Retail Inventory Deployment

Ask the Experts

Most retailers are grappling with the challenge of how to most effectively and efficiently deploy inventory through their DCs, factories/suppliers, stores, or a combination of any/all to meet end consumer needs through their various sales channels (brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, wholesale customers, etc.). In this edition of Parker Avery’s “Ask the Experts” series, we tap the deep expertise of Amanda AstrologoRobert Kaufman, and Rob Oglesby in discussing this challenge in retailers who operate multiple distribution channels and the processes, systems, and organizational tactics that should be employed to most optimally support inventory deployment.

Q1:

Do most companies have a single demand and supply planning team that addresses all channels (e.g., brick and mortar retail, e-commerce, wholesale) or are they often separate?

Amanda: With companies that are both retailers and wholesalers, we generally see one demand and supply team that takes input from the needs of each business unit. This allows them to consolidate purchases and raw material needs to maximize profits and supply chain processes. Where we see companies potentially separate the supply planning with retail vs. wholesale is in instances where the offerings or product lines may be completely different and there is no crossover. However, the consolidation would still occur on the supply chain side to maximize factory or shipment needs based on point of origin and/or distribution.

Robert: With the consumer demanding channel transparency, retailers are having to adjust and plan holistically regardless of channel. Most companies still have their organizations aligned by channel, though they are transitioning to address the need to break down traditional structures and think differently. E-commerce still has the most frequent separation. However, with BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store), the e-commerce and retail channels are starting to work more closely and beginning to plan supply in terms of units and placement collaboratively.