In early 2019, COVID-19 started spreading globally, creating massive delays throughout supply chains worldwide. For RedWhite Apparel, this caused production delays (we ran out of inventory for 2 months) and delivery delays that averaged 3-4 months for customers in March, April, May & June.
There's little we could have done about production. Our manufacturing base is in Italy & Romania and when both countries went into lockdown until May, our production was delayed. Steps have now been taken to build some robustness in our supply by stockpiling raw material and inventory rather than the previous "just-in-time" supply chain model.
There certainly was a lot I could have done about shipping to customers. Prior to COVID-19, all RedWhite Apparel customers had their bibshorts shipped using the postal network. This is historically a very reliable system. Most deliveries happen in 2 weeks or less and you get tracking. Unfortunately, the postal network started breaking down during the pandemic as airmail flights decreased, custom departments slowed down and local postal networks experienced a labour shortage.
In late April 2020, I began an overhaul of RedWhite Apparel's shipping solution. This was arguably long overdue as being reliant on 1 major delivery partner (the postal network) was a misjudgement on my part. RedWhite Apparel currently has accounts on :
- FedEx (primary service)
- DHL Express (backup service)
- QExpress (Singapore only) - primary
- Ninja Van Express (Singapore only) - backup
- SF Express (Asia)
All 7 couriers are private operators with their own fleets, aircraft (FedEx, UPS & DHL have aircraft stationed in Singapore) and private customs clearance channels in all global markets.
The integration of these services with RedWhite's warehouse was completed in late April 2020 and all orders since May 2020 has shipped using one of these services. We've now reduced delivery times by more than 50% and increased reliability as well. Here's a summary of latest delivery times (as of August 2020) in our major markets :
- United States : 3 - 7 days
- New Zealand : 4 - 7 days
- Australia : 5 - 9 days
- Canada : 4 - 7 days
- Singapore : 2 - 3 days
- United Kingdom : 4 - 7 days
- Europe : 5 - 9 days
- Japan : 6 - 8 days
These delivery times can be faster. I am seeing slight delays due to limited manpower and movement restrictions in some regions. An important takeaway is the robustness of these solutions. Despite an ongoing pandemic and increased e-commerce package traffic, these companies have proven to be resilient and on-time with their deliveries.
New USPS Return Labels for U.S. customers.
Fast Shipping is just 1 improvement in RedWhite Apparel's current operation. A new service available today is subsidised USPS Return Labels for customers in the United States.
Customers who wish to make a return typically have to purchase a return label from their post office and send their bibshort back to us. In the U.S., USPS labels cost an average of US$25 to send back a bibshort (weighs 0.45 lbs) to Singapore.
We're now offering U.S. customers a cheaper way to make a return. Prices start at US$15 for label to return 1 bibshort. U.S. customers can also opt to have their bibshort collected from the comfort of their homes.
RedWhite Apparel currently does not offer Free Returns as standard. The reason for this is covered under a blog post I wrote in January 2020 called "The Free Returns Paradox". That being said, RedWhite Apparel does cover the cost of sending items back under special circumstances. This is detailed in the Returns Policy.