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2021 Visible Trade Show Schedule

Trade Show Schedule

Visible is excited to attend and exhibit at this year’s upcoming trade shows, where we’ll be sharing supply chain tips and connecting with clients, prospects and peers in the industry. We hope to see you there! 

If you’d like to get in contact with a representative before a show or for any other potential needs, please reach out to sales@VisibleSCM.com and we’ll get back to you promptly!

 


Ecommerce Operations Summit

August 17-18, 2021
Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, TN
Booth #711


Retail X

August 24-25, 2021
McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
Booth #1727


Parcel Forum

September 14-16, 2021
Gaylord National Resort, Washington, D.C.
Booth #211


SubSummit

September 21-23, 2021
Sheraton, Dallas, TX
Booth #507/509


Pack Expo

September 27-29, 2021
Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV
Booth #7767


DSA Engage

October 31 – November 2, 2021
Hyatt Regency, New Orleans, LA
Booth #TBD

Building a Better Subscription Business

Subscription-based companies were hit hard during the pandemic, with shipping challenges drastically affecting the customer experience. But delivery inconsistencies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to e-commerce brand woes. Sustainable growth hinges upon inventory, supply chain management, adequate staffing, and attention to detail, amongst other factors. For brands looking to grow their base, outsourcing may be the solution.

This playbook by Visible Supply Chain Management breaks down the greatest challenges that subscription companies face, and proven strategies for tackling those issues. Content includes:

  • Subscription at scale: How to manage a rapidly growing base
  • Customer experience is king: Pitfalls to avoid
  • Unruly inventory: Best practices for ordering and moving excess product

 

 

Supply Chain Roundup: Info to Know Heading into Q3

supply chain roundup

The U.S. economy is roaring back to life as we enter the year’s third quarter and more Americans become vaccinated. Retailers, working to restock their inventories as demand returns, face supply chain challenges that have persisted for more than a year, including port congestion, equipment shortages and skyrocketing freight rates. Exacerbating shippers’ supply chain woes have been extraordinary crises like the six-day blockage of the Suez Canal and the massive winter storm in February that led to road and distribution center closures and manufacturing plant shutdowns.

Although coronavirus cases are dropping in the United States, high infection rates in major trade gateways like Yantian have interrupted and delayed supply chains globally. Distribution center labor shortages and overwhelmed transportation networks are worsening delays, threatening to hamper retailers’ restocking efforts as they gear up for the back-to-school and holiday seasons.

To help you stay on top of industry developments that could affect your business heading into Q3, we’re sharing the latest updates in supply chain—and how Visible can help you navigate these challenges.

 

Shippers contend with tight ocean capacity, soaring rates and shipment delays

Strong demand from retailers, massive port delays and the aftereffects of the Suez Canal blockage have contributed to a shortage of ocean freight capacity, sending shipping costs soaring at a historic pace and affecting carriers’ schedules. The Wall Street Journal reports that as of March, only 40% of container ships were arriving on time.

According to Freightos, Asia-West Coast spot rates reached a record-high of $6,341 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU), up 194% year over year. East Coast-West Coast rates hit $2,976 per FEU and Europe-East Coast rates reached $5,193 per FEU—both new records. Rising rates are concerns particularly for smaller businesses that may not be able to weather these costs or supply chain challenges, which are expected to continue into 2022.

 

COVID-19 infections worsen delays

In addition to paying astronomical freight rates, retailers are experiencing delays due to congestion at ports plagued by COVID-19 infections. At the Port of Yantian, part of the world’s third-largest busiest gateway, operations dropped to 30% capacity, creating shipping backlogs reportedly worse than those caused by the Suez Canal blockage. Although Yantian has resumed full operations, it could take up to a month to work through the backlog of inbound ships and outbound containers that have piled up around the gateway. Companies doing business out of Southern China are advised to add at least two weeks of transit time to account for delays and to expect rising freight rates.

COVID-19 infections also are breaking out in places like Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh, worsening the global chip shortage and prompting new lockdowns and tightened border controls. As overseas infection rates delay manufacturing and shipping, companies are requiring faster shipping and spending more on expedited freight services.

“The disruption issues are leading to significant additional costs for businesses and delays in getting products to consumers,” said Jonathan Gold, the National Retail Federation’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Most of these costs are not being passed to the consumer given the current economy, further impacting the economic recovery of retailers both large and small.”

 

Shippers turn to air freight amid tight ocean capacity

Due to overseas delays and crunched ocean capacity, some shippers are turning to air freight, the faster but more expensive alternative. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), worldwide air cargo demand was up 12% in April compared to April 2019 and saw a 7.8% gain in demand from March to April. Air cargo volume was up 41% year over year in May.

With soaring demand and air freight capacity still below pre-pandemic levels, rates from Hong Kong to the U.S. have been elevated, reaching $8.07 per kilogram June 7. While this is down from the mid-May peak of $9.50 per kilogram, it is up 127% compared to 2019.

 

Volumes overwhelm trucking and rail networks

The rebounding U.S. economy has put a strain on trucking and rail networks that is not likely to be alleviated any time soon. The Wall Street Journal reports that while trucking capacity is expected to grow 3 to 3.5% this year, truckload volumes are expected to increase by 8 to 12% (limiting new truck production is the global semiconductor shortage). Operators told the WSJ that the shortfall could deepen if cargo volumes remain high before the busy holiday shipping peak.

Figures from DAT show that in May, spot load posts were up 290% year over year, and truck postings were down nearly 15%. Load-to-truck ratios, which indicate the balance between spot market demand and capacity, increased nearly 220% year over year for vans, 674% for flatbeds and 324% for reefers, causing rates to rise.

Meanwhile, strong demand for rail has started to create congestion issues, driving more importers to transload and putting greater pressure on trucking companies already “drowning in freight.”

