Fashion Angels, a toy and activity manufacturer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is known for its appeal to tweens and teens. With a heavy focus on empowering children to be confident and stylish, the company designs and develops products here in the U.S. and produces them in Asia for U.S. distribution.
Products ranging from color-by-number sets to tie-dye crafting kits grace the shelves of specialty toy stores around the country. A strong ecommerce presence on Amazon expands Fashion Angels’ reach to online shoppers, which proved to be beneficial during the early 2020s as consumer preferences shifted even more sharply toward digital purchasing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In today’s on-demand consumer climate, customers expect to receive the products they purchase online quickly, without exorbitant shipping fees. Fashion Angels prides itself on customer satisfaction, aspiring to deliver toys, accessories and activities to buyers quickly and affordably.
As a business that relies heavily on a functioning supply chain, Fashion Angels is beholden to market conditions that impact inventory availability. Their warehouse in Milwaukee is land-locked, typically receiving the products produced in Asia via a combination of trans-Pacific shipping and overland rail and truck transport.
The Challenge: Efficiently Process Products Coming From Asia
Like nearly all commercial companies with products coming from overseas, Fashion Angels was feeling the squeeze from the massive supply chain issues that have rippled through the world in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the delicate balance of the global supply chain into upheaval. Production of non-essential goods, particularly in China, slowed dramatically as factories were closed to contain the spread of COVID and workers were quarantined. The production of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, shields and gloves, ramped up to meet global demand, and shipping containers were used to distribute the PPE around the world.
At the same time, U.S. consumers were staying home much more often. Government stimulus checks coupled with canceled plans led to more at-home activities. Rather than shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, customers were making their purchases online, driving up ecommerce shipping demand tremendously.
With online shopping increasing and the availability of shipping containers decreasing, among other factors, ports became clogged, prices began to rise sharply, and shipping times skyrocketed.
“Everything gets cleared on the West Coast, so normally we would rail it on a piggyback container to Chicago and then truck it to our warehouse here [in Milwaukee],” said Mark Miller, owner of Fashion Angels. “That normally would take about 15 days and would cost about $2,500. With the supply chain issues, that $2,500 went to $8,000 with shipping as long as two months.”
Knowing this would be a customer service nightmare in addition to a hit to the bottom line —and with no end in sight—Miller understood the situation wasn’t sustainable.
Two years after the start of the pandemic, the supply chain problems are still raging. At the end of 2021, Fashion Angels took action to help mitigate the effects.
The Solution: Utilize a West Coast Warehouse to Reduce Supply Chain Cost and Time to Market
Fortunately, Miller had a personal relationship with Myles Bowman and Vin Gulisano, the owners of G&B Fulfillment (GBF).
“The supply chain issues dictated looking for a third-party warehouse on the West Coast,” Miller said. “It just so happened that I knew Vin, and I know his partner very well, so it was a natural progression from there.” GBF, a third-party logistics and warehouse management company, has extensive expertise in the toy industry. The team’s decades of experience in retail support and the company’s 350,000 square feet of warehouse space in Southern California were a great fit for Fashion Angels’ needs.
A major benefit was the fact that Fashion Angels didn’t have to work through the complexities of warehousing and instead could focus on growing their business and operations.
GBF’s focus on developing a strong relationship with clients means that a full understanding of their pain points, the partnerships and details of production, and other relevant information is necessary. The GBF team onboarded Fashion Angels after gaining a deep understanding of their business’s supply chain characteristics obtained via a series of data collection and refinement iterations about their prospective client’s business.
From there, GBF put together a process and organization plan, then took on the burden of seamless logistics and the day-to-day processing. Their innovative approach and deep knowledge of both the toy industry and third-party logistics meant they were able to help Fashion Angels get back on track with manageable supply chain costs and shipping times.
“We meet weekly about any challenges,” Miller said. “It’s a process, there’s a learning curve that everyone is a part of and it’s getting better and better.”
By partnering with GBF, the warehousing and distribution side of the business has been streamlined and shipping time went from about two months to about two weeks. Furthermore, Fashion Angels is enjoying the significant supply chain cost benefits of coastal California warehouse access.
“I’m unraveling my distribution channel and putting it out through GBF, so I’m depending on them to be successful,” Miller said. “Theoretically, every transaction that is handled from the West Coast is saving us money to the tune of a million dollars a year.”
Beyond the supply chain cost savings and reduction in time to market, Fashion Angels was able to glean additional knowledge from GBF and provide further benefits to their team.
“As you observe other people, you always try to take what they’re doing well and incorporate it into the things you do,” Miller said. “Just learning from how they handle the freight causes us to think about their process and how we can use it in other areas. We’re learning from what they do.”
Their partnership with GBF is still relatively new, but Fashion Angels is pleased with how the two companies have worked together so far. Miller credits much of this to the mutual desire for success and aligned visions.
“When you have a third-party partner, there’s always an issue of whether what they want and what I want are the same,” Miller said. Miller reiterated that GBF has shown their desire to make the partnership work and understands that they can only be successful if Fashion Angels is successful.
“There’s a lot at risk here. It’s millions and millions of dollars. So, it’s nice that I know them on a personal level and have assurance that we are working toward the same goal,”
- Mark Miller, Owner, Fashion Angels.
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