The retail landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. No longer do neighborhood brick-and-mortar stores with local suppliers dominate as they did decades ago. Even major big box retailers are changing their approaches to adjust to shifting consumer demands and shopping trends.
As a retailer today, your suppliers (and your customers) may be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. More of your customers are shopping online instead of visiting actual storefronts. And these customers expect to receive their e-commerce purchases quickly and conveniently. Plus, with more access to your competitors, customers could easily switch to different retailers to suit their needs.
So how can your company survive today’s rapidly changing retail environment? By implementing key retail supply chain management practices. Let’s explore.
What is Retail Supply Chain Management?
Retail supply chain management refers to managing your entire retail supply chain, from your product’s initial manufacturing or acquisition to its delivery into the hands of your customers. Your retail supply chain often consists of multiple processes, people, and partnerships. Typical steps in your retail supply chain include:
Receiving and managing inventory
Warehousing and order picking
Shipping and fulfillment
With effective retail supply chain management, you’re able to cut down on costs, maintain quality, and deliver your products on time to your customers. As a result, your business will not only survive but thrive.
Start Implementing These Retail Supply Chain Best Practices
To create a supply chain that helps your business outperform your competition — and satisfy your customers, here are five practices you’ll want to implement now:
1. Establish the Right Retail Supply Chain Management Team
Often, retailers can’t compete with today’s shifting consumer demands due to an ineffective supply chain management team. Your company needs the right leadership at the helm of your supply chain. This means hiring executives with proven supply chain expertise and experience. At the same time, you need to ensure you have a partner with strong retail supply management. With a well-rounded, experienced team, you’ll benefit from an efficient, reliable retail supply chain.
2. Build Strategic, Healthy Supplier Relationships
In a successful retail supply chain, your supplier relationships are extremely important. It’s vital to find diverse suppliers who align with your values. This could look like targeting suppliers who communicate well, have similar objectives, and are willing to collaborate in solving problems. You can often reduce expenses and streamline your operations with healthy, mutually-beneficial supplier partnerships. You can even rely on your suppliers’ insider knowledge to help your business strategize for the future.
3. Utilize Impactful Logistics Technology
Technology can be a powerful resource for your retail supply chain. Effective supply chain software can help you track data and KPIs in real time to find strengths and weaknesses in your operations. It can monitor your product inventory and automatically reorder when supplies are low. You can even incorporate technology solutions to alert employees when there are shipping delays or unexpected problems, so the right people can respond accordingly. Logistics technology should be in anyone’s retail supply chain management arsenal.
4. Optimize Inventory
Too much inventory can be costly for retailers. At the same time, so can shortages. It’s vital you optimize your retail supply inventory by calculating what’s required for current and future demand. Then develop a reliable system to replenish your inventory as needed. This involves understanding how your inventory aligns with your overall supply chain strategy, tracking existing inventory levels, planning demand with your suppliers, and making necessary operational adjustments.
5. Initiate Socially Responsible Protocols
Consumers care more about environmentally and socially sustainable products and processes in today's retail environment than ever before. Aligning with this growing movement makes you more attractive to customers and helps you stay relevant. This means it’s important to prioritize socially responsible retail supply chain operations. Minimize your carbon footprint and establish “green” initiatives. Partner with suppliers who uphold fair labor practices. With a commitment to these kinds of protocols, you’re positioning your company well as regulations and issues evolve—and increasing numbers of consumers make buying decisions based on the environment and community impact.
Bonus Best Practice: Partner with a 3PL
While it’s clear that retail supply chain management is vital to your business’s success, which best practice should you implement first? Partnering with an expert 3PL to manage your supply chain. At Smart Warehousing, we’re your one-stop shop for all your retail fulfillment needs. If you’re ready to have your supply chain covered, contact us today to get started.