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Contents Is next day delivery realistic for independent retailers?


How to start your D2C journey


COVID-19 and the impact on the consumer goods industry


How to reduce your ecommerce carbon footprint


Managing stock during ecommerce boom 20 Overcoming three challenges to delivery efficiency during unprecedented times


Outsourcing doubts – why trust a fulfilment house?


When silence isn’t golden: 6 tips for reducing WISMO


Why 2020 offers an unprecedented opportunity for agile online brands 40 10 eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap


4 benefits to retailers selling online 48 In-house fulfilment: the DIY approach


Diversifying your Amazon fulfilment strategy


How to meet consumer delivery demands in your warehouse


How can automation support social distancing?


Convenience shopping relies on intelligent fulfilment


Preparing supply chains for a new retail landscape post COVID-19





Managing Editor

Many thanks to all those who provided editorial content or images, helping us to compile what we hope is a useful and informative read! Please send any comments or suggestions to

Rob Gamage - Content Editor Holly Worthington - Sales Director Jamie Ezekiel - Business Development Manager Holly Worthington Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.

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Modern Retail is published by Ricochet Media Services Ltd (Registered Company: 6043446). 1st Floor, Building 2, Croxley Park, Watford, WD18 8YA.

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• FIFO stock rotation is enabled • Optimal use of floor space Roller track shelving is one of the most popular methods used by e-commerce retailers for product fulfilment. Inclined shelving

Tips to improve the efficiency of product fulfilment Moving products through your distribution centre is one of the keys to successful e-commerce

Bulk pallet storage & picking

Compartment shelving

Pallet racking is the obvious choice for bulk storage. To speed up the throughput of products through the warehouse, without needing to remove items from their pallets, a system called pallet live offers the answer.

The galvanised steel shelving used to build inclined shelving can also be made into compartment shelving ideal for small item picking or as units to sort returns.

Pallets are loaded on to gravity fed roller beds from one side of the racking. The pallets gently roll forward to the other side of the racking from where they can be easily item picked. The gravity fed mechanism means that pallets can be stored several deep. As well as speedy throughput, the other benefit to this system is that it facilitates the FIFO (First In, First Out) stock rotation approach. Pallet live can also be used in conjunction with standard, static pallet racking. Roller track shelving Online shopping is an extremely competitive environment for companies. Two ways of improving competitiveness are: • having the capacity to offer a wide product range • processing those products quickly and efficiently through the distribution centre A flexible multi-faceted logistics solution provides a platform for improving competitiveness. BITO manufacture and supply a range of storage & picking solutions to support e-commerce some of which are described here.

A lower cost alternative to roller track shelving is that of solid shelves positioned at an incline, often referred to as supply shelving. Often used in conjunction with euro containers to house the items to be picked, the benefit of supply shelving is that the picker can see more easily the items to be picked and the slope of the shelf makes for a more ergonomic picking action.

A similar methodology can equally be applied to the storage and picking of non-palletised items.

The shelves are designed to accept full height dividers that can be positioned every 50mm to create compartments. Dividers are available in different heights so making compartment shelving a very flexible storage and picking solution for small items. Container pick walls The simplest picking solution to install is that of a pick wall made from euro stacking containers that have a cut away front at one end to provide an opening for easy picking. Container pick walls are the ultimate in picking flexibility in that they can be added to, easily moved around and the format changed in seconds.

Roller track shelving, or carton live, is a system of shelving where items are stored, not on flat shelves, but on slightly inclined beds of roller tracks. This means that items can be loaded onto the rear of the shelving and they slowly roll to the front, ready to be picked. Roller tracks can be adjusted to accommodate all sizes of cartons or containers.

Multi-tier shelving

The benefits of this approach are:

Multi-tier installations offer the benefits of shelving described above with the added benefit of increasing the capacity that can be achieved from each square metre of warehouse space.

• Items are handled less • Replenishment can happen without interrupting picking

If floor space is at a premium, one way to increase storage and picking capacity is to install multi-tier shelving. High turnover items would be located on the ground level, using solid shelves or roller track levels. Higher levels of shelving can be accessed with board or steel mesh deck walkways that are linked via stairways.

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Is next-day delivery realistic for independent retailers? As Amazon Prime and many other businesses continue to speed up their delivery times, the pressure is increasing for retailers to match these. However, in the world of independent retail, this can present many challenges.

Delivery plays a vital role in attracting and retaining customers, with an enormous 79% of people switching retailer due to delivery method. To highlight the importance of fast delivery, 52% of consumers list quick delivery as their top or second most important priority. Next-day delivery has become a huge incentive for consumers to shop with specific retailers, with 52% of consumers preferring this over any other delivery option, as well as being willing to pay extra for nextday delivery. Being able to offer next-day delivery enables retailers to compete with the biggest brands and offer customers the delivery options that they often seek. Of course, same-day delivery is another desirable option, requiring fast-acting teams and smooth logistics.

How important is next-day delivery? Contributor: Holly Worthington



There is no doubt that next-day delivery can incentivise purchases. For retailers, it all comes down to understanding the benefits of fast delivery and weighing them up against the disadvantages.

Here are some of the points that you should consider when deciding whether to offer faster delivery services or not:

How quickly do you need to deliver? For independent retailers, delivery options should be decided with pros and cons being taken into account. Often, speaking to customers and understanding the demand for fast delivery can help to determine your target market’s preferences. As an example, a retailer selling birthday cards or party dresses may find that their target market benefits significantly from same-day or nextday delivery, getting their orders to customers in time for an event or occasion. On the other hand, a retailer that sells exercise bikes may find that there is not as much demand for fast delivery, with shoppers being willing to wait 4-7 days to receive their order. In this case, it may not be worth investing in costly, quicker delivery. The required speed of delivery also depends on your brand’s USP. For some retailers, being eco-friendly is at the forefront of everything they do,

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FULFILMENT Fully automated end-to-end service A platform for businesses looking for a fully automated end-to-end service that’s revolutionising the way businesses run their fulďŹ lment operations in the UK.