 

FedEx Freight cuts—then resumes—service to customers, increases surcharges

On Friday, June 11, FedEx Freight notified about 1,400 less-than-truckload (LTL) shippers that it would stop picking up their goods starting the following Monday to avoid backlogs and maintain service levels amid tight capacity. The measure was met with backlash, and a FedEx official confirmed a week later that this embargo would be relaxed and the company would be more precise about which accounts to cut service to.

Additionally, citing high volumes and limited capacity, FedEx Freight announced it would increase three peak surcharges on Express and Ground shipments, which went into effect June 21.

 

Fulfillment Audit

 

Ecommerce momentum to continue after the pandemic

LTL and parcel networks have been overwhelmed in large part due to the influx of ecommerce-related freight. Although ecommerce gains have eased slightly since stores reopened, volumes remain strong and are expected to stay that way as consumers, now accustomed to doing even their grocery shopping online, stick with purchasing behaviors adopted during the pandemic. As a result, logistics operators and retailers alike are rethinking their long-term supply chain strategies and investing in information technology and automation to speed up the flow of goods.

 

Value increases for urban facility space as supply chains aim to move closer to consumers

The growth of ecommerce is driving up demand for warehouse space, especially close to big population centers—but industrial-zoned land in these areas is in short supply, forcing up rent prices.

While some retailers have considered converting their shuttered retail properties into logistics facilities, Prologis Research says doing so will be difficult for reasons including permitting issues, physical limitations (spaces are too small), zoning restrictions and community opposition.
A report from CBRE notes that the U.S. will need to add 330 million square feet of warehouse space dedicated to online fulfillment by 2025 to keep pace with the uptick in ecommerce sales. But building new space will be expensive; CBRE reports that construction costs have increased 25% since December.

 

European Union VAT reforms take effect July 1

New value-added tax (VAT) rules designed to simplify ecommerce in the European Union (EU) are in effect as of July 1. The three main VAT changes are:

  1. The VAT exemption for imports into the EU with an intrinsic value up to €22 euros will be eliminated
  2. An Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) platform will be launched for B2C businesses to settle VAT in the EU for goods valued up to €150
  3. Online marketplaces will be responsible for EU VAT compliance for goods valued up to €150 sold on their platform

For more information about these changes and how they might affect your business, please contact your Visible SCM representative.

 

The return to restaurants and public events strains food supply chains

Food sector suppliers are scrambling to keep up as demand returns for meals at restaurants and venues across the U.S. Deliveries of items that usually arrive on predictable schedules have been more erratic due to food supply chain disruptions such as raw material shortages, reduced labor and tight transportation capacity.

Mark Allen, chief executive of the International Foodservice Distributors Association, told The Wall Street Journal that the market roaring back to life “has been, in many ways, as difficult as the shutdown,” he said. “Everybody is trying to turn it on immediately and the capacity might not be there.”

Supply chain disruptions have delayed shipments of overseas food products and held up delivery of corrugated cardboard and other packaging materials, like bottles for salad dressing. Even Starbucks is reportedly running short of basics like cups and coffee syrups as stores return to full operations.

Allen said the lack of available workers could be the biggest strain on the sector, the impact of which is being felt across production facilities, transportation companies and distribution centers.

 

Navigate supply chain challenges with support from Visible

While many of us in the United States are becoming vaccinated and starting to feel a sense of being out of the woods, it’s important to keep in mind that COVID-19 infections are still spreading around the world and continue to have a major impact on supply chains. Recent outbreaks in southern China, Southeast Asia and Taiwan threaten to cause supply chain headaches for weeks and months to come.

These challenges can be especially hard on small and midsized shippers that may be less experienced than larger companies with building contingency plans and finding alternative solutions. That’s why it is essential to have a supply chain partner that can help you navigate capacity challenges, assist with creative route planning and provide the visibility you need to manage your business.

Visible elevates its clients’ brands by helping them deliver the best customer experience possible while minimizing supply chain headaches and costs. We accomplish this by:

  • Working with businesses to strengthen their supply chain strategies, including identifying routing alternatives and building/enhancing their multicarrier solutions
  • Fulfilling orders accurately, timely and safely from our distribution centers located strategically across the country
  • Helping customers avoid additional costs and delays through our compliant customs brokerage solutions
  • Staying on top of situations at the ports and working with our agents to secure the best available bookings
  • Leveraging our partnerships with carriers to secure capacity at competitive prices
  • Optimizing clients’ parcel strategies to reduce transportation spend and transit times
  • Manufacturing on-demand customized packaging at our onsite corrugated sheet plant, reducing customer lead times

With capacity constraints expected to continue into the fourth quarter and peak season hurtling towards us, now is the time to partner with a 3PL that can help you overcome industry challenges and deliver a positive experience to you and your customers. To learn more about how Visible can help your business, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 877.728.5328.

 

 

Comfort, Convenience and Health Consciousness: How the Pandemic Changed What We Consume & How We Shop

How the Pandemic Changed What We Consume & How We Shop

As it did for most industries, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of food and beverage supply chains around the world. Changes in consumer buying patterns made demand planning difficult, leading to unanticipated surpluses or shortages (who can forget those viral photos of empty grocery store shelves and meatless meat counters?). And even though we have been in the midst of this pandemic for more than a year, it could be another six to nine months before certain categories like spices are fully replenished due to disruption and elevated demand.

While grappling with these challenges, food and beverage companies have also been forced to adapt to new pricing structures, surcharges and volume restrictions imposed by carriers while quickly developing omnichannel shopping experiences and multi-vendor strategies.

The pandemic changed life as we knew it, including the foods and beverages we consume and how we purchase them. In this blog post, we’re breaking down these changes, plus how the pandemic affected category sales and influenced emerging trends.

