The business disruption caused by COVID-19 has resulted in four out of five (82%) retailers changing their approach to stock management and is driving five retail supply chain trends.
This is according to a new report from logistics company Advanced Supply Chain Group (ASCG), which shows how the pandemic has caused stock management issues for 92% of retailers. The impact of this is leading to an evolution of the long-practiced lean management process Just in Time (JIT) and 42% of retailers planning to grow sales by selling through more channels.
The report, Retail Supply Chains in the ‘New Normal’, is based on the findings from interviews with 200 senior retail professionals involved in buying, stock inventory management and supply chain management. It reveals five retail supply chain trends including:
1) Time for Change
To address delays caused by COVID-19, retailers have adapted timings at the beginning and end of their supply chains. Of the retailers which have made changes to supply chain strategies, 41% have allowed longer leads times on stock ordered, while four in ten (40%) have extended delivery times provided to customers.
2) Localising Stock
COVID-19 disruption led to two thirds (66%) of retailers receiving stock late, whilst a similar number (63%) experienced shortages in the availability of goods. This is seeing retailers prioritise investment in stock availability (57%), which includes building more localised levels of stock to minimise the risk of out of stock scenarios.
This shift in behaviour has the potential to completely change Just in Time (JIT). Only a quarter (25%) of retailers believe JIT has some form of feasibility while the pandemic remains ongoing.
Claire Webb, managing director at ASCG, has more than 13 years’ experience working in retail leadership roles. She comments: “Just in Time will have to change because it’s less able to cope with increasing unpredictability - it quickly becomes ‘just out of time’. Supply chains will evolve as retailers aim to better mobilise stock, keeping it more agile to sweat its value across multiple routes to market.”
3) Real Time Visibility
The research shows retailers rank balancing stock flow versus stock piling as the biggest supply chain challenge following the pandemic. They want to avoid not being able to satisfy customer demand because of unavailable stock, but equally don’t want to tie-up too much capital in stock at risk of depreciation.
To address this challenge, 40% of retailers are investing in improving the accuracy of inventory management, whilst a third (33%) pinpointed smart, connected technology that improves the accuracy and visibility of stock as the most effective method of strengthening supply chain resilience. Changing stock inventory management to make stock movement and levels more visible was also a high-ranking priority for 37% of retailers.
4) Stock Optimisation
The ongoing economic uncertainty and unpredictable customer demand caused by COVID-19 are seeing retailers hone-in on the performance of the goods they’re selling. 41% of retailers are investing in auditing their stock to improve profitability. These pandemic-driven stock reviews have also resulted in a third (33%) of retailers diversifying the stock they sell, with the same amount also changing strategies to better focus on stocking and selling their highest margin goods.
5) Diligence Against Disruption
In response to the impact of COVID-19, a third (33%) of retailers are developing contingencies to protect against supply chain disruption. This involves tactics such as increasing the number of suppliers they source goods from, working with a larger number of logistics providers to spread risk and also increasing overall stock levels.
Claire Webb concludes: “Each of the trends emerging from the impacts of COVID-19 share a common theme of tackling margin dilution. Retailers and logistics partners have spent years optimising supply chains to remove unnecessary costs that cannibalise margins. This is now being turbo-charged as retailers aim to extract maximum value from each hard-fought sale and to build loyalty in increasingly uncertain and price-sensitive markets.
“Smart, connected technologies and bespoke supply chain software systems will be critical for retailers adapting to COVID-19. This can prove the difference in effectively managing stock movement and levels to avoid availability issues and costly stock depreciation and obsolescence.”