Technology Our progressive platform allows for full API order receipts, inventory control and parcel tracking, including automatic inventory checks of your goods. Plus it seamlessly integrates into multiple channels such as Shopify and Magento with our e-commerce platform API plugins.

Transparency We use a sophisticated cloud-based platform, allowing you to access all stock wherever you are, proactively manage this, and see where your parcels are at every point of their journey.

Transport Deliver to over 220 countries and territories worldwide with our global solutions. Access a network of trusted international partners and support your customers with delivery notiďŹ cations produced in their local language.


Streamline your operations. Differentiate your business through value-added services. Maintain compliance.


& EFFICIENT OPERATIONAL PROCESS Strict stock control and accountability. A defined and rigid process within the operation to prevent user errors event at scale. Efficiency driven into every physical operation. Accuracy built into every process. Capable of handling both B2B and B2C traffic. Tried, tested and operational today for a number of key retail clients.



meaning same-day delivery where vans are sent out with only one or two parcels may not be desirable whatsoever. Some retailers choose to offer two-day delivery, reducing cost significantly in comparison to oneday or same-day delivery, while still prioritising delivery speed.

Choosing the right delivery partner Many retailers choose to work with a parcel distribution company to fulfil their orders in a time-effective manner. By doing this, retailers are able to impress customers with fast delivery. Some retailers choose to work with fulfilment companies that specialise in startups and independent retailers, meaning they are familiar with the



challenges, requirements and ways to successfully deliver orders quickly. In some cases, retailers prefer to work directly with the carrier, while others will choose to outsource their fulfilment entirely. It’s always worth speaking to fulfilment companies, explaining your requirements and goals and asking questions about the ways that they can help you to reach these.

Alternatives to fast delivery Some independent retailers may decide that fast delivery is not something that they wish to facilitate. However, there are many other ways for customers to receive their orders quickly, including click and collect services.

Points to consider The following points are often those that impact a retailer’s decision when assessing their existing or potential delivery options: • Price • Reputation • Speed • Scale

How to start your D2C journey Direct to consumer (D2C) commerce is booming in popularity, and the lockdown of traditional retailers only fuelled this growth. But starting your D2C journey requires more than a website, marketing team and online sales channel expert; it requires D2C fulfilment.

Shipping speeds, tracking information, order updates, delivery locations, and branded boxes all need thought, planning and action. To help, we’ve created this guide on how to start your D2C journey: the fulfilment edition, covering:

The essential components of D2C fulfilment

- The essential components of D2C fulfilment

D2C fulfilment differs significantly from retailer or wholesaler fulfilment - you already know that. But you also need to know exactly how much it varies so you can properly assess your existing supply chain and identify where changes must be made.

- The different D2C fulfilment methods

The main components to consider for D2C fulfilment are:

- What to look for in a D2C fulfilment partner

Technology integrations

Recap: what is D2C, and why is it so popular? Direct to consumer commerce is when a brand sells products directly to the end customer. This removes the middle wholesaler or retailer. D2C commerce has grown in popularity thanks to successful brands including GHD, Caspar and the Dollar Shave Club. Now, existing brands want in the on the action to benefit from: - Complete control over branding, pricing and the customer experience - Larger profit margins with no middle-person cut - Ownership of the customer relationship and data - Future-proofing for the demise of the high street and popularity of D2C

Whether your business’ D2C strategy involves a single ecommerce platform or multiple online marketplaces, you’ve suddenly got new technology to work with. It’s essential that the sales channels used effectively integrate with your WMS, ERP system and accounting software, to promptly download orders, update statuses, upload tracking information and configure your inventory. Optimized warehouse space Not only do you need additional warehouse space to store your D2C inventory, but this space must be properly optimized to allow for efficient and fast shipping. You’ll be locating items, packaging orders and printing shipping labels under tight deadlines; your warehouse flow must accommodate this.

Contributor: Synergy Retail Support



Products and packaging Packaging takes on a whole new meaning when delivering to the end customer. Forget pallets or cages, consumers want their deliveries in pretty boxes and recycled bags that contain perfect products and relevant inserts. Packaging materials, quality control, spot cleaning and garment pressing all need considering. Shipping Shipping becomes all the more complicated with D2C sales. Some customers want their items the next day, others are willing to wait for free delivery; some online marketplaces have delivery deadlines, others have late cut-off times; and some shipping carriers will be cheaper for light items, while others will be cheaper for heavier items. And we haven’t even touched upon peak shopping periods. To offer the best and cheapest shipping options for your customers throughout the year, you’ll need to work with and manage a variety of different shipping carriers from the beginning. Returns It’s not just orders leaving your warehouse that you need to think about either. Faulty returns or unwanted items all need to be processed, fixed, repackage and restocked, while keeping the customer and accounts department updated.

The different D2C fulfilment methods How much consideration you give these essential components of D2C fulfilment, depends on your D2C fulfilment method. There are three main direct to consumer fulfilment options: 1. In-house D2C fulfilment In-house D2C fulfilment is a common option for small and new brands, or those already running an in-house fulfilment operation for wholesalers and retailers. The benefits of starting your D2C journey with in-house fulfilment are: • L earning the ropes of D2C fulfilment while your order volumes are manageable • K eeping your overheads to a minimum while you establish your D2C sales • E stablishing your fulfilment requirements before engaging a 3PL However, the success of your D2C strategy relies upon a positive customer experience. If you don’t have the capacity, budget or expertise to provide reliable and fast deliveries in-house, this fulfilment method could restrict growth.

2. Outsourced D2C fulfilment Outsourced D2C fulfilment is a popular option for small to medium brands, or those who don’t have the capacity or expertise to start or continue delivering D2C orders quickly in-house. The main benefits of starting or continuing your D2C journey with a D2C third-party logistics provider (3PL) are: • A ccess to the latest logistics technology and D2C expertise for improving your fulfilment processes • S calable warehouse space and services during periods of growth or peak sales • C heaper storage rates, packaging materials and shipping costs through economies of scale Not everyone is ready for outsourced fulfilment, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be. Our guide on when not to use a 3PL will help you to prepare your D2C business. 3. Amazon FBA If you’re starting your D2C journey on Amazon, Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) is an alternative outsourced fulfilment option to consider.

