Pink Castle Blog

The Life Cycle Of An Order from an Online Fabric Store

Posted by Brenda Ratliff on Sep 3, 2014 12:56:00 PM
PCF orders

So you've clicked the Paypal button and placed your order. What happens then? What exactly do we do to make sure your order gets to you?

Our day as an online fabric store generally starts at 8:30 am, which is when Whitney rolls into the parking lot. Usually Kristen and one (or both) of the Hayleys too. The two of them open up the store and immediately get to work on orders. They check the Shopify queue to see how many new orders there are and then print out an invoice for each one.

PCF orders

Invoices in hand, Whitney goes through each, highlighting those orders that have a quantity of anything greater than one, along with any special notes. Then, starting with the first invoice, she goes through the store collecting the necessary bolts of fabric to fill the order. These get sorted into two stacks: Anything we need exactly one half-yard of, and everything else.

PCF orders

Kristen or Hayley or Hayley do the cutting while Whitney double checks the invoice to make sure the right fabrics and lengths were cut. This is the crucial part, with the largest margin of error; we depend on everyone involved to be quick and efficient. Accuracy and steady hands are a must!

PCF orders

Then it all gets packaged up and placed in a mail bin for shipping. Josh and Cale are our main shipping handlers and their job is harder than it looks. We handle all of our mail personally, inputting each order number and checking it against the name and address of each customer to ensure accuracy. Once that's done, it's essential that the proper label gets on the correct package.

PCF orders

Sometimes there are special requests that come through our email - maybe you saw something you'd like to add to your order, or you want to combine a new order with a previous one that hasn't shipped yet. That's where I come in! I get your email and if it's something we can help with, I write out a special ticket and hand it off to Whitney, who attaches it to your order. We can't always fulfill every request, but we like to try!

PCF orders

Finally our trusty postman arrives, usually right before we're about to close for the day. Steve scans the packages so the tracking will be accurate, then loads them into his truck and whisks them away on a journey to you.

PCF orders

All total, we like to have a turnaround on orders of 2-3 days, but really it's all about volume. On an average day, we can fulfill about 30-40 orders (depending upon how large the orders are), so during big sales or when there's something special going on (say, for example, a large shipment of pre-sale fabric arrives), we definitely have our work cut out for us. And that doesn't even include creating bundles for the store, or the cutting and fulfilling of our monthly clubs (which, again, is handled by Cale and Josh!). Everyone on the fulfillment team loves fabric and it makes our job a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work too!

PCF orders

Is there anything you're curious about? Ask away in the comments section!

Topics: orders, online shop, behind the scenes, Fabric

Why Do Yardages Sometimes Come Up Short from an Online Fabric Store?

Posted by Brenda Ratliff on Aug 11, 2014 4:29:00 PM
empty bolts

If you've shopped with us (or any online fabric store) a lot, it's possible you've received an email that goes something like this:

Dear (your name),

While fulfilling your order we discovered that one of the prints you've ordered is out of stock. If you like, we can replace it with another fabric of equal value, or provide a refund for the missing fabric.

Relative to the number of orders we fill, coming up short on an order is a pretty rare occurrence. That said, when we have bad news for a customer, it's usually this. And if you're like me, you probably wonder how something like that could happen. After all, we had the fabric listed on our website, so where did it go? It's a fair question, with a really long answer.

In retail, there's a thing called shrink, which is basically any loss of profit you can't plan for. And one of the most common kinds of shrink is merchandise that mysteriously disappears.

Why Do Yardages Sometimes Come Up Short from an Online Fabric Store?

Of course, merchandise doesn't really disappear. It either goes somewhere where it's not easily found, or it was never delivered in the first place. And sometimes you just never know which one it is.

In the fabric business, for example, we trust our manufacturers and distributors to deliver to us exactly what we order. But just like us, they're only human, and mistakes happen. We have one person (Josh!) whose job it is to check in fabric, to make sure we get what we order, but even then, we can't unroll every bolt and count every inch of fabric. Sometimes the bolts are just wrong...we get sent more or less of the fabric than we were expecting, and we don't know until we get to the end of the bolt.

Why Do Yardages Sometimes Come Up Short from an Online Fabric Store?

And while that does happen, and may even be fairly common, there are plenty other ways for things to go awry.

For instance, we have computer software that tracks our inventory for sales both online and in our brick-and-mortar store, but there are plenty of times we have to adjust inventory manually - the first time a fabric enters the store, for example, or anytime we have to deduct yardage to cut custom bundles - and each point of contact is a chance for a number to be skewed. The fact it happens as seldom as it does is a testament to our own care and attentiveness. It's something we're really proud of.

Sometimes fabric gets misplaced. We have a lot of fabric, and if one bolt gets put back wrong, it can become impossible to find. On more than one occasion we've emailed a customer to let them know we were out of their favorite print, only to discover a short time later that we really did have was just not in its usual place.

Why Do Yardages Sometimes Come Up Short from an Online Fabric Store?

Sometimes we actually do have the least, we do when the order is placed. But while cutting the order we may discover a defect - anything from an ink blotch to a tear - that makes it unusable. If it's a small problem we might check with our customer first to see if it they still want it, but if it's not salvageable it means we can't fulfill that particular order .

There is another big cause of shrink that we, fortunately, don't have to worry too much about: theft. Shoplifters account for a huge amount of property loss to retailers every year and it's a major concern for a lot of companies. It's also one of the hardest to control. It's a problem we're glad we don't have!

There are other causes too - bookkeeping errors, bolts being tagged incorrectly, and so on - but the above are the really big ones. We do everything we can to prevent this and we're proud of how seldom it happens. But if you ever got an email saying we were out of stock of something and wondered how that could have happened...well, we're probably asking the same question!

Why Do Yardages Sometimes Come Up Short from an Online Fabric Store?

Topics: behind the scenes, Techniques, Fabric

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