 

Food and beverage ecommerce sees historic growth

The COVID-19 pandemic forced food and beverage brands to adapt and pivot to meet customers’ changing needs, and for many businesses, this meant getting on the fast track to technological transformation.

At the start of the pandemic, some of the biggest food and beverage makers had no direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce channels; in fact, only about half of food and beverage companies had an ecommerce presence. The pandemic sparked “incredible acceleration of the online food and beverage space,” said Elizabeth Buchanan, NielsenIQ’s head of consumer intelligence for North America. “COVID-19 brought more digitally engaged food shoppers into the mix.”

In 2019, only 10% of revenue for consumer packaged goods (CPG) makers like Nestlé, PepsiCo and Mars came from DTC offerings. When the pandemic hit, big brands and artisan food makers alike launched online stores, and food and beverage surpassed health and beauty to become the largest online CPG segment. According to Forbes, food and drink ecommerce posted 53% growth, the highest of any product category.

During the pandemic, 18% of consumers changed their primary method of grocery shopping to shopping online (Lumina Intelligence). Statista’s Digital Market Outlook estimates that by 2025, revenue from the ecommerce food and beverage industry in the United States will rise to $35.7 billion—making up 15% to 20% of the industry’s overall sales.

 

Consumers seek solace in comfort foods and alcohol

During times of stress and uncertainty, consumers often turn to comfort foods like sweets and snacks for solace. The 2020 State of Snacking report from Mondelēz International indicates that 88% of consumers increased their snacking habits or continued at pre-pandemic levels. Half of adults started buying snacks online more often and 69% planned to continue this practice after the pandemic. With online sales up 73% compared to last year, Frito-Lay predicts that online snack sales will double by 2025. Sales for chocolate—another popular comfort food—grew 12% to $27 billion last year.

Alcohol sales also have risen dramatically in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. Research from the University of Southern California found that between April and June 2020, sales of alcoholic beverages increased by 34% compared to the same period in 2019, chiefly due to consumer stress, boredom, anxiety and depression. Consumers turned to new online platforms to get their alcohol, and the U.S. is now expected to overtake China as the largest alcohol ecommerce market in the world by 2021.

“People had the necessity of ordering alcohol online, and now they’re starting to wake up to how convenient it is,” said Sara Goucher, head of Molson Coors’s ecommerce operation.

 

Consumers shift to healthy, functional foods and beverages

Although “gaining the COVID-19” became a popular pandemic wisecrack, the witty wordplay held some truth for the millions of Americans whose weight increased during the pandemic. As a result, statistics show that consumers at some point during the pandemic decided to make better choices when it comes to nutrition. Research by FMCG Gurus shows that 80% of consumers around the world plan to eat and drink more healthily in 2021 as a direct result of the pandemic. Companies like PepsiCo, Danone, Chobani and General Mills have even started their own incubators to innovate and introduce products in line with fast-growing food trends—products that are better for you, natural, clean label, plant-based and functional.

Organic food sales surged in 2020, reaching a record $56.4 billion, largely due to the renewed interest in healthy eating amid the pandemic. Even Hershey’s is trying to balance indulgent offerings with healthier, low- or no-sugar treats and organic options. According to Hershey’s, only 6% of confectionery sales fall into the “better-for-you” category, and they hope to see that figure climb to 20%, on par with other snacking categories.

Consumers are increasingly seeking food and ingredients that can help with mental clarity and stress relief, such as adaptogens, CBD and I-theanine, and industry experts predict that new and innovative superfoods marketed to boost immunity will be a top food and beverage trend this year.

 

Pandemic pushes consumers toward plant-based options

Although the shift toward plant-based meat consumption started before the pandemic, COVID-19 has accelerated consumer interest in plant-based foods. Many consumers turned to plant-based meat when COVID-19 outbreaks at meat plants led to nationwide shortages, and they continued to purchase meat alternatives for the health benefits.

According to Nielsen, sales of fresh plant-based meat alternatives nearly doubled every month after the pandemic started, and in March 2020, grocery stores sold 231% more fresh plant-based meat than a year prior. Sales for snacks promoted as part of a plant-based diet rose 10.5% and plant-based beverage sales increased 13.5%.

 

Food and beverage subscriptions are on the rise

The consumer shift from in-store to online shopping has fueled the growth of subscription box services—particularly for items like snacks and beverages. According to Ordergroove, enrollment in all types of subscription programs surged 48% in 2020 over 2019, and there was a 25% increase in the food and beverage category. Subscription boxes allow consumers to change up their snacking habits and try new brands they can’t find in their local grocery store—plus, there are boxes specific to dietary restrictions and that help with specific nutritional goals. With consumers’ love of convenience and growing desire to improve their health after the pandemic, it’s no surprise that healthy snack subscription boxes in particular are expected to be a top trend this year.

 

Fulfillment Audit

 

Sales sink for on-the-go snacks, mints and gum

While sales increased markedly for some categories during the pandemic, others struggled to sustain strong numbers. During lockdown, life for many consumers slowed down, reducing the need for on-the-go snacks like nutrition bars. According to Nielsen statistics, sales of performance nutrition bars were down 17% in the first seven months of lockdowns. Sales plunged 23% for breath-freshening mints and gum due to social distancing measures and mask-wearing, but the category is expected to make a strong comeback later this year.

 

Coffee drinkers embrace new routines and trends

When cafés closed and consumers started working from home, coffee drinkers had to embrace new consumption routines. Data from the National Coffee Association shows that 23% of coffee drinkers bought a new coffee machine amid the pandemic, 40% tried a new type of coffee drink and 25% purchased new types of coffees for brewing.

