or more orders a day is the ideal benchmark.
You wouldn’t want to spend your man-hours on sorting, picking, packing and shipping orders. Doing so won’t add to your bottom line. So it’s best you let the experts handle it.
As your business begins to expand, there will come a time when you see the need to sell to customers in other countries.
Shipping products abroad can be insanely expensive. As such, you are better off shipping products from warehouses closer to your customers. This is also where 3PL comes in useful.
2-day shipping has become the norm for e-commerce. Shipping products that fast and cheaply won’t be easy if you fulfill orders yourself. Working with a 3PL is a more practicable option.
All 3PLs aren’t created equal. While some offer a one-size-fits-all solution for all businesses, others are better suited for specific niches.
That said, here are some of the best 3PLs you should try:
Bergen Logistics is a 3PL of choice for apparel businesses that sell wholesale or in retail. It’s pocket-friendly and at the same time efficient, making it one of the best 3PL companies in USA.
Working with Bergen Logistics gives you access to:
Bergen Logistics has warehouses in 5 different locations, including Canada, US, Europe, and Asia.
Moodja is another great 3PL service provider that offers warehousing, inventory management, shipping, and reverse logistics for a small fee.
Furthermore, Moodja is a 3PL of choice if the safety of your inventory and speedy shipping are top on your priority list for picking a logistics company.
Plus, Moodja is affordable. Receiving inventory will only cost you €0.5 to €3 per package, and storing them costs between €0.55 and €0.95.
Shipping and reverse logistics equally don’t cost much.
Operating out of Australia, ACR Supply Partner is definitely a 3PL of choice if your apparel business is based there too.
Some of the services ACR offers include contract warehousing, freight forwarding, brokerage, cross-docking, and many more.
CrossLog is another great 3PL service provider you can’t go wrong with. With a base in France, CrossLog is a 3PL of choice for e-commerce businesses looking to scale their business across Europe but without spending so much on order fulfillment and logistics.
CrossLog takes care of warehousing, inventory management, shipment, product return, and order shipment for you, allowing you focus on the core aspects of your business.
The best part is that CrossLog lets you personalize your 3PL needs however you want.
As the name suggests, De Nederlandse is a Dutch-based 3PL service provider that offers wholesale and retail logistics services to fashion e-commerce businesses within and without the Netherlands.
Besides logistics, De Nederlandse also offers cross-docking, stock management, picking, warehousing, and quality control services at competitive rates.
Although not a logistic provider, Mintsoft is a 3PL system that lets you connect seamlessly with the courier service provider of your choice and track your inventory.
The software comes with a warehouse, 3PL, order, and inventory management modules, barcode scanning and reporting features, etc.
As for pricing, you can start for as low as £375 per month.
Handling order fulfillment by yourself is certainly not a smart choice if growing and expanding your business is your main goal.
Letting a 3PL company handle it will not only allow you to focus on your core goals but will also boost efficiency and lessen fulfillment errors.
Ready to try Uphance to see how it can help connect your store to your favorite 3PL? Schedule a demo right away.