I find this to be a key issue for me at the moment with my relatively new business. I maintain 3 websites (standard shop, ebay, blog) and I’m at the stage where I’m beginning to publicise and market the business to a wider audience and sales are increasing, but the time it takes to fulfil, pick, pack and ship is beginning to be an issue and I’m not yet at the stage where large-scale warehousing and distribution are feasible in terms of cost. I’ve looked at a couple of payasyougo order fulfilment services. Any advice would be very welcome.
It’s great that your sales are increasing, do all that you can to keep your focus on keeping that up. Taking on fulfilment yourself could be a distraction.
Keep an open mind regarding fulfilment options. Speak to a number of companies that have experience, and other clients, in the fashion sector - you would need a partner that has relevant capabilities for clothing (such as hanging space) and understands the importance of bespoke packing for branding purposes.
Perhaps attend some events where you can learn how other business of your size are doing it. The London College of Fashion has an online fashion business seminar coming up with a strand on logistics - http://www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/shortcourses/53718.htm.
The more elements of the fulfilment process you do yourself the more control you have over fulfilment - it’s why I prefer to not out-source the warehouse or customer service. I think you should take into account the speed you are growing at - if you are expanding rapidly then make fulfilment someone else’s issue but be warned it will cost you. If you are growing steadily then I would try and keep control.
If you are currently able to fulfil from a home office or a small warehouse style space, I would suggest to get in temporary staff during peak times. If you can’t physically have all the stock in one place anymore, just expand a bit. There will however be a threshold when this becomes unfeasible but I know many businesses who have been doing ecommerce for a while and are still happily doing their fulfilment in-house (we’re talking about £5-8m p/a). However, do invest in some integration work between your 2 shops , (the blog really is an SEO/Marketing channel), and your courier of choice. All the big ones offer interfaces that help in printing labels and make it easier for them to pick up deliveries and for you and your customers to track orders.