As the apparel retail industry prepares to open its doors again, phased re-openings hinge on a safe shopping environment for both employees and customers.
In response to the many questions surrounding the handling and management of returns in fitting rooms, stores and fulfillment centers, Checkpoint Systems has announced a new technology-agnostic software solution: Inventory Quarantine (IQ).
The SaaS-based solution can be stand-alone or integrated and allows retailers to assign returned stock into an automated quarantine "holding pattern" for several hours, removing items from visibility to customers both online and in-store.
Recommended to be set to the retailer or local government guidelines to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19, the solution helps retailers process returns, releasing items only when deemed safe for re-sale – maximizing sales while minimizing health risk.
IQ uses unique software to identify returned items in fulfillment centers, stores, as well as merchandise from fitting rooms – initiating a virtual "quarantine clock."
Once activated, the items remain in a retailer’s designated "safe area" until the assigned quarantine period is complete. A push notification is then sent to employees notifying them that items are safe for re-sale.
During the coronavirus pandemic, online apparel sales increased 34%, according to Adobe Analytics, while ACI Worldwide has claimed that many online retail categories saw an uptick in sales of up to 74% for March.
These increases in sales will no doubt lead to a sharp rise in the standard 30-40%1 return rate of clothes and shoes, posing logistical issues for retailers who are implementing a quarantine on returned items.
To add to the complexity, as brick and mortar stores re-open their doors, customers can begin returning items in person rather than via post. This coupled with items from fitting rooms, creates uncertainty over potential contamination of merchandise in stores.
Retailers carry the responsibility of ensuring returned or customer handled merchandise does not pose a health risk to others. As a result, the likes of Macy’s, Gap, Nordstrom and Mango have already announced plans to quarantine items for a set period after they’ve been taken into a dressing room.
Keeping track and minimizing time "off-shelf," Checkpoint’s IQ solution is part of a suite of "Safer Shopping" automated solutions that are technology-agnostic and help retailers introduce effective health and safety measures – instilling confidence in both employees and consumers.
“Across the world, the shopping experience we have grown to know is dramatically changing. Retailers that implement new processes that demonstrate they’re keeping people safe will undoubtedly be seen favorably by shoppers," said Phil Fisher, director HALO Global Product Manager at Checkpoint Systems. "Returns and fitting rooms have always presented a huge challenge to retailers, but that has been compounded by COVID-19. Shoppers who use dressing rooms are 70%2 more likely to buy, so it’s important to get them safely open as quickly as possible. Inventory Quarantine will enable retailers to do just that and will ensure stores minimize the financial impact."