“Starting your D2C journey requires more than a website, marketing team and online sales channel expert; it requires D2C fulfilment.”



Amazon FBA users benefit from Amazon’s extensive fulfilment network, warehouse spaces and scalable solutions during peak periods. However, multi-channel FBA fees can be excessive and prohibitive for growing D2C brands - not to mention the issue your marketing department will have with Amazonbranded boxes.

What to look for in a D2C fulfilment partner If you’re ready and eager to outsource your D2C fulfilment, there are six essential qualities you should look for:

Final thoughts Direct to consumer commerce is a powerful retail strategy that requires a powerful fulfilment operation behind it. Switching to D2C fulfilment isn’t easy, but with the right considerations and support, the hard work more than pays off.

About Synergy Retail Support Synergy Retail Support is an established ecommerce logistics partner, helping ecommerce brands to deliver an outstanding delivery service to their customers. Get in touch to find out more.

• I ntegrations - technology to integrate with your sales channels, WMS and ERP system • E xpertise - extensive experience fulfilling end customer orders • R esources - space, staff and equipment to deliver a best in class service • P ricing - competitive and transparent pricing • S peed - the capability and competitiveness to delivery orders with speed • P artnership - working and scaling with you to grow your D2C brand


Consumer Goods Industry Update Warehouse Tips, Trends & Insights PUBLICATION BROUGHT TO YOU BY


COVID-19 and the impact on the consumer goods industry For order fulfillment facilities to be successful in the future, it’s essential to understand what changes and challenges the industry will face. With economic forecasts swaying unpredictably, warehouses need to implement new solutions based not only on what works now but also ten years from now.

At Kardex Remstar, we find many companies start with small, but modular and scalable solutions. This leads them down an open path – one that provides the ability to grow and extend solutions when and if needed. Ideally, sales and automation grow together. With the entire world experiencing a global pandemic, retailers and warehouse managers cannot escape its repercussions. The consumer goods industry has undoubtedly seen drastic shifts in operations and supply chains. Due to the spike in online shopping, warehouse operations need to remain in full flow and perhaps even more so than before. One thing that strict social distancing guidelines brings is a pinch for space in warehouses, as a need to retrofit operations continues. Physically separating workstations, installing hand sanitising stations, and reworking traffic flow leaves facilities in need of more space.

Contributor: Kardex Remstar

Automation is the key to success and essential if you want to ensure sustainable growth. By combining automated storage solutions with software management systems and features like remote services and the right picking strategies, the result is an efficient, resilient, and costeffective warehouse that proves its


Return on Investment (ROI) in approximately 18 months. The best type of solutions are modular and scalable and can be modified as a business develops. Therefore, it’s essential to put existing solutions to the test. Do they still meet the business needs? Do they execute the most efficient order picking possible? More and more automation will take over or at a minimum support picking, sorting, inspecting, storing, handling, and classifying products. New technology will provide up-to-the-minute inventory accuracy, reduce overstock, and allow for mass customisation. According to Statista, Industry 4.0 will be a Macrotrend for 2020. This will certainly impact the overall consumer goods and supply-chain industries. We’ll see advances in automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the reality of a Smart Factory (highly digitised and automated production facility). Automation is the recipe for success when it comes to significantly increasing productivity in the consumer goods industry. To learn more, download our free Consumer Goods Tips and Trends or contact us at


How to reduce your ecommerce carbon footprint Recent years have seen an increasing focus placed on the importance of businesses reducing carbon footprint, at the same time as customers expecting faster, more reliable delivery. These two demands do not go hand in hand easily, leaving many retailers wondering how they can achieve both simultaneously.

The answer to achieving more environmentally friendly, yet faster delivery, lies within understanding your fulfilment processes and designing smart strategies to be more efficient.

Self-fulfilment vs. outsourced fulfilment Whether you are a retailer that organises fulfilment yourself, or you outsource it to specialists, it can be worth taking the time to look at current processes and understand areas for improvement. After all, reducing your carbon footprint can help the environment, attract new customers and save money in many cases. If you are responsible for reducing your carbon footprint, it can be relatively straightforward to invest in new ways of working. If it’s a third party that deals with this, it can still be worth asking them questions and understanding any improvements they aim to make, explaining your customers’ demand for environmentally friendly fulfilment. Here’s where to start:

1. Understand current processes

Contributor: Holly Worthington



Before you are able to implement any changes, it’s vital to understand every process in your fulfilment strategy, considering all methods of transportation and the ways in which they work. This includes the places products come from and transportation to and from storage,

as well as the method of delivery to a customer.

2. Could you improve efficiency? Now you have refreshed your knowledge of your fulfilment processes, are there any obvious ways that you could be more efficient? Yodel is one of the companies that has invested in ‘greener’ alternatives, using technology that calculates the most efficient delivery routes as well as understanding their drivers’ driving style. Doing this has enabled them to highlight areas for improvement, implementing changes to become more eco-friendy. Looking at the likes of wasted journeys and the routes taken by delivery drivers can work to highlight inefficient processes and the need to adapt these.

3. Vehicles What kind of vehicles deliver your products? Many companies are looking to phase out vehicles that release higher emissions and replace them with hybrid or electric alternatives. This can also be costeffective in the long term, but may require initial investment.

4. Reduce returns The rise of ecommerce coupled with people ordering multiple sizes of the same product with the plan to make the most of free returns has seen a culture develop that has a large

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impact on the environment. Retailers are able to reduce the amount of returns by encouraging shoppers to order sensibly, as well as providing more in-depth information about sizing, highlighting any products that may be smaller than expected, for example. By informing consumers about the impact of their decisions and giving them as much information about a product as possible, the likelihood of returns is reduced dramatically.

