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iForce goes live with Habitat’s cross border e-fulfilment

Marking its first complete cross border e-fulfilment contract, iForce has gone live with its service for renowned home furnishing retailer Habitat to distribute orders to the UK and mainland Europe.

iForce, the UK’s leading outsourced multichannel specialist logistics operator, has commenced distributing Habitat’s online home accessories range not only to UK customers but also to online shoppers in France.

This crossborder e-fulfilment operation began serving the UK on 4th November and France on 6th November from iForce’s Bromford Gate Warehouse in Birmingham.

Being its first online retail venture Habitat required an e-fulfilment partner that could offer both the scalability to cope with unknown volumes and an ability to manage the challenge of crossborder e-fulfilment, with requirements such as multilingual dispatch notes and invoices as well as direct delivery to European customers.

iForce’s 63,000 square ft shared facility at Bromford Gate stocks several thousand home accessory SKUs replenished by Habitat’s warehouse in Wallingford. These include many awkward to handle and pack items – from grass stem plants through to delicate vases and up to mirrors weighing some 60 kg. iForce’s experience in packaging management will ensure that the varied and, in some cases fragile, products are delivered to Habitat’s customers in perfect condition.

Once online orders have been picked iForce uses its in-house developed IRS (Intelligent Routing System) to route deliveries, according to order size and location, through parcel carrier partners DPD UK and XDP Express.

Sitel, an existing iForce partner, is providing multilingual customer services for both telephone and email enquiries from its call centre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Sitel is a leading global provider of customer services and is well served to provide a best-in-breed service to compliment iForce’s industry leading fulfilment performance.

iForce is also providing Habitat with a returns processing service for UK orders, delivering value through its expertise. For example, whenever possible iForce despatches orders in packaging that is within Royal Mail maximum parcel dimensions. This enables customers to use the original packaging for any returns meaning they can be sent via Royal Mail Freepost, thus reducing the cost of returns. Collections are arranged for large items.

While Habitat handles French returns at the company’s local warehouse in Cergy, France, iForce will fulfil the replacement items where requested.

iForce’s integration team, successfully delivered the project on schedule with stock build up at Bromford Gate completed a week before going live. It was a process that not only involved Habitat, the couriers and Sitel but also Habitat’s data integration partner L-Shift and BT Fresca, which manages the website front end for Habitat.

Commenting on the contract, iForce CEO Mark Hewitt said: "We are extremely pleased to be partnering with such a highly respected retailer as Habitat. This is a significant project for iForce and the online retail sector as a whole as it demonstrates how crossborder European fulfilment can be achieved successfully." Mark continues: "iForce provides Habitat with the high service levels its brand demands through a cost effective European e-fulfilment solution. This derives from the economies of scale achieved by locating in a single, UK location combined with our acknowledged expertise in e-fulfilment and returns processing and an ability to optimise use of European carrier networks."

iForce will also be able to facilitate further growth into mainland European, as Mark explains: "On reaching agreed volume thresholds iForce will establish a warehouse on mainland Europe providing multilingual customer services through our call centre partner Sitel."

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