Single-serve and ready-to-drink coffees have become increasingly popular as well as premium monthly coffee subscriptions, ethically sourced beans and hybrid beverages (e.g., light sparkling coffees and coffees blended with fruit juice). Like other food and beverage categories, this market has a growing base of health-conscious consumers, and they’re looking to get their caffeine boost without the calories and sugar of traditional energy drinks and sodas.

 

Pandemic shakes brand loyalty as consumers grow more adventurous

After supply chain disruptions and panic buying led to barren grocery stores aisles, brand loyalty was put to the test as consumers were forced to buy whichever brands or products they could get their hands on. An Ipsos study reveals that in April 2020, more than 25% of consumers tried a new brand because their usual brand was unavailable. According to Statista, consumers were most likely to have tried new brands in the healthy foods category and plan to continue buying these brands after the pandemic. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents said they were trying new snack and junk food brands.

 

New dining behaviors are here to stay

When restaurants closed, consumers had to cook more at home—and many discovered that they actually enjoyed it. A recent study shows that more than half of Americans are now cooking more than they were before the pandemic, and 35% said they enjoy cooking now more than before. More than one-third of consumers say they are getting more takeout than before the pandemic.

Experts predict that even after the pandemic, people will continue to eat at home, whether that means cooking or takeout and delivery. Packaged meals, ready-to-eat meals and meal kits—especially healthy ones—are expected to have a strong future.

 

What’s next—and how Visible can help

COVID-19 emphasized the need for businesses across all industries to focus on building supply chain resilience and adaptability. Now that consumers have discovered the convenience of purchasing food and beverages online, experts agree that these newly adopted shopping behaviors will remain in place. As reliance on ecommerce grows, businesses must prioritize their supply chains with these behavioral shifts and customer satisfaction in mind.

While having an online presence and on-trend product line puts companies in a great position for growth, the key to lasting success is having a supply chain partner with expertise specific to this industry. The right food and beverage fulfillment partner provides skilled inventory management, understands how to store and package products properly, ships timely and accurately and has the facility footprint to split inventory for quicker delivery to customers.

Visible provides supply chain solutions to a wide array of customers in the food and beverage space. From fulfilling subscription orders of coffee and superfood powder to creating packaging for cheesemakers, we have the expertise to get your products safely into the hands (and stomachs) of consumers everywhere. To learn how Visible can support the growth of your business and improve the efficiency of your product distribution, fill out our contact form or call 877.728.5328.

 

 

Supply Chain Stats to Prepare for a Post-Pandemic Fashion Comeback

For many of us, the year 2020 can accurately be referred to as “the year of the elastic waistband.” With store closures, event cancellations and people sheltering at home, there has been little need to wear “real” clothes, let alone shop for new outfits. Now, as more consumers become vaccinated and begin their post-COVID plans, industry experts predict they’ll be updating their wardrobes for new experiences. With a return to normalcy in sight, retailers must be prepared to meet customer demand while delivering the seamless and convenient experience consumers have become accustomed to during the pandemic. Here are some key statistics to help brands strengthen their supply chains and gear up for a fashion revival.

 

Fashion Embarks on Post-COVID Road to Recovery

  • Although clothing and accessories sales plummeted almost 90% a year ago, Wells Fargo analysts find that store traffic is up and margins are growing
  • As of March 2021, U.S. retailers had plans for 3,344 new stores and 2,649 closures (this is a new trend, as store closures have far surpassed openings in recent years)
  • Retail executives expect post-COVID-19 ecommerce penetration to increase 25% to 40% across categories, which will drive retailers’ investments in real-time inventory tracking and the conversion of stores into fulfillment centers
  • A McKinsey survey shows 34% growth in customers purchasing footwear most or all online and 48% growth in customers purchasing apparel most or all online
  • What’s motivating these purchases? Out of more than a thousand shoppers who participated in a Digital Commerce 360 survey earlier this month, 41% said they made an apparel, accessory or shoe purchase to replace something in their wardrobe, 36% were inspired by the changing weather and 35% simply wanted to freshen up their wardrobes

 

Omnichannel Becomes the Future of Retail

  • More than 1/3 of Americans have made omnichannel features such as buying online for in-store pickup part of their regular shopping routine since the start of the pandemic
  • 2/3 of retail executives cite the growth of omnichannel and digital shopping as the most significant trend affecting the industry—and its greatest challenge
  • 46% of retail executives plan to increase their investment in omnichannel retailing moving forward, compared to their plans prior to COVID-19
  • 51% of retailers cited ecommerce platforms among the top three budget priorities for 2021

 

Returns Climb Amid Ecommerce Surge

  • Per Narvar, the number of ecommerce packages returned in 2020 rose 70% from 2019 due to the increase in online shopping and uptick in “bracketing” (buying multiple versions of the same item—usually apparel—to try them on and return the ones that do not fit)
  • In a Digital Commerce 360 survey, 62% of consumers said they bracketed an online purchase in 2020, up from 48% in 2019
  • The most common reasons consumers are bracketing now more than in years prior: Weight gain/loss and uncertainty of new size (41%), inability to try things on at stores (31%) and purchasing from new retailers (21%)
  • In the same survey, 26% of shoppers said they will factor in free return shipping before making a purchase
  • A Narvar survey found that of shoppers whose last return was “very easy,” 46% were able to drop the return off at a convenient location, 43% were informed when the refund was processed, 38% got an instant refund and 32% received an updated status of the return

 

Consumers Care About Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Issues

It is critical for brands to map their supply chains and understand what is happening at every tier; in fact, a company’s reputation depends on it. If a company is unaware that their supplier is using a subcontractor that they did not authorize, and that subcontractor engages in unethical or illegal labor practices, the brand’s reputation is at risk for irreparable damage.

