All Is Not Lost! Apparel Crisis Management Survival Tips

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All Is Not Lost! Apparel Crisis Management Survival Tips

By Jeff Glassman, CEO, Darn It! Inc. - 07/13/2017
No one likes surprises. Whether you work at an apparel manufacturer or retailer, receiving a shipment that does not meet specifications can throw your organization into crisis management mode. When it comes to apparel, the crisis could involve virtually anything.

Beyond broken buttons: disaster comes in all shapes and sizes
As a third-party apparel refurbisher, I sometimes think my company has seen it all. But then a customer calls with a new – and sometimes outlandish – problem to solve. Often, the issue is a full-blown crisis because millions of dollars in sales are at risk. This means the crisis needs to be remediated as quickly as possible to get garments to first-quality condition and stocked on shelves. Additionally, we want to minimize fall-out rate and avoid consumer returns.

Mini case studies: memorable crisis management situations
  • Apparel repair: Stuck zippers put $2 million in sales at risk – Our customer's featured item for its autumn launch was a fashionable sweatshirt. Unfortunately, the 43,000 items had zippers with the wrong slider. We were able to repair the zipper with minimal impact to the apparel, and get first-quality product on the shelves in time for the launch.
  • Mold and mildew removal: cartons of clothing had soaked in salt water! – A shipping container with 20,000 pairs of pants was submerged in salt water at the port. We conducted an ozone shock treatment to kill festering mold and then pressed, re-ticketed, and repackaged all of the pants – all in time for the brand's big promotion.
  • Apparel relabeling: 40,000 mislabeled bras – After completing an inspection with precise measurements, we discovered that a manufacturer's entire shipment of bras had labels that were three sizes too large. We applied new heat transfer labels in 12 colors over the factory's silkscreen label. The heat transfer label stated the correct size and fully covered the incorrect labels.
  • Re-ticket and re-package: The devil is in the details – An apparel manufacturer asked us to re-ticket 27,000 garments that had arrived with incorrect price tickets. Additionally, we received 4,000 packages of assorted tank tops in various colors to sort and repack. The factory had mistakenly placed multiple sizes in every assortment pack. If this error hadn't been remedied, the brand's returns would have soared.
  • Garment inspection: actual measurements don't match specifications – We repaired 42,000 sweaters with neck holes that were too small as well as 16,000 women's wool pants with inseams that were randomly too long or too short.
Here are a few examples of apparel sewing issues that manufacturers and retailers have faced – and the steps taken to remediate the issues:
  • Replaced all buttons on 6,000 shirts due to lead content issues.
  • Removed and replaced a red drawcord on 8,000 pajama bottoms. The red dye was bleeding and staining the pajamas.
  • Repaired and reinforced improperly sewn arm holes on 5,000 men's sleeveless shirts. The issue was discovered in the retailer's durability test.
  • Added a ribbon to the waistband of 3,000 pants to reinforce the seam and strengthen overall construction.
  • Added the missing buttonhole on the shape-keeper for 1,000 baseball caps.
Use this apparel crisis management "survival checklist" BEFORE disaster strikes.
Every carton you open could contain an unpleasant surprise and throw your organization into crisis management mode. When that happens, you'll need a third-party refurbisher that provides a variety of services and solutions. Consider establishing a relationship with the refurbisher BEFORE disaster strikes. That way, if you find yourself in a crisis management situation, you'll know who to call.

When researching third-party refurbishers based in the U.S., refer to this checklist:
  • Visual inspection – If your shipment has a quality issue, a fast turn-time is critical. Can the refurbisher help you get first-quality apparel on the shelves quickly? Will the company offer workable solutions for the remaining garments?
  • Inbound AQL inspection – Can the refurbisher directly receive shipped merchandise at its warehouse? Do they have a trained inspection team to conduct the initial audit (AQL inspection)?
  • Measurement inspection – Your shipment arrives, and you discover an issue with measurements. Perhaps the sleeves are too long, legs are too short, or the head opening is too small. Does the refurbisher offer a well-trained apparel inspection team to inspect your entire shipment, sort garments and remedy the issue?
  • Relabeling/heat transfer label – Small yet mighty, labels must have accurate content and be placed correctly. One option is using heat transfer labels to cover up wrong size information, add decoration and update garments.
  • Sewing repairs – Beyond buttons, the apparel sewing staff must be skilled in a variety of tasks including reinforcing stress points, closing open seams, adjusting hemlines, shortening pant legs, and the list goes on.
  • Apparel part/trim replacement – Apparel manufacturers and distributors often need to repair or replace zippers, snaps, buttons and other parts. Consider swapping out trim to update and refresh an out-of-season item.
  • Apparel cleaning – From rust to salt water, a surprising variety of stains and soiling can be treated via spot cleaning, laundering, or dry cleaning. Look for a refurbisher that has the know-how to tackle stubborn stains and restore garments.
  • Mold and mildew removal – A damp, musty-smelling shipment is disappointing, but not disastrous. Does the refurbisher have an on-site ozone shock treatment chamber to transform musty clothes into first-quality product?
  • Returns processing/reverse logistics – Whether it's customer returns or end-of-season consolidation, those units must be inspected, repaired and pressed (as necessary), and repackaged to look brand-new. Find a refurbisher that can help you to restore and resell these products.
  • Apparel repackaging/ticketing – Packaging or ticketing issues must be resolved quickly and accurately. You'll want to team with a refurbisher that will ensure your first-quality goods have the right packaging and accurate tickets, along with a speedy turn-time.
When it comes to apparel crises, you may be surprised at how much can be fixed – and how quickly. There's an old saying: "You can have it good, or you can have it fast." With apparel repair, often it is possible to get BOTH. The key is working with a third-party refurbisher that can deliver the skilled workforce and professional equipment to offer a variety of solutions. Seek out a third-party refurbisher that will partner with you in any type of apparel crisis management situation – a refurbisher with the experience to remediate the issue accurately and quickly.


Jeff Glassman is CEO of Darn It! Inc., a third-party refurbisher specializing in apparel and general merchandise inspection, repair, cleaning, kitting and warehousing.