The retail industry is evolving and adapting to new consumer demands which is shifting the supply chain landscape. Retailers expect more supply chain visibility, shorter delivery times, and real-time connectivity from shippers and carriers. Compliance programs vary by retailer but the intent is consistent across the industry — have the right product in the right location at the right time while removing waste. I recently participated in a webinar to discuss the changes in retailer expectations and how companies can successfully navigate retail compliance programs. Here are a few of the key takeaways to consider:
Retailers are trying to carry less inventory, which means more frequent deliveries in much smaller sizes, to more distribution points as the retailer tries to plan where that item needs to be. If you’re supplying a major retailer, maintaining a close relationship is critical. Work with them on seasonal adjustments and upstream demand. Make sure you’re looking around every corner to get the right inventory management strategy along the way.
Today’s consumers expect fast response to trends. As a supplier, you need to react just as quickly. And, in the world of logistics, it means you must be nimble. Look for ways to create shipping and transportation strategies that remove days, or even weeks, out of the supply chain. And look for flexibility but also reliability in your capacity options to ensure you hit condensed delivery dates and delivery windows.
Inventory and lead times are interrelated and when one goes wrong, it can all go wrong. Poor inventory planning that doesn’t meet tightened lead times to match delivery windows could end up costing you more on transportation upfront or on the backend in terms of compliance fines.
5 ways to exceed retailer expectations
While retailers continue to add to their list of expectations, there are many strategies you can take to meet and exceed those expectations:
1. Conduct a supply chain assessment – Review freight flow and the models established. Will they hold next year? What about the next change in regulations/requirements? Understand the requirements that work for a time and re-assess when their value decreases.
2. Collaborate closely with all parties – Companies that integrate transportation squarely into their corporate strategies can best differentiate themselves in the eyes of customers. Plan effectively whenever possible. Build lead time into your supply chain and leverage your inventory to prepare for any market conditions.
3. Implement modal optimization strategies – Choose providers who can find the right mode for the inventory. They should help you understand the best options to get your product to retailer distribution centers.
4. Design custom solutions – Work with a provider who can create custom solutions that not only look good on paper but also work in real life. Using analytics and technology can help reduce freight spend, improve supply chain speed, increase visibility, and simplify operations.
5. Strengthen relationships with carriers – Consider driver preferences when planning inventory movement and look at retail consolidation programs to get drivers home while you gain reliable capacity.
If you’re currently navigating the fast-paced changes retailers are making to their compliance programs, such as delivering on time in full, work with a logistics partner that can help you understand retail compliance programs and how to exceed retailer expectations.
Rob Kinsella is Manager-Customer Group, Retail at C.H. Robinson. Quickly following graduation from Minnesota State University, Mankato, Rob entered the produce industry at C.H. Robinson. For the last 13 years, he has held various roles across C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh that have allowed him to collaborate, innovate, and experiment with temperature controlled supply chain practices and methodologies. Today, he leads a team of account managers who engage many of the world’s largest retailers. Establishing lasting relationships with key stakeholders in the retail, wholesale, foodservice, and carrier communities has allowed him to consistently deliver high-quality results while always driving innovation and efficiency in the industry..