A conversation about how the coronavirus pandemic has altered retail sourcing and selling strategies, with Cathy Leonhardt, co-head of consumer retail, and Jason Russell, head of industrial technology and software, with PJ Solomon.
For starters, the COVID-19 virus has dramatically altered consumers’ shopping behavior. Many are migrating to online purchasing, for essential items as well as non-essentials such as recreational products. Retailers must respond to the shift with new strategies for sourcing, stocking and fulfilling orders. Their ability to meet demand at this moment of crisis is more critical than ever, says Leonhardt.
Having the right technology in place is key. The age of the omnichannel demands applications that can fulfill orders regardless of the sales channels through which they were placed. Old paper-based systems simply aren’t up the job anymore. Russell says retailers must think in terms of a framework defined by four broad themes: fulfillment flexibility, sourcing flexibility, visibility and network.
The pandemic is forcing sellers to go beyond their previous capabilities in order to enable contactless pickup of orders. Only a handful of retailers have perfected the practice of curbside pickup, but others must follow.
As fulfillment options expand, so does complexity. That means a broadening of sourcing, in order to avoid the risks that accompany reliance on a single supplier or geography for critical products. Retailers must develop alternative sources of supply. The result is likely to be a greater reliance on localized supply, which requires more planning. In addition, expect to see an increase in the practice of shipping directly from manufacturer to customer, bypassing traditional distribution channels.
It’s not just about adjusting to the current pandemic. The required changes in retail supply chains will be permanent, as retailers strive to become more agile in responding to the next major supply-chain disruption.
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