All catalogers would like to reduce their return rates, but Richmond, VA-based children’s apparel cataloger Children’s Wear Digest tries to head off the likelihood of returns even before shipping the merchandise to customers. About eight years ago the company instituted an inventory quality control program in which a sample run of product new to the catalog is first sent to the corporate office for a fit and sizing inspection before being approved as salable merchandise. The program has lowered the returns rate by at least 2%, says CWD president Jim Klaus.
The samples in all sizes of the product are placed on “standard fit” mannequins, or mannequins sized in exact proportion to the retail industry’s definition of each clothing size. This inspection process alerts CWD to any problems or irregularities with fit even before customers place orders. If a children’s size 4 dress, for example, is standard size-appropriate in its fit of the waist, but longer than it should be on the mannequin, a note on that sizing detail is made, and published in the catalog and Website, as well as told to reps. In some cases, such as if the neck hole is too small to fit over the mannequins, CWD won’t accept the inventory, Klaus says. “There’s no point sending out something that has a serious flaw.”
CWD’s inventory quality control protocol is especially important given that the company does not manufacture its own merchandise. Klaus says that its suppliers, including Mulberribush, Lacoste, and Ralph Lauren, all size merchandise slightly different. “We can’t tell Lacoste to make a polo shirt that fits exactly like Ralph Lauren,” he notes.