  • 1/3 of participants in a McKinsey survey said they stopped using a brand based on its social actions; 71% indicated they would lose trust in a brand forever if it placed profits over people
  • 66% of consumers said they would stop or significantly reduce shopping at a brand if they found it was not treating its employees—or its suppliers’ employees—fairly
  • Gen-Zers are willing to pay more for products that support their values, and 80% of that generation refuse to buy goods from companies involved in societal scandals

 

The Rising Trend of Sustainable Fashion

  • According to McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2021 report, sustainability is the second biggest opportunity for retail behind digital, with more than 3 in 5 consumers saying environmental impact is an important factor in making purchasing decisions
  • 67% of consumers consider the use of sustainable materials to be important when buying clothes, while 63% also look at the way a brand promotes sustainability
  • As much as 12% of fibers are discarded on a factory floor, 25% of garments remain unsold and less than 1% of products are recycled into new garments. With consumers’ growing concerns about sustainability, the fashion industry must focus on building and scaling strategies around circularity—reducing, recycling, refurbishing, reselling, renting and repairing items

 

“Dupe Influencers” Become a Growing Concern

Because legitimate brands go to great lengths to ensure their supply chains comply with labor, safety and environmental practices, they should be wary of a fast-growing group of influencers promoting counterfeit merchandise.

  • According to a report released by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), “dupe influencers”—those who use their social media platforms to promote counterfeit merchandise—are becoming a growing threat to reputable brands. These influencers are using hashtags to attract new followers and increase online engagement, and as of a month ago, #designerdupefinds had more than 6.5 million associated views on TikTok
  • By 2022, the influencer industry is set to be worth $15 billion, and counterfeit goods will displace roughly $1 to $2 trillion of global sales

 

Retailers to Strengthen Partnerships with Suppliers

  • In April 2020, around 3/4 of sourcing executives reported cancelling orders during the first wave of the pandemic. Some brands didn’t just cancel their orders—they refused to pay for completed goods, jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of garment workers and exposing the need for stronger partnerships between brands and suppliers
  • Last year, 35% of fashion executives said they expected resilience and partnerships in the supply chain to be a top theme in 2021
  • 73% of fashion executives expect that companies will increasingly enter closer partnerships with suppliers and reduce transactional supplier relationships in 2021

 

RFID Technology Makes a Comeback

As ecommerce grew during the pandemic, so too did the need for increased supply chain visibility. The use of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags is becoming more widely adopted with the growth of ecommerce due to improvements in labor efficiency as well as traceability at the pallet or unit level.

  • Over the last decade, costs of RFID tags have fallen by 80% while accuracy has doubled and range has quintupled; prices have dropped by nearly 50%
  • In-store RFID benefits: 99% inventory accuracy, 60%-80% stockout reduction, 2%-12% sales lift and 10% shrink reduction

 

Don’t Wait to Prepare for Peak Season

If this year’s peak season is anything like last year’s, the time to prepare is now—especially if fashion makes the comeback industry experts are predicting.

Import volumes are projected to remain at record or near-record levels as retailers replenish and build their inventories to prepare for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons. According to FreightWaves, as retailers continue building up their inventories, they will face even higher shipping premiums—and potentially caps on their imports due to a trans-Pacific shipping network that has reached its limit. Retailers may also face delays due to port congestion heading into the summer-fall peak shipping season. Be sure to consult with your supply chain partner and build a plan to get your products in without racing against the clock or blowing your budget.

It’s also important to consider implementing a multicarrier solution. Retailers who had their volumes capped by major national carriers during last year’s “Shipageddon” were left scrambling to find another option, and a multicarrier solution can mitigate the risk of that happening again.

 

Packaging CTA

 

Visible is here to help you prepare. Whether you need customs brokerage support, facility space for your imports or a fulfillment solution that speeds up delivery to your customers, we’re here to help your business thrive—now and in the post-pandemic environment. Fill out our contact form or call 877.728.5328 to talk to an expert today.

 

Sources: McKinsey, RILA, Retail Dive, AAFA, BigCommerce, NRF, FreightWaves, Shopify, Business of Fashion, Digital Commerce 360, Narvar

 

 

Labor Pains Whitepaper – What’s Causing the Warehousing Labor Shortage and What’s Being Done to Combat It

labor pains whitepaper

According to industry experts, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the growth of ecommerce by four to six years. This massive shift to ecommerce has forced retailers and fulfillment centers alike to adapt and scale quickly to keep up with demand. Doing this effectively, however, has been an industrywide challenge due to a warehouse labor pool that seems to be rapidly evaporating.

To combat this labor shortage, fulfillment center leaders are putting their creativity to the test to come up with effective strategies for their business. Measures companies are taking include:

  • Experimenting with new approaches to attract talent—and keep them engaged
  • Mapping and analyzing processes to improve efficiency
  • Investing in automation and other technologies
  • Improving the experience of the worker

Amid these labor challenges, the only way supply chain companies will be able to deliver top-level service is by building strategies that allow them to adapt—and having the resources and agility to execute them. “Business as usual” has become a distant memory for most industries since early last year, but as companies learned during the pandemic, having resilience and the ability to pivot during times of disruption is essential to survival.

While COVID-19 has undoubtedly played a role in warehouse labor availability, it is just one of the factors contributing to the labor crunch. Download our new whitepaper to find out which other factors are at play, what warehouses are doing to adapt (including Visible) and whether the labor issue will be resolved when the pandemic subsides.

DOWNLOAD WHITEPAPER

Case Study – Visible Reduces Skincare Brand’s Spend & Transit Time with Optimized Parcel Strategy

skin care shipping case study

Visible’s multicarrier solution saves anti-aging company $1M, eliminates hidden fees and speeds up DTC deliveries.

