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Shoppers have access to almost any product at any time and fulfillment times are shrinking by the month. With almost constant availability, consumers are asking ‘where?’ and ‘when?’ while retailers are increasingly asking themselves ‘how do we meet customer expectations?’

In the turbulent and unpredictable market, with e-tail’s growing presence, and with consumer expectations constantly growing, running a fully integrated supply chain is vital. Good communication and joined-up operations lead to better decisions and in turn to lower inventory levels, better availability, less waste and more sales.

Yet siloing, where one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing, remains far too common and produces the opposite results.

For instance, very few retailers consider space management part of their supply chain replenishment process. This is because space is not generally the responsibility of the Supply Chain Director. This is a typical silo-driven mentality and, in modern retailing, it exposes businesses to higher risks.

Getting supply chain managers, store supervisors and planners to collaborate in optimizing space to meet local demand both tailors the offering to each store’s market and helps ensure there’s enough stock for merchandising and promotions, that there’s room for incoming inventory and that, when it arrives, there’s space to put it on shelves.

Integrating space, assortment, forecasting, and replenishment disciplines enables retailers to respond effectively to shoppers in each individual store and maximizes sales.

The annual ‘State of the Retail Supply Chain’ report* shows that a full third of survey respondents say they have no systems that can handle the task while a further one in six use in-house systems rather than dedicated tools from specialist providers.

Promotions are another way in which retailers answer consumers ‘where?’ and ‘when?’ with a ‘here and now.’

Promotional campaigns and merchandising events are increasingly important in driving sales. Both promotions and product introductions top the list of the challenges retailers say they face (each cited by 40% of respondents). And yet three-quarters of retailers are unhappy with the tools they have to manage these most common supply chain headaches.

Likewise, external data (i.e. competitor pricing, weather, local sports matches, concerts, elections etc.) should be included in inventory planning. But the survey suggests that fewer than three in five factor weather into their demand forecasting despite the huge impact that it can have on sales.

Smart and innovative technology exists which means that managing space, promotions and product introductions can be done, and done well while providing the level of visibility that makes integrating your supply chain wholly achievable.

But far too many businesses think adopting new technology is risky, expensive or both. It doesn’t have to be. Indeed, the rise of the cloud-based SaaS model eliminates tie-ins and minimizes investment and risk.

So perhaps the real question shouldn’t be ‘how?’ but ‘what are you waiting for?’

Download the ‘State of the Retail Supply Chain 2017’ report* which highlights the key business challenges and priorities for supply chain managers across the retail industry.

*Researched by Martec International and commissioned by RELEX Solutions