As Amazon’s Prime and standard two-day shipping has become the norm, fashion brands are looking for ways to improve the speed and efficiency of their online orders and fulfillment.
The latest is Skims, the Kim Kardashian-founded shapewear brand worth $3 billion. Beginning on Tuesday, Skims now employs the use of autonomous robots at its Romeoville, Illinois fulfillment center. The robots, created by the robotics company Locus in partnership with the e-commerce fulfillment company Radial, are meant to do the menial jobs like fetching packages, allowing human employees to focus on tasks like processing orders and tracking inventory. They also alleviate employees from dealing with physically strenuous lifting and stacking.
According to Matt Snyder, svp of solutions and transformation at Radial, the use of these robots “has already proven itself in multiple operations in our network, driving greater operational efficiency, productivity and accuracy for our customers.”
Often, strategies around faster shipping focus on the movement of a package — by freight or air, for example. But for Skims, robots are another way to speed up the deliveries outside of the actual shipping process. Amazon, for its part, has been experimenting with robots within its supply chain since as far back as 2012. Right now, 73% of American warehouses are short on labor, according to data from Instawork. The warehouse robots are one way to get around that issue.
Meanwhile, other brands are looking for more radical solutions to speed up the supply chain. American Eagle’s chief supply chain officer, Shekar Natarajan, previously proposed building more back-end supply chain platforms that are shared across numerous brands as a way to improve everyone’s costs, speed and efficiency when shipping. American Eagle already makes several of its own supply chain platforms available to other brands for a fee. That includes Quiet Logistics, a company that operates fulfillment centers across the U.S. which American Eagle acquired in December. Sixty-seven non-American Eagle retailers are already using it.
Investors also clearly see an opportunity for putting money into improving the supply chain. Fashinz, an Indian marketplace that connects brands with manufacturers and helps brands keep track of production timelines, raised more than $100 million in funding on May 17.
“The expectations for online shopping are way higher today,” Jyothi Rao, president of Intermix, said at the Glossy E-Commerce Forum on May 17. “Shipping and returns have to be incredible. Free shipping and returns, two-day shipping, buy-online, pick-up-in-store — they’re all table stakes now. They have to be.”
For Skims, specifically, using robots is the latest attempt it has made to speed up its fulfillment process. In March, it began working with Uber and delivery service RandemRetail to offer same-day shipping in Los Angeles. These efforts are becoming common across brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Todd Snyder, which have all recently launched same-day-delivery.
In March, Skims co-founder Jens Grede told Glossy that part of his goal for the brand is to “bridge the convenience of e-commerce with the instant gratification of in-person retail.”