5. Offer numerous delivery options Giving consumers numerous choices can help them to choose a more eco-friendly option. This could include delivering multiple products to an Amazon locker, to designated pick-up points, or giving customers the option to pick-up instore.



As an example, a failed delivery due to a customer not being at home can result in a wasted journey. Giving customers the option to designate a safe place for their parcel to be left, or to change their delivery time can increase efficiency greatly if managed correctly. Bear in mind, not all delivery or collection options will be more ecofriendly, so this should be considered when making a decision.

6. Where are suppliers based? Using UK manufacturers can work to avoid unnecessary overseas travel at the same time as supporting the UK economy. In some cases, this may not be possible due to budgets and pre-existing supplier relationships, however many retailers are surprised to find that they can find cost-

effective suppliers a lot closer to their business. These six processes will help you to reduce your carbon footprint in ecommerce, giving you the opportunity to analyse your current processes and research more environmentally friendly and costeffective methods of fulfilment.

Managing stock during ecommerce boom




With so many “high street” shops closed during the coronavirus emergency, it is little surprise that ecommerce businesses have seen something of a boom. Online retailers and delivery service providers have reported significant increases in demand since March. This has placed unprecedented pressure on supply chains – including stock control and warehouse management.

The challenge is to ensure existing systems work or replace them with something that does. Cloudbased solutions could offer the fastest and simplest solution for many businesses. Customers turned to online in part because they had no alternative. But many customers have also been reluctant to visit conventional stores. Research analyst Kantar reports that only half of shoppers feel safe when visiting a supermarket or convenience store. Kantar also found around one in five British households bought groceries online during MayJune 2020, boosting home delivery volumes by over 90 per cent. Tesco recently reported that its online sales rose 48.5% in the three months to the end of May, although sales at its established stores and convenience outlets also increased, by about a tenth. Smaller and independent stores have seen the biggest gains: Kantar’s figures show these increased sales by 69% in the three months after the mid-March lockdown. This growth is reflected by the experience of the Cheshire Cheese Company, a Macclesfield-based online retailer. Its turnover during the first three months of the lockdown exceeded its entire 2019 total. Orders grew to 600 a day.



According to Simon Spurrell, the owner of the Cheshire Cheese Company, there were two phases to this peak: “Initially there was a panic buy situation where people were bulk buying purely for hoarding. For example, we had a run on multi-buy 6 x cheese packs with a 1000% increase of sales compared to the same period last year. Within six weeks of the lockdown and the approach of Easter this pattern changed to gift buying. This created a large increase in gift purchasing, delivered direct to a friend or relative. Growth in sales remained on average 240% up on the previous year until the passing of Father’s day in June. The inability to purchase and gift personally made people search for an alternative way to deliver a present.” The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that what it calls “nonstore sales” represented a third of all retail in Britain during May, up 19.7% on April. Some of this increase was in food sales (11.3% of total, up from 9.4% in April) but bigger increases were seen elsewhere. Nearly half of all clothing, textile and footwear sales were non-store and 25.2% higher than in April. Other sources suggest that in the week immediately following the lockdown announcement, online home and leisure retail increased by 200% compared to the previous year and that this trend was maintained during April and May.

It is not just online retailers who have seen a surge in business. Unsurprisingly, home delivery businesses have also seen growth. Hermes reported a 100% year-onyear increase in volumes for its SME customers and was delivering around 700,000 parcels a week for those customers during June. DPD recently announced 6,000 new UK jobs and ÂŁ200 million investment in infrastructure to cope with added volumes. As part of this it will create 15 new regional depots, ten more than originally planned for 2020. The company says parcel volumes have been more like festive seasonal peak - Easter volumes were double those of last year. ParcelHero forecasts

that the closure of conventional businesses could drive a 95% increase demand for new products discovered on social media compared with 2017. There have, of course, been some high-profile retail casualties during the emergency. Research organisation Opinium and ecommerce consultancy LiveArea suggest 70% of retailers have seen the drop in demand impact their business. The same research revealed retailers plan to respond by revising their supply chains after the pandemic: digital commerce (72%) and IT infrastructure (60%) were named as investment priorities. Many online retailers will have been able to carry on throughout the


emergency with little or no significant disruption to their business. But they will have had to cope with significant increases in volumes, perhaps for the first time. This not only imposes significant burdens on sales and order processing but creates significant challenges for the warehouse. Businesses that could cope with minimal stock control when only selling a few dozen items a week may not be able to manage so easily when volumes surge to hundreds a day. The Cheshire Cheese Company, for example, doubled the number of staff to six at the beginning of its lockdown surge. Despite the team working 12-hour shifts across a seven-day week the company still needed to


recruit a second shift to cope with demand. The company uses the built-in functions of its integrated ecommerce package to manage stock control across all its channels and this continued to work well during its peaks during spring 2020. For many businesses, however, the limitations of paper-based processes or lack of support for standard warehouse processes in the applications they use leads them to consider more warehousefocused stock solutions. These will offer core functions central to a business’s ability to maintain their operations, fulfil orders and



meet customer expectations. But implemented correctly, a WMS can interface with online marketplaces, customer ordering systems, carrier management and accounting functions to create an integrated business solution delivering efficiency, accuracy and better oversight of the physical stock control function. The traditional response by a growing business has been a WMS configured to their own unique business requirements, usually running on inhouse managed servers. These can ultimately be good solutions but take time to specify, configure and implement, typically with a

large upfront cost. This is a less suitable option for a rapidly growing business where taking advantage of new opportunities quickly is key to sustained success. Businesses like this need a more immediate yet scalable solution, to help achieve quick wins in relation to handling higher workload. They also need one that can be easily adopted by new and existing personnel because time for in depth training is often limited. Because of this, progressive businesses are turning to cloudbased WMS. The best of these offer a well-defined set of core features that cover most users’ requirements. That

means they can be deployed with little or no additional configuration. Nor do they require the local infrastructure of conventional systems. In particular, there is no need to install, configure and “go live� with a dedicated on-premises computer to host the application. Cloud-based solutions are highly scalable and can generally be up and running more quickly than conventional systems. This can be useful when setting up temporary supply chains or new routes to market in response to rapidly changing demands, such as during the crisis. They have industry-standard API

interfaces to integrate easily with existing business applications and the ability to import data simply from a range of sources. Solution providers generally charge monthly by user numbers of order volume, but are not usually subject to long term contracts, so costs only increase when justified by the business growth.

