Clothing Packer

The Job and What's Involved

Clothing packers ensure that items of clothing are packed in the correct way ready for distribution. The type of packaging used depends on the type, value, fabric and destination of the garments.

Clothing packers may pack:

  • Mass-produced garments from a clothing manufacturer, wholesaler or warehouse, which require rapid packing by hand or using a machine, usually into plastic bags or on to hangers covered by a plastic bag.
  • Clothing returned from a retail store, to be transported back to a manufacturer, wholesaler or warehouse, which usually involves taking garments from rails or shelves and packing them into pallets or crates.
  • Clothes sent by mail order or internet retailers, which need to be packed individually and sent to customers with the relevant paperwork.
  • Unwanted clothing returned by customers to mail order or internet companies, which may need cleaning and pressing before it is repacked for future sale.

An automated packing machine may be used when packing mass-produced items. This can involve loading the machine with boxes, labels, and packaging materials, as well as the garments themselves. Clothing packers may also be involved in grouping different items according to a delivery note and then weighing and labeling the final package. Packers, especially those working with garment returns, may also be involved in quality control checks.

Some clothing packers will be required to operate computers to check records, print labels and record stock levels. Clothing packers are responsible for ensuring the customer receives their goods in a well-presented way. This is especially important for expensive items and branded goods.

Clothing packers usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week, which can be in the form of irregular shift work. It is common for clothing packers to work day, evening, night and weekend shifts. Part-time work is also common and there may be opportunities to work overtime.

Clothing packers are usually based in factories and warehouses, which can be noisy. They may spend much of their time sitting or standing at a packing machine or conveyor line. The job involves a lot of standing, bending and walking. Protective clothing, such as overalls, gloves and headwear may be provided.

Starting salaries may be around £11,000 a year. A more experienced packer may earn around £13,000 a year.

Clothing packers with supervisory responsibilities may earn up to £20,000 a year.

In many jobs, packers are paid an hourly rate, which is usually around £6 per hour. Others may be paid a piece rate (a set amount for each item they pack).

Those working overtime hours may be paid more and some organisations have a bonus scheme.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Clothing packers are employed by a wide variety of organisations in the clothing industry. These include:

  • Garment manufacturers.
  • Wholesalers and distributors.
  • Retail stores.
  • Mail order and internet retailers.
  • Warehouse and storage companies.
  • Shipping and forwarding agents.
  • Removal firms.
  • Companies that pack manufactured goods for export and those specialising in exporting new and used clothing.
  • Garment rental companies.

Some packing operations are becoming increasingly computerised. Clothing packing is generally a more specialised area of packing and so has been less affected by automation.

The number of jobs for clothing packers is stable and there are generally good opportunities for finding work, particularly in the warehousing, internet retailing and distribution sectors. The increasing use of the internet to sell clothing and offer home delivery to customers has ensured a steady demand for experienced packers, especially multi-skilled workers who are able to operate computers and machinery, as well as check items.

Job vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices and Connexions centres and on specialist agency and employer websites.

Education and Training

Although no particular qualifications are needed to be a packer, it is helpful to have key skills and qualifications in practical subjects. Some companies ask for GCSE's (A*-C) in English and maths. Computer literacy is also increasingly important as the industry relies heavily on computer-based systems to record, monitor and dispatch stock. Some employers may give applicants an entry test to find out if they are good with their hands and can do the job quickly and accurately.

The Diploma in retail business may be useful for this area of work.

There is an Apprenticeship suitable for clothing packers in warehousing and storage.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Relevant qualifications include:

  • Level 2 or 3 Award in distribution services in the textile industry.
  • Level 2 Certificate in warehousing and storage principles
  • Level 1 or 2 NVQ in warehousing and storage.
  • Level 1 or 2 NVQ for packaging operators.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training can vary depending on the employer. Some companies may run short introductory courses, covering health and safety, staff welfare and employment conditions.

Training in specific processes and machinery usually takes place on the job, under the supervision of a more experienced colleague. Clothing packers may also be trained to do other work, such as basic computer inputting, machine maintenance, general warehouse duties or lift truck operation.

Clothing packers can work towards a Level 1 or 2 NVQ for packaging operators. These cover packing principles for those working on automated or manual packing lines and health and safety issues. The Packaging Society offers training leading to a Diploma or Certificate in Packaging.

For clothing packers working in the removals industry, the British Association of Removers runs a variety of short courses, which includes training in packing.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A clothing packer should:

  • Be patient and methodical and not mind repetitive work.
  • Be good with their hands and able to work quickly.
  • Be safety conscious, especially if working with machinery.
  • Have some computer skills for certain packing processes.
  • Have some mechanical aptitude for working with machinery.
  • Be able to read, write and follow instructions.
  • Work well as part of a team and have good communication skills.
  • Be reliable and a good timekeeper.
  • Be physically fit, especially for heavier packing work.
  • Be prepared to keep hands clean to avoid soiling garments.

Your Long Term Prospects

Clothing packers may be able to progress to supervisory or training positions within the company.

They could also move into other areas of work, such as machine maintenance or quality control inspection. They may also be able to train in a different area of packing or to work as a textile operative or technician.

Get Further Information

British Association of Removers (BAR),
Tangent House, 62 Exchange Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0TG
Tel: 01923 699480
Website: www.bar.co.uk

The Packaging Society
Website: www.iom3.org/packaging

Packing Industry Awarding Body Company (PIABC), The Boilerhouse,
Springfield Business Park, Caunt Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 7FZ
Tel: 01476 513880
Website: www.piabc.org.uk

Skillset, Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Tel: 020 7713 9800
Website: www.skillset.org

Skills for Logistics,
12 Warren Yard, Wolverton Mill, Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360
Website: www.skillsforlogistics.org

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