Visible’s client is an innovative anti-aging skincare company that ships small, lightweight parcels directly to consumers all over the country. Their transportation spend had far exceeded their budget, primarily because of the new surcharges and rate increases their carriers implemented during the pandemic when volumes hit peak levels. Transportation costs began skyrocketing for many shippers, and carrier fees and surcharges—which remain in place—were not clearly communicated to the customer ahead of time, resulting in costly surprises.

DOWNLOAD CASE STUDY

“Shipageddon”: What Happened, Where Are We Now and What Comes Next?

In a roundtable event hosted by Visible SCM, supply chain industry experts discuss last year’s “Shipageddon,” the current logistics landscape and what shippers can do to prep for this year’s peak season.

Moderator:
• Benjamin Gordon, Founder and Managing Partner of Cambridge Capital

Speakers/Panelists:
• Casey Adams, President of Visible Supply Chain Management
• Jim Cochrane, CEO of Package Shippers Association, Former USPS Chief Customer and Marketing Officer
• Jeremy Bodenhamer, ShipHawk CEO and author of “Adapt or Die”

 

Fill out the form below to watch the full panel



Visible Exec Emma Leonard “Top Woman To Watch” by Women In Trucking Association

Visible Supply Chain Management Exec. VP Emma Leonard recognized for spurring explosive growth, saving customers money & mentoring other female leaders.

SALT LAKE CITY–The Women In Trucking Association today is honoring Visible Supply Chain Management Executive Vice President Emma Leonard with the 2021 Top Woman To Watch award for her achievements in fostering growth, helping customers and mentoring other women in leadership. The award recognizes Leonard for her achievements while overseeing transportation and procurement for Visible.

Leonard’s leadership helps Visible fulfill more than 2 million orders per month, resulting in a 99.98% fulfillment accuracy rate. Through her restructuring and implementation, the company went from shipping 125 million packages in 2017 to 150 million packages in 2019, a nearly 20% jump in deliveries.

“Emma has exhibited strong leadership abilities by building and managing a cross-functional team of transportation professionals, analysts and managers. She has successfully implemented a new parcel pricing strategy and scaled that strategy to support Visible’s aggressive growth,” said Casey Adams, President of Visible. “Her efforts have played a major role in achieving double-digit revenue growth year over year.”

Leonard is a global supply chain expert with 21 years of in-depth leadership experience in supply chain, eCommerce, transportation, customer support and operations. During the last 18 months, she successfully renegotiated and implemented contracts, resulting in more than $1.8 million in savings for Visible’s B2B and B2C partners.

In an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, Leonard advocates for gender equality in the supply chain space through her involvement in AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education.) She is also a pillar for local women in logistics—mentoring her peers by organizing and facilitating local meetups and networking events.

Leonard immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland when she was a teen. Being a first-generation college graduate, she has taken a particular interest in mentoring women in school. Leonard was a Director of Advancement Services at Salt Lake Community College for two years and won an AAWCC Award (American Association for Women in Community Colleges) for bolstering philanthropy efforts.

The Women In Trucking Association (WIT) is a non-profit organization promoting the Top Women To Watch Award through the association’s official magazine, Redefining the Road.

“Leonard is being acknowledged because her accomplishments exemplify the mission of Women in Trucking,” said Brian S. Everett, Publisher, Redefining the Road magazine. “This noble mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.”

 

 

About Visible Supply Chain Management (Visible)

Since 1992, Visible Supply Chain Management has provided customized solutions for B2B and B2C organizations. With comprehensive services in e-commerce, direct sales, direct response and omnichannel, Visible can design effective strategies for clients that include transportation, logistics, brokerage, fulfillment and even custom packaging solutions.

 

Visible Supply Chain Management President Casey Adams Honored Among Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s 2021 Pros to Know

Casey Admas

Award recognizes Adams, whose accomplishments are leading Visible through a period of unprecedented growth.

SALT LAKE CITY–Recognized as an exemplary executive, Casey Adams, president at Visible Supply Chain Management (Visible), is being awarded today with a place on the Supply & Demand Chain Executive 2021 Pros to Know list. Visible is an industry leader in shipping, logistics and fulfillment services.

The award recognizes leaders whose accomplishments offer a roadmap for other professionals looking to leverage supply chain for competitive advantage.

“Casey Adams continues to lead Visible successfully through a period of unprecedented growth,” said Jared Starling, CEO at Visible. “The future is full of possibilities, and we look forward to growing the Visible brand through expert strategies, smart technologies and unmatched teamwork.”

In the last year, Adams strategically increased revenue while making significant changes such as streamlining new technologies/techniques, accessing new clients, driving a well-defined corporate culture and implementing managerial changes. Adams established the company as an authorized reseller channel for the US Postal Service (USPS). He also led the launch of a new Warehouse Management System (WMS) focused on the B2C supply chain and picking orders sent directly to consumers.

“While many companies struggled to regain their footing as a result of COVID-19, this year’s Pros to Know winners stepped up to the plate to deliver innovative solutions and programs in a time of crisis and need. These winners collaborated, optimized, developed, educated and played a critical role in the survival and success of their company amid a global pandemic,” said Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Supply & Demand Chain Executive and Food Logistics. “I am honored to recognize these individuals and teams and extend my utmost gratitude to everyone in the supply chain industry for their time, efforts and innovations to keep our nation’s supply chains afloat.”

This year’s Pros to Know list includes individuals and teams from software and service providers; consultancies and academia; trucking and transportation firms; professional development agencies; sourcing and procurement divisions and more. All award winners helped supply chain clients and the supply chain community at large prepare to meet many of today’s—and tomorrow’s—challenges.

