The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted commerce merchants of all types, including ecommerce clothing retailers, in a number of different ways. Many people immediately conclude that ecommerce clothing retailers have benefited on some level because of the coronavirus pandemic. While it is true that people are buying clothing online, including people that had not used virtual retail outlets before the pandemic, online clothing merchants face significant challenges. A primary task faced by ecommerce clothing retailers is ensuring the safety of their brick and mortar world operations. Behind many online clothing retailers is a real-world location that includes offices, rack and storage space, and an area for order fulfillment. All of these spaces must be protected against COVID-19 contamination.
Overall Operation of a Fashion Fulfillment Center
In recent years, ecommerce has become a major element of retail sales the world over. As of 2019, ecommerce accounted for about 14 percent of all sales. Ecommerce retail sales amounted to about $3.5 trillion in 2019.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people found themselves turning to the internet as a means of making purchases of a wide range of products, including clothing. This included a cohort of people who hadn’t relied on online merchants for clothing purchases in the past. Research suggests that these people are likely to continue broadly patronizing online clothing retailers even as movement restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic lessen at least to some degree.
A key element of the operations of an online clothing store is its administrative and fulfillment operations. The typical online fashion retailer has a companion brick and mortar world operation that includes:
- Racks and storage area
- Fulfillment, packaging, and shipping area
Proactive Strategy to Prevent Facility Contamination
A fashion fulfillment center needs to develop a two-prong strategy to address coronavirus contamination at the premises. This must include specific elements to address the unique needs and requirements of office space, racks and storage areas, as well as the fulfillment, packaging, and shipping area itself. One prong is to develop and implement a strategy to preemptively prevent coronavirus contamination in the first place. A part of that effort is to plan for recurring deep COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection on a consistent basis.
Prompt Remediation of Contaminated Facility
The second prong of a comprehensive contamination prevention regimen is the prompt remediation of a fashion fulfillment facility in which possible contamination is suspected. At the heart of this component is identifying and engaging a seasoned, reputable COVID-19 cleaning company that can be on-site promptly when the need for coronavirus remediation is necessary.
Protocols for Fashion Fulfillment Center Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic requires the implementation of specific protocols for fashion fulfillment center workers. The protocols intended for the fulfillment team can be modified slightly and as appropriate to address the needs associated with administrative and other workers in the overall operation. The primary protocols for fulfillment center workers during the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Self-monitoring: A key protocol for fashion fulfillment centers during the COVID-19 pandemic is worker self-monitoring. Employees need to familiarize themselves with the early symptoms associated with a COVID-19 pandemic. If they feel that they are experiencing one or some of these symptoms, they need to report that they feel they are unable to report for a particular shift.
- Shift screening: When each worker arrives at a fulfillment center, they need to be screened. At a minimum, the screening needs to include taking each worker’s temperature before the start of a shift. Ultimately, the ideal situation is that workers undertake quick tests for the presence of the COVID-19 virus, although such technology is not going to be broadly available any time soon.
- Workspace reconfiguration: The entirety of a fulfillment center, including the shipping, administrative, and rack or storage areas, will need to be reconfigured to meet the best practices associated with COVID-19 safety. One option that is being widely used in fulfillment centers is breaking down open areas into ones that include individualized workstations, whenever possible. The individual workstations can be separated by plexiglass partitions or something similar to these types of dividers.
- Scheduling reconstruction: Another step that is going to need to be taken in regard to fashion fulfillment centers is scheduling reconstruction. First of all, a fashion fulfillment center will need to comply with state and local mandates regarding the number of people that can be on-site at one time and the percentage of workers that can be on the premises during a shift. This can necessitate creativity when it comes to scheduling.
- Masks and social distancing: Basic steps that need to be taken regarding workers at a fashion fulfillment center is the consistent use of masks and social distancing. These two practices may not only be legally mandated by governmental authorities, but they remain at the top of the list of best practices when it comes to workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Compliance with state and local mandates: As has been mentioned a couple of times, protocols for workers at fashion fulfillment centers must be designed in such a way as to fully satisfy and comply with state and local laws, ordinances, and mandates.