The retail industry finds itself in a state of constant innovation, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association needs to respond in kind. Jess Dankert, RILA's vice president of supply chain, tells what the organization is doing to keep pace with change.
Q: Summarize for me some recent innovations in retail supply chains.
Dankert: There’s a lot going on the retail space. Change is being driven by customers. Their expectations for speed are increasing, and retailers are responding by amping up their operations. They’re getting faster and more responsive, using a lot of new technology as well in making changes in business processes.
Q: How are retailers dealing with the challenge of last-mile delivery, given urban congestion and the increasing need to deliver directly to homes and businesses?
Dankert: It's a huge topic of conversation. You see retailers leveraging their physical brick and mortar locations as distribution hubs. Sometimes they’re co-owning space with other retailers to serve customers in urban areas. They’re looking at solutions like lockers, with partnerships that you probably wouldn't have seen before. They’re trying a lot of different ideas to see what will work.
Q: What’s your membership telling that they want from you in terms of education and programs that address these concerns?
Dankert: We’re helping to share thought leadership among retailers as well as with solution providers and academics. We're looking for success stories, benchmarking from among our members, and sharing their common challenges and learnings. We’ve also amped up our focus on research, and have released several new reports, including one on shopping styles.
Q: How important is education these days, and what are you doing to facilitate it?
Dankert: It's huge, but it's not the kind of education that you might historically think of, involving going to classes and taking a stagnant approach. It's an ongoing process of continuing education. It's about staying abreast of new trends and learning from solution providers.
Q: What can you do to help policymakers understand the complexities of larger geopolitical issues, trade problems, and a possible trade war?
Dankert: RILA has been doing a lot of work on the trade front. We’ve been trying to educate lawmakers and the Administration on what goes into the retail supply chain, and how things like tariffs and trade affect what consumers are buying day to day.
Q: What are the big changes that you expect RILA to undergo in response to its members?
Dankert: We have a huge focus on innovation, whether it's incremental or transformative. Last year we launched our Center for Innovation, which is helping retailers find some of those answers, and be exposed to new experiences and solutions for serving the customer.
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