'Tis the Season of Retail

Prepare your supply chain for the year’s ultimate shopping craze through careful planning, as well as maximizing visibility and flexibility


When accommodating various channels, “It may be a real challenge to decide what your product offering will be and how it will be offered, and you may have to spend a lot of time doing value-added services, such as repacking, reticketing, removing prices for gift items and gift wrapping to accommodate that offering. [That’s why] retailers should consider that there is a big difference in merchandising in the store—is the item on a hanger? Is it a package of multiples? Many companies separate these two things, but they need to look at the holiday season from a big picture and build execution plans that vary by channel,” Nuce concurs

Again, you must remember who your customers are and what they expect, and more importantly, they have the ability to search for something better online or on their mobile device, and they will. In contrast, the more chances you have to connect with each consumer on a personal level, the better. And that means trying to expand your reach to physical locations and an online presence in the present-day competitive marketplace. It also means that you must not only gather statistics, but also analyze and act on them to establish the best connection.

“One of the most innovative channels that many retailers overlook is the emerging fourth channel of retail—social media. Integrating a social media strategy into your holiday sales planning can provide additional visibility for free,” D’Alessio muses. “Additionally, training sales associates looking for upsell opportunities can increase the size of the shopping cart as accessories and adjacent merchandise are often forgotten at the point of purchase. Whether it’s batteries or a matching shirt to go with that new pair of pants, the power of suggestive selling is huge.”

Although omni-channel retail offers major opportunities, it also spurs major competition, and in some cases, you may find yourself, David, up against Goliath. Saucier cautions, “Amazon is already rapidly moving towards same-day delivery by building an expansive network of distribution centers across the country. They’ve turned supply chain and speed of delivery into a competitive advantage. As a result, retailers must be prepared to match this type of delivery performance or provide clear differentiation to compete. When the supply chain is capable of shipping direct to consumer or direct to any channel within days, there’s more time to adjust inventory and orders in response to sudden demand increases. The combination of inventory visibility and rapid delivery are essential. Retailers have to know where all inventory resides in factories, warehouses and in transit. With that data in hand, decisions can be made to rapidly shift orders to better match spikes in demand.”

Nuce agrees that omni-channel retailing requires effective trading partner collaboration to establish better end-to-end visibility—“meaning knowing and understanding inventory in your own network as well as your partner network. Real-time inventory visibility needs to extend beyond the four walls of your store. Be able to answer what do I have and what does my network of providers have? Taking this further, you should also focus on distributed order management. This means you have a strategy for how you can fulfill the order from where it can best be fulfilled.”

She says that many stores are fulfilling orders on premise, directly and effectively leveraging their assets and inventory. In this scenario, the consumer receives product in one to two days instead of four, which is how long the order may take when being shipped from a warehouse. In the compressed holiday retail cycle, that can seem like an eternity.

Be Ready to Stock Some Stockings

OK, holiday orders are coming in fast and heavy. Now how do you most accurately, efficiently and cost-effectively stuff those stockings? For starters, to speed up order fulfillment—and thus delivery—it is best to not only have the correct product available, but also be able to easily and rapidly locate it. It’s a simple concept, yet requires a lot of time and effort to implement. Fortunately, solutions abound.

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