Useful Links for this Article

Contributor: ProSKU



Overcoming three challenges to delivery efficiency during unprecedented times The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges for every industry, organisation and individual across the world. In particular, the increased pressures that have been placed on ensuring efficient deliveries to stores and to homes, have never been experienced before.

With the Government placing the UK on Police-enforced lockdown, not only did panic-buying ensue, but the public were unable to purchase items from stores. Ecommerce demand has seen huge growth, with a resultant exponential increase in the number of home deliveries for all types of goods. So what are the main pinch points for delivery that have been caused by the crisis, and how can they be addressed? Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing at Descartes, explains.

Delivery to store

Contributor: Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing at Descartes Systems UK Ltd



In light of panic-buying and stockpiling caused as a result of the outbreak, many supermarkets have struggled to keep up with demand and keep shelves stocked. We’ve already seen certain measures come into effect to support retailers, such as the relaxation of the enforcement of the EU drivers’ hours rules, as well as changes to MOT testing requirements on commercial vehicles to keep deliveries moving. But while these initiatives will all contribute to the overall effort to streamline delivery to stores, with the temporary lack of regulated checks, implementing

vehicle safety technology to make sure vehicles are roadworthy and drivers are safe when they go out is more important than ever before. Additionally, the government announced temporarily relaxing elements of competition laws to allow retailers to work together and share resources to take some pressure off of supply chains; sharing stock data, pooling staff, delivery depots and vans, as well as coordinating opening hours to allow for shelf stacking time. When it comes to sharing delivery capabilities, an online, remote, centralised system is essential, so that everybody can access it in order to provide maximum visibility and capitalise on technology to get more out the existing resources in place, as they come under increasing pressure. Crucially, supermarkets have been closing overnight to allow for deliveries and stacking to take place. This is where dock appointment scheduling becomes a critical component, to be able to manage demand in line with resources and capacity, to prioritise deliveries and create a foundation for better carrier/

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supplier collaboration – addressing this significant pinch point during a critical time can help to streamline the delivery process. One well known supermarket is currently coping at four times its peak with the use of Dock Appointment Scheduling, demonstrating how effective the tool can be.

Home Delivery Add to all of this, the growing concerns over the delivery driver shortages, especially as many may have to start self-isolating depending on whether they experience symptoms or not, the use of technology to optimise delivery efficiency has never been more important.



Steps have also been put in place by delivery companies relating to the actual delivery at the addressees’ homes, including leaving the goods in a specific place and not requiring a signature from the person accepting the item for proof of delivery. A routing and scheduling solution that continually assesses the resources available, versus actual visibility throughout the supply chain, from initial collection through to the last mile of the home delivery process, offers the opportunity to maximise operational efficiency. Integrated telematics and mobile data communications provide increased visibility for the fleet manager and consumer, as they can see in realtime, exactly where a vehicle is against the plan and route set out by the scheduling software. This added insight allows transport operators to add or amend jobs to

avoid disruption, such as traffic, as well as send automatic updates to the customer about any changes to their delivery. One well known pharmacy that relies on semi-retired drivers – those at higher risk to coronavirus – is coping with a 15% absence rate with the use of routing software, demonstrating how the technology is enabling the pharmacy to keep up despite driver shortages. Moreover, in light of temporary changes to drivers’ hours law enforcement, by combining digital tachograph analysis and reporting with driving licence and driver CPC verification with the DVLA, as well as digital driver vehicle safety checks, all in one platform, operators can practice proactive compliance management to underpin optimisation of fleet efficiency. Operators need a simple and convenient way to stay on top of their compliance requirements, especially as more changes are likely to come into effect as the situation unfolds.

Growth of ecommerce The coronavirus crisis has meant that retailers have had to go back to the drawing board when it comes to forecasting. For example, despite warmer weather, comfy tracksuits are booming as people are staying at home, rather than purchasing evening wear or prom dresses. Home and garden, DIY and workout gear has also seen a surge. While retailers can prepare for peak periods such as Christmas, many are struggling to cope with this unexpected surge in demand. With the public turning to online delivery during lockdown, businesses that have not had an online presence have realised that given the current state, this could mean the difference between surviving and going under. Even for those businesses with ecommerce in place, they have likely never had to deal with such an unprecedented crisis we are currently facing.

Primark, for example, had no online business to offset its lack of in-store revenue, as all 189 UK stores had to close. Estimates calculate the lost sales at Primark to equate to about £85M of gross profit, even before store closures. But all is not lost for those retailers that have not yet set up an ecommerce channel. With rapid turnaround remote solutions, warehouse management software can be deployed without the need to physically visit a site to get up and running. As long as warehouse facilities are available, businesses can deploy a logistics platform in three to four weeks, not months. Moreover, with the likelihood that businesses will see more staff shortages as workers will need to self-isolate, an efficient way of picking, packing and shipping is essential to keep up with increasing demand. And as consumers have had no choice but to turn to online shopping methods, it’s also likely that many will continue with online shopping even after the

pandemic is over – especially if they have received a good experience. Retailers need to be prepared for the shift in consumer habits to not just be a temporary change in operations. With technology that provides continuous background optimisation of resources, operators can get more out of their existing resources. Drivers and the public can be kept safe with real-time updates on delivery ETAs and mobile applications for proof that your goods were left in a safe place or outside your door for ‘contactless delivery’. These are testing times for every business, but those that can adapt now and capitalise on technology that can unlock valuable efficiencies will be the ones that will come out the other side stronger and in a better position to ride the wave of future demand fluctuations.

