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Vin Gulisano Jul 20, 2021 2:39:41 PM 9 min read

Understanding COVID-19’s Impact on the Travel Goods Industry

Understanding COVID-19s Impact on Travel GoodsAndrew Hamilton described it as watching a slow-motion train wreck.

“You could see it happening, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it,” said Hamilton, President of CabinZero’s US subsidiary.

The “it” Hamilton is referring to is, of course, COVID-19, which has affected all of us both personally and professionally. For more than a year now, we have seen the effect on our economy and businesses alike. 

In March, I wrote about COVID-19’s impact on G&B Fulfillment and adapting to the “new normal.” In this blog, I’ll discuss how COVID-19 has impacted our partner, CabinZero, a hassle-free luggage and accessories brand, and the travel goods industry as a whole.

But first, let’s talk about who CabinZero is.

Travel Bags to Keep You Moving—No Matter What the Journey

CabinZero makes lightweight cabin-size luggage, travel bags and accessories, all of which are designed in its UK studio.

The company has been around for 10 years and has grown exponentially during that time, mainly in Asia and Europe. In early 2019, CabinZero decided to come to the US, seeking a partner on the West Coast to fulfill orders. At the time, warehouses on the west coast were filling up fast ahead of former President Donald Trump’s plan to put a 25% tariff on Chinese goods. 

Eventually, CabinZero discovered G&B Fulfillment, and we were able to provide CabinZero with a team to help them manage large swings in business without impacting the high service levels expected by their customers.

Orders were coming through, and CabinZero was set to start business with Target in April of 2020—the biggest contract they’ve had in the United States. In March 2020, we went into lockdown.

COVID-19’s Impact on CabinZero

At the time of the lockdowns, CabinZero, according to Hamilton, “probably had $100,000 worth of stock,” either on the water or in our warehouse, ready for the initial Target order. 

“We weren’t sure that Target was going to do what they said they were going to do and actually take this product because, although their stores didn’t close, we knew nobody wanted backpacks,” Hamilton said. “Target, however, did everything it said it would and gave us the orders.”

And CabinZero fulfilled everything it needed, despite having to overcome the shipping container shortage and the challenge of procuring containers.

Order Fulfillment Challenges in Spring of 2021

CabinZero started talking to Target again about a second contract. And while sales were less than half of what was forecasted in year one (i.e., retailers and consumers stopped buying), year two completely flip-flopped—in a span of about two weeks.

In that short time, CabinZero went from barely selling anything to doubling what the forecast was. 

“We went from having an easy supply chain because we were able to fulfill, to really needing to fulfill,” Hamilton said. “We were using air freight to meet customer demands, desperately trying to find as much stock as we possibly could to fulfill all the orders.

“So it just flip-flopped completely, and that’s a really difficult thing to manage. It really is tough. It impacts everything you do. It impacts your suppliers, your customers, your cash flow, your profitability, everything. The biggest thing is that you have to stay in stock.”

Once CabinZero got through the first eight weeks of COVID-19 and got a picture of what was happening, the way forward became clear.

“We just asked for as much flexibility as we possibly could from all our partners to get us into the position where we would enjoy the bounce back when it came, and it started to come, thank goodness,” Hamilton said.

CabinZero’s Partnership With G&B Fulfillment

While stay-at-home orders and social distancing altered consumer patterns almost overnight—leading to a change in what people buy, how they buy and, as a result, how products are delivered—we’re in a unique position to still be able to provide supply chain solutions to our clients, their customers and carriers. 

CabinZero is no exception.

We made several operational shifts to assist with CabinZero’s order fulfillment with Target.  For example, we switched their stocking units for Target orders from 6 units/package to 3. We did this to fit Target’s order configuration requirements by store, re-kitting and loading them onto pallets and following Target’s specific routing guidelines. If you were a pure ecommerce/omnichannel fulfillment center, you might struggle with serving Target. Because of our knowledge and expertise working with retailers both large and small, it was an easy shift, service-wise. 

“The thing that we value is the flexibility of the team at G&B. They’ve just responded to every stress that we could’ve thrown at them, and there were big stresses,” Hamilton said. “One, we’re not getting any orders, so you’ve got staff with nothing to do, and two, we’re getting tons and tons of orders, and now you don’t have enough staff and you’ve got to get those in. We appreciate what Vin and the team have been able to help us with during such a volatile time.” 

“That type of partnership you don’t find very often. It’s something very valuable to us, and it’s something that has helped us grow. I’m really interested in seeing what the next six to 12 months bring in innovation and supply chains and how the retailers react to that.”

As a multichannel service provider, we have the know-how to work with dozens of retailers to ensure their detailed requirements are met on a continual basis. This allows you and your company to focus on growing your partnerships vs. dealing with service issues and chargebacks.

Contact us today to learn how we can assist you with your distribution and order fulfillment needs.

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