Go to www.sdcexec.com to view the full list of all 2021 Pros to Know winners.

 

 

About Visible Supply Chain Management (Visible)

Since 1992, Visible Supply Chain Management has provided customized solutions for B2B and B2C organizations. With comprehensive services in e-commerce, direct sales, direct response and omnichannel, Visible can design effective strategies for clients that include transportation, logistics, brokerage, fulfillment and even custom packaging solutions.

 

E-Commerce Surge Fuels Demand for Corrugated Boxes. Can Manufacturers Keep Up?

ecommerce surge fuels corrugated demand

As ecommerce volumes have soared over the past year, so too has demand for corrugated boxes. According to an IBISWorld report, the cardboard box and container manufacturing industry took in $67.3 billion in revenue last year from January through October. Between June and October, box shipments met 34 billion square feet—an industry record—each month. Global box demand is expected to stay strong as consumers opt to shop online rather than in stores, and experts predict it will be even stronger when the service economy and events pick back up.

 

COVID-19, supply chain challenges interrupt recycling systems

Prior to the pandemic, most shipment deliveries were made in bulk directly to shops and restaurants, and packaging found its way quickly back into the system through recycling. Today, boxes are piling up in homes rather than at restaurants and retail stores, shifting the responsibility to households to dispose of them properly. However, according to USA Today, about 40 percent of Americans either don’t have access to or don’t sign up for curbside recycling. That means a lot of boxes are being thrown away instead of being used to create more boxes.

The pandemic and other factors have also affected the recycling system and availability of raw materials in the supply chain. Factors noted by the Solid Waste Association of North America:

  • Chinese restrictions on the import of recyclable materials have forced the U.S. to find new markets for recovered materials, often at a reduced value
  • Recovered paper from schools, offices and stores no longer available due to COVID closures
  • Delays due to recycling facility safety changes and worker concerns over the virus and PPE
  • Recycling collection paused by some local governments after waste increase from more Americans working from home

Challenges in the global supply chain—container availability in particular—have also contributed to delays in box production. Scrap Recycling Industries reported that North American exporters of scrap commodities are having “extreme difficulties obtaining ocean shipping containers,” due to ocean carriers returning empty containers before U.S. exporters have a chance to use them. There have also been delays in getting pulp fibers used to make boxes into the recycling chain.

 

Manufacturers take measures to keep up with demand

Paper mills are running at full capacity to keep up with demand amid the “tightest market since 1994.” Some manufacturers are converting their machines to produce linerboard, used in the production of corrugated boxes, due to an unprecedented drop in demand for printing and writing paper. Others are taking measures such as investing in their own recycling facilities, contracting out to smaller companies, implementing price hikes due to increased freight and fiber costs—and even capping customer orders.

 

On-demand packaging accelerates retailers’ speed to market

Retailers struggling to get their hands on boxes or seeking shorter lead times should consider working with a partner who can provide on-demand packaging support. Visible operates its own corrugated sheet plant and has onsite machinery, materials and expertise to ramp up and manufacture custom-printed packaging quickly. What we offer:

  • Fast quotes
  • 1-2 week turnaround time
  • High-quality three-color print
  • Flexible run sizes
  • Consulting & design support

Visible also helps customers save on stock packaging supplies by passing on our bulk order savings. We build strong partnerships with key manufacturers, so whether you need peanuts or corrugated packaging, we offer the best products at the best prices.

 

Packaging engineered for optimization

Visible’s packaging engineers work with clients to tackle custom projects, right-size their packaging and minimize parcel costs. Cubic square feet, USPS pricing and a parcel analysis are all built into each packaging assessment. We also help clients optimize the amount of packing material being used to reduce costs while keeping shipment contents protected.

 

Packaging CTA

 

Package design perfection

Visible’s custom packaging solutions include graphics support to ensure the look of your packaging reflects the quality of your brand. We provide:

  • In-house design support
  • 3D custom designs and renderings
  • Packaging mock-ups
  • Point-of-purchase displays
  • Corrugated prototypes

Retailers have faced enough challenges over the past year—getting packaging shouldn’t be one of them. Fill out our online contact form or call 801-300-4007 to chat with a packaging expert today.

 

Reduce Churn & Maximize Savings by Outsourcing Your Subscription Box Fulfillment

Outsourcing Your Subscription Box Fulfillment

Subscription ecommerce has exploded in the past decade, and many subscription retailers have seen a boost in sales in the past year with consumers sheltering at home. In this increasingly prevalent business model, subscribers pay a fee to receive a package of selected or surprise items on a regular basis. According to McKinsey, ecommerce subscriptions generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Curation Subscriptions (55%) – The subscriber receives a curated selection of items, such as an assortment of apparel or beauty products. Customers typically don’t know exactly which products they will receive, so this type of subscription is popular for its element of surprise.
  • Replenishment subscriptions (32%) – Regular, recurring deliveries of same or similar items, like razors or vitamins. This type of subscription makes it convenient for consumers to get their essentials.
  • Access Subscriptions (13%) – Membership gives subscribers exclusive access and “VIP” perks. Primary categories are apparel and food.

 

The impact of COVID-19 on retail subscription

The coronavirus pandemic and consumer shift from in-store to online shopping have fueled the growth of subscription box services. For some companies, pivoting to this model has made it possible for them to stay in business after their previous business models were no longer viable (e.g., in-person or event-focused marketplaces). According to Forbes, many U.S. consumers leaned into subscription box services for the first time during the pandemic, and a survey of more than 1,000 shoppers showed that one in five had purchased a subscription box to have products on hand.