“Those that can adapt now and capitalise on technology that can unlock valuable efficiencies will be the ones that will come out the other side stronger.”


Outsourcing doubts – why trust a fulfilment house? Outsourcing fulfilment can be a challenging decision for any retailer, placing trust in a third party. However, when done correctly, this can enable retailers to grow and improve efficiency. PHL spoke about what this means for retailers, answering some of the most frequently asked questions. Here’s what they had to say:

With 20 years’ experience in Fulfilment, we know online retailers have concerns when it comes to outsourcing to a 3rd party. It’s difficult to cut through the jargon and headline-grabbing promises to understand the real benefits of outsourcing. At PHL, we like to make things simple for our customers, to offer straightforward advice, and help you decide if it’s the right solution at the right time.

• W ide range of reports to help plan, manage and strategize your business

Over the years we have listened to and recognised the main barriers our customers come up against when considering outsourcing. Here is what we tell our new customers:

Flexible fulfilment solutions – We really mean it when we say our fulfilment is flexible. PHL allows customers to fully shape their logistical process. If you need orders processing up to 4pm for next day delivery, because it’s your industry standard, we will do that for you. If you want us to package orders in a specific way or answer customer queries with a particular tone of voice, because it’s your passion, we will do that for you too.

Will I be handing over control? Making the decision to outsource fulfilment, or change to a new provider, can be daunting. It’s easy to manage stock and sales you can physically see, but what about when they are miles away? Don’t worry, with PHL you will still have full control; Powerful order management system – Developed specifically to give you complete oversight of your business. Quite simply, you will be able to view and manage your stock and sales in real-time using a secure login. A few of the key benefits of this system include; • C lear and easy to read online reports

Contributor: PHL



• C omplete stock and inventory control

• L ow stock and best before date alerts set to your parameters • E asy multi-channel integration allowing us to process orders via your webstore, Amazon, eBay and a whole range of online marketplaces, shopping carts and inventory systems

Will it cost more money? Cost is always going to be one of the main considerations for any business. We understand the high costs of attracting and converting new customers and that consumer expectations are at an all-time high. Outsourcing fulfilment should be a cost-efficient way to improve service levels whilst maintaining profit margins;

Low overheads – PHL is dedicated to offering customers great service at a low cost. Our warehouse, in the heart of the country, allows us to keep overheads down but still have access to vital infrastructure e.g. courier/ haulier networks to make it a great location. Rapid setup – Integration with our system is quick, simple and flexible, so you can move to our facility with minimum cost or effort. You could literally do it over the weekend! Scalable solutions – Pay-as-you-use storage and fulfilment means you do not have to carry the cost of running a warehouse throughout the year. At peak season, PHL will ensure that you have the resources to meet demand quickly and efficiently. As demand drops, you don’t have to worry about scaling down to reduce operating costs.

business in mind. Your products, services and customers will have unique requirements, and we will help you meet these by providing everything you need to deliver your brand promises. We also work with you to optimise your service level to customers and help give your business a competitive edge. Wide range of services – PHL will support and enable growth as your business changes and evolves, offering a wide range of additional services, in-house, designed to help you grow. • E xperiential and Sampling Campaigns – targeting the right audience and getting product samples into the right hands

• P oint of Sale Design and Production – for events and sampling campaigns • D edicated Technical Support Services – seamless integration, data cleansing, email/web hosting and management etc. • C ustomer Contact Centre – available in multiple languages • P roduct Assembly and Co-Packing – gift sets, special purchase packs and samples • P ackaging Design and Sourcing – create a lasting impact when your products are delivered

Competitive courier costs – Because we work with several couriers and postal providers, we offer our customers a wide variety of services at great prices.

Will outsourcing really help me grow my business? It’s quite a claim for us to make. Well, we believe that PHL can help, by simply providing you with the right support and resources. Bespoke solutions – This is a fulfilment process designed with your



“Making the decision to outsource fulfilment, or change to a new provider, can be daunting.”


With so many additional services available, customers can leave their fulfilment in our capable hands, allowing them to focus on developing their business.

Can I trust my fulfilment house to deliver? It’s difficult to hand over your logistical operations to another company and trust they will do things as you would. PHL understands it’s our job to provide you with the peace of mind that your business is in safe hands.

Owner managed company – PHL take great pride in being Owner Managed. We actively encourage customers to come and visit us, sit down with a cup of tea and get to know us. Our staff are helpful, friendly and are always at the end of a phone, and there is never a problem too big for us to solve.

To help our customers, PHL offer the following; • Service level agreements

• D edicated account management and pickers who you will know by name and be able to call and email directly • Industry Accreditations to include ISO9001 for quality, good distribution practice • O pen door policy (it’s a policy, not an actual open door!) when visiting the warehouse, seeing your stock, talking to and instructing staff

• P icking accuracy of 100% on barcoded products



When silence isn’t golden: 6 tips for reducing WISMO Surely you’ve heard about WISMO? This acronym maybe hasn’t quite made its way into every retailer’s vocabulary yet, but it is something that all online shops have to deal with on a daily basis, and it’s becoming more and more popular in the world of ecommerce due to a rapid increase in customer expectations.

Contributor: Katharine Biggs, Content & Marketing Manager at parcelLab



WISMO (where is my order?) enquiries are one of the biggest pain points for retailers who sell online and the most frequently received query for most. It’s a term most retailers never want their customers to think of. Sadly, order queries are a serious issue in ecommerce. Not only do they cost the retailer between £2 to £5 per call, but WISMO can also cause customers to avoid shopping from a retailer again. These calls are a particular problem during peak periods such as Black Friday and Christmas, and the current pandemic has spurred on another spike. They can account for between 70-80% of all customer service calls during these times due to disruption to usual services. This influx is especially problematic when a vast majority of agents are working from home and therefore phones are offline. Reduced work forces and relying on email or social media to answer WISMO queries can leave many unhappy customers with unanswered questions. Shopping online can be an emotional journey for the customer. Whether it’s a new dress for the weekend, a summer wardrobe update now that the sun has come out, a gift for a loved one or medicine that needs replenishing on time; buyers want to know exactly where their order is and when it will arrive. They want to be informed proactively about any delays or deviations from the original promised delivery date.