Even before the pandemic hit, subscription services had gained wide appeal. McKinsey research shows that in 2018, the subscription ecommerce market had grown by more than 100 percent per year over the previous five years, and fifteen percent of online shoppers had signed up to receive products on a recurring basis. In 2019, Multichannel Merchant data projected that by 2023, as many as 75 percent direct-to-consumer brands would have a subscription-based offering. Now, this percentage could be even higher. Whether it’s vitamin refills or a monthly box of dog chew toys, consumers have responded to the convenience of getting items they want and need without having to leave their homes.

 

How outsourcing fulfillment helps subscription retailers build customer loyalty and maximize savings

While conventional ecommerce involves shipping one-off orders of unique items, subscription box fulfillment often requires sending many of the same product in a tight timeframe. Many entrepreneurs who start their own subscription box businesses begin fulfilling orders themselves and then outsource to a 3PL when it becomes too costly and labor-intensive to perform these services in house.

Outsourcing fulfillment helps subscription box companies mitigate these challenges as well as one of the biggest that the industry faces: churn. Word of mouth is a key trigger for consumers to sign up with a subscription service, especially in the curation and access categories, but they are quick to cancel their service if expectations aren’t met. They are also less likely to recommend a brand after a bad delivery experience. So how can outsourcing your fulfillment help? We’re breaking down the top four ways that partnering with a 3PL helps subscription retailers minimize churn and increase savings.

1) 3PLs can help subscription businesses scale efficiently—without the major capital investment
For many subscription retailers, orders are processed in a peak period once a month, which creates significant fluctuations in volume. Having the flexibility and infrastructure to scale with demand is critical, but doing so efficiently requires resources like space, labor and systems that become expensive—quickly.

Retailers performing in-house kitting need space and labor, but often just for a few days to a week each month. For the rest of the month, that labor and space may not be needed. When you outsource to a 3PL with a shared-space fulfillment center, that labor can be redeployed to perform other warehousing activities. Plus, you don’t have the overhead investment of running your own facility or the burden of paying for space you don’t need. Partnering with a 3PL that can scale efficiently to accommodate volume fluctuations and all your company’s stages of growth will help you save money—and retain clients—in the long run.

2) Packaging done right improves your customer’s experience—and your bottom line

When it comes to returns in the subscription box business, a mistake may not just cost you one order—it could cost you a long-term subscription. Receiving an incorrect or damaged order leaves customers feeling frustrated while also affecting your bottom line in costly returns and replacements.

When you outsource to a fulfillment partner, you’re supported by a team dedicated to accurate picking and packing and trained on how to package orders properly to guarantee safe delivery. There is a detailed process in place strictly followed by employees to ensure an identical, accurate and safely delivered package to each customer.

While the right packaging is critical to prevent damage, it is also a reflection of the brand. Having a professional team that goes the extra mile to uphold a high standard of care when packing your orders can make a huge difference in the customer’s overall experience. A fulfillment partner can also add in marketing materials like inserts and other special packaging touches to help your brand stand out and create a memorable unboxing experience.

Check out our Packaging page to learn how Visible helps clients optimize their packaging, including size, materials and design.

3) Tech-enabled 3PLs deliver greater efficiency, visibility and profitability

One of the most crucial components of an optimized fulfillment operation is the technology driving it. However, purchasing a Warehouse Management System (WMS)—then learning and implementing it—is a significant investment of time and financial resources. Instead, subscription retailers have the option to partner with a professional who already has technology in place specifically designed to manage this type of business.

The platform used to manage your inventory and orders should have built-in automation and integration capabilities for accurate and efficient fulfillment. Systems with these capabilities not only help subscription retailers keep customers satisfied, but also eliminate waste throughout the supply chain and increase profitability. An efficient operation allows you to invest your time in impactful activities that grow your business rather than spend it on activities like manual data upkeep and spreadsheet manipulation. Additionally, the ideal system comes with an integrated web portal and robust reporting capabilities, so you have the transparency and control you need to manage your business and forecast properly.

It isn’t enough simply to have the technology, however. A fulfillment partner must have the technical knowledge and resources required to maximize the system’s capabilities and tailor them to meet your needs. Visible’s WMS delivers expert inventory and order management with the full transparency and reporting customers need to make intelligent business decisions. We are also integrated with more than 40 ecommerce software and shopping cart platforms to make the fulfillment process seamless.

4) Subscription retailers can leverage their partners’ buying power and facility locations for fast, affordable shipping options

Whether subscription retailers have a pre-established monthly delivery date, or customers are able to select their own, it is critical for the order to deliver when expected, especially if they are replenishing a daily necessity. A 3PL should have a strong network of carriers that provides not only high on-time performance but also a multitude of shipping options. Visible has partnerships with the nation’s top carriers, and we leverage our volumes to provide the most affordable pricing possible to clients for every shipping option.

If your customers are geographically diverse, it is recommended that you distribute your inventory across multiple, strategically fulfillment centers. Bringing your product closer to your customers reduces shipping fees and transit times and improves overall efficiency. Learn more about the benefits of having multiple fulfillment centers here.

 

Fulfillment is best left to the experts

Fulfillment, while necessary, isn’t typically where subscription retailers want to spend most of their focus—especially when there are companies that specialize in these services. Professional fulfillment providers like Visible have the staff, technology and resources in place to process orders as efficiently as possible, so customers can concentrate on growing their business with the peace of mind that the logistics are handled. A well-oiled fulfillment machine not only creates savings in the long run but also boosts customer loyalty by delivering accurate, properly packed and timely orders.

 

Fulfillment Audit

 

When the time comes to outsource, keep in mind that many 3PLs are optimized for just-in-time fulfillment rather than the subscription box model, so it’s important to choose a partner with expertise specifically in subscription fulfillment. Visible SCM delivers effective solutions to help subscription retailers meet customer expectations, scale efficiently and minimize churn. To speak with one of our experts, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 877.728.5328.