Unfortunately, 93% of retailers stop communicating with their customers after the dispatch confirmation (Source: parcelLab, UK E-Commerce Shipping Study 2020: Fashion Edition). The remainder instead rely on either the carrier to communicate with the customer during delivery or worse still, the customer receives no updates at all. Carriers often barely communicate with customers during delivery, leaving them in the dark about the status of their order. In addition, as found in our shipping study, some carrier communication even fails to show who the order is from. And for those buyers who have made multiple orders from different retailers at a time, this can cause major problems and is the source of many WISMO enquiries. Retailers can avoid this happening by proactively communicating with their customers during delivery, rather than relying on the carrier to do so. WISMO calls can be very frustrating for both the customer service agent and the customer themselves. So instead of customers constantly asking ‘where is my order?’ and clogging up customer service lines – which should be freed up for other customer service agents to answer more critical issues – retailers should instead be investing in providing an excellent customer experience by answering WISMO updates before they even have to ask.

“WISMO stands for ‘where is my order?’ and is one of most online retailers’ biggest pain points.”

Good customer experience is key for retaining customers and creating brand advocates. As retail continues to look for new ways to cut costs, reducing WISMO enquiries is one of the easiest and quickest improvements they can make – and this should be in the form of branded, proactive shipping communication. By doing this, customers will feel appreciated by the retailer and will be much more likely to purchase from them again.

Here are 6 tips for reducing WISMO and creating happy customers: 1. Proactive multi-channel postpurchase communication: By taking control of communication postpurchase, retailers can proactively communicate with customers at each stage of the journey. Sending regular updates via SMS, email, as well as through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger means the customer is always in the know about their order, even if it’s delayed.

2. Communicate delivery delays at checkout: Advertise prominently on your homepage, on all product pages and at checkout how many days the delivery is likely to take. If you are expecting delays but can’t predict how long, communicate this here too. 3. Keep shipping status up-to-date: Inform customers in real-time about the status of their order during the shipping process. 4. Set up Peak/Pandemic FAQ page: Direct customers to this page from the homepage, product and tracking pages so they can have their questions answered easily, and without having to reach out to a customer service agent. Include queries about delivery status, times and stock. 5. Direct support traffic to other channels: If you’ve had to limit your telephone support network for technical or resource reasons, direct customers to other social media channels. Again, display where customers should get in contact with


you clearly on the homepage, tracking pages, as well as in shipping emails. It might be worth including a message to only contact you after they’ve looked at your FAQs page first! 6. Measure satisfaction using NPS: Measuring customer satisfaction using Net Promoter Scores (NPS) or other review platforms is a great way to quickly recognise if something is wrong with your services. This review option can be implemented into shipping emails and tracking pages and should be monitored regularly to look for common themes. Whether the order is going as planned or has delays, customers always want to know where their parcel is. Go above the norm and push relevant updates to the customer, in a way that your carriers sadly don’t. Take back control of your post-purchase communication to ensure a consistent brand experience, proactive customer service and maximised cross-selling and up-selling potential.


Why 2020 offers an unprecedented opportunity for agile online brands Contributor:

When lockdown began, many

– after all, fulfilling thousands of

James Hyde, CEO and Co-founder, James and James Fulfilment

traditional retailers were caught

direct-to-consumer (D2C) orders

off guard. Those with little or no

is a much bigger challenge than

ecommerce presence were forced

distributing stock to tens of high

to literally shut up shop. Those

street stores.

Founded in 2010 as the world’s first digitalnative fulfilment house, James and James helps ambitious online brands grow sales, delight customers and optimise operations.



with growing online operations struggled to meet demand and even slashed advertising spend


To support growth, James and James is moving into a brand new fulfilment centre

Outsourced fulfilment can help brands stay agile in a changeable environment

With consumers unable to buy from familiar brands, many turned to smaller online retailers they hadn’t considered or even heard of before. Collectively, the order volumes of the 400 independent ecommerce brands we work with were up 65% month-on-month – and 150% yearon-year – in April 2020.

An opportunity to take long-term market share As the world slowly returns to normal, this shift in shopping behaviour shows no signs of abating. According to EY’s Future Consumer Index report, 70% of consumers no longer feel comfortable shopping instore. A similar number say it could be years until they return to pubs and restaurants. This presents agile online brands with an unprecedented opportunity to take long-term market share from bigger, traditional players. To seize that opportunity, they must retain the new customers they’ve



acquired during lockdown. They must continuously review their products and distribution – we’ve seen countless brands pivot from wholesale to D2C through the crisis. And they must be ready for future spikes in demand, whether the traditional ones like Black Friday or the unexpected ones that lockdown delivered.

Seizing the opportunity through agile fulfilment One way to achieve this agility is by outsourcing your order fulfilment. Doing so can create the delightful experience that will keep those new customers coming back. It can offer fresh insights into product performance – and the time and headspace to react to them. And it can give you the backing of an expert team that’s used to sailing through peaks and troughs in demand.

For instance, despite the surge in order volumes we saw during lockdown – and the stringent hygiene and social distancing measures we put in place – we maintained our service-level agreements (SLAs) for pick and pack accuracy and same-day dispatch. We also signed a 10-year lease on a brand new UK fulfilment centre – six times the floor area of our current one – and migrated our order fulfilment software to Amazon Web Services – the cloud computing platform that powers ecommerce giants like Zalando. These changes give us the agility and scalability to help even more brands seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

ORDER FULFILMENT & WAREHOUSE SOLUTIONS FULFILMENT SERVICES Trusted and reliable family run business Abstrakt has been trading for 30 years, initially providing mailing services specialising in the publications market. Our all round performance and dedicated approach led our clients to request additional storage and order fulfilment services. This has now seen us move into larger, scalable owned premises, currently providing over 4000 pallet positions for our pick, pack and dispatch operation.


In the heart of the UK, our modern warehouse is ideal for your storage and distribution needs - flexible, cost-effective storage and order fulfilment.

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European Order Fulfilment

For international sellers looking to maximise sales in the UK & Europe. Import your products to our central UK fulfilment warehouse.


FBA Amazon Fulfilment

For clients wishing to use FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) we provide the complete service. We barcode and dispatch to Amazon’s requirements.

“Abstrakt Services offer consistent high quality, reliability and flexibility, always with a friendly and professional approach. I highly recommend them as the most capable partner in the UK”


We have provided subscription services for 30 years, ensuring that your customer receives their magazine, product or gift on the expected date.

Head of Production Eaglemoss Publishing Group

Abstrakt Services Ltd, 79-81 Chester Street, Aston, BROUGHT TO YOU BY Birmingham, PUBLICATION West Midlands B6 4AE T: 0121 380 2600 | W: | E:

10 eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap Bubble wrap is one of the most

different methods of packaging,

common types of protective

opting for more easily recyclable

packaging in fulfilment, working to

and reusable alternatives.

cushion items while enjoying the benefits of being lightweight and transparent. However, the shift towards more eco-friendly retail has led many retailers to consider


Contributor: Holly Worthington



It can be incredibly time-consuming to research new packaging, so this list should give you plenty of inspiration, helping to find the perfect option to fit in with your sustainable initiatives and cater to changing consumer demands.

Here are 10 eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap: 1. Paper and cardboard Paper and cardboard are eco-friendly, reusable and recyclable, being used to protect items in transit. These affordable alternatives are often found, as they can be made from scrap paper and cardboard, being used, reused and recycled after use, making sure it does not go to waste. Typically, cardboard is used to protect more fragile items, while paper packaging often works to protect less breakable products.

2. Cornstarch Cornstarch is both organic and biodegradable, working in a similar way to plastic to protect products. This is often used in long-distance shipping as it is both cost-effective, easy to find, toxin-free and its creation produces low levels of emissions.

3. Air pillows These work to fill spaces in any container, cushioning breakable products brilliantly. Air pillows come in numerous sizes, being



inflated before use. These are a cost-effective and lightweight solution in comparison to many other forms of packaging, as well as being biodegradable, recyclable and reusable. It is worth ensuring that the air pillows you choose are biodegradable, as there are non-biodegradable options available as well.

around two years for this process to occur. This option can be reasonably expensive due to the chemicals that are required to make the plastics decompose.

6. Newspapers

Biodegradable air peanuts are lightweight and breathable, working to fill containers and protect the products inside. These are well-suited to businesses with low packaging budgets, also being reusable until they biodegrade, returning to organic matter that can be repurposed.

Many independent retailers are impressing their customers by using shredded newspaper or wrapping products in newspaper to protect them. When packaged correctly, newspapers can offer fantastic protection from breakages. One of the great benefits of using newspaper packaging is that it is easy to find, with many convenience stores being happy to donate old newspapers and neighbours often delighted to give them away.

5. Biodegradable plastics

7. Mushroom packaging

Those who still require plastic packaging are able to invest in biodegradable plastics. This is particularly suitable for products that must stay dry, working to protect items until they decompose after exposure to sunlight, typically taking

Mushroom packaging is made using cleaned and dried mushroom roots, also being combined with agricultural materials such as cotton in some cases. This can be a great, eco-friendly packaging option for small items, as there are no harmful

4. Air peanuts

“These 10 eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap can help you to make a difference, while also cutting costs.”

emissions made in its creation, simply being made through drying. One of the disadvantages of mushroom packaging is that it doesn’t last for as long as many other alternatives, degrading quickly, meaning it is best suited for local deliveries and can then be composted.

8. Seaweed packaging This is another eco-friendly type of packaging, often used to package food products as well as other items. Benefits of this include being easy to source, cheap to produce and degrading easily.

9. Palm fibre Palm fibre is soft, making it a great option for the packaging of fragile items. It requires no chemicals to produce it, decomposes into organic matter after use, is easy to source and is lightweight. It can be formed into moulds that are designed to hold products in place, making it a great choice for long distance shipping.

10. Magazines Using magazines to package products is a cost-effective way to keep products safe in transit. Typically, this is done by shredding biodegradable magazines, meaning they protect items throughout shipping and can then decompose quickly. To make shredded magazines look as attractive as possible, they should be shredded into equal sized strips, as well as being a suitable length for the box or container they are filling.

The next step is to place an order and tell consumers all about your new eco-friendly packaging. Share your message and explain the benefits, creating a sense of pride while promoting the fact that consumers are supporting a business that is working to be as eco-friendly as possible.

Next steps: These 10 eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap can help you to make a difference, while also cutting costs in many cases. The next step is to begin researching the pros and cons of each suitable one, taking time to speak to suppliers. Be sure to check how eco-friendly each supplier’s products are, as some may appear identical to others, but might not degrade as well, or may have less eco-friendly production processes.



4 benefits to retailers selling online The effects of COVID-19 on the

months, it has forced many people

The argument shouldn’t be whether ecommerce will eclipse bricks and mortar, the argument should be: How can ecommerce support bricks and mortar? Access Mintsoft contains tools and automation that can support your business – now is the perfect time to delve into the world of ecommerce.

into changing the way they shop.

1. A wider product offering

high street and retail will be farreaching, long after the storm has calmed. As well as social distancing measures being predicted to be in place in some capacity for

Unlike the doomsday predictions such as ‘death of the high street’, commentators believe this will prompt many small retailers to address their overreliance on being purely bricks and mortar.



Often, online retailers may not store or technically own the products they sell, but rather use a third party to do this for them. As you aren’t obliged to maintain your own stock in your own warehouse, it unlocks the possibility of offering a wider product range for your customers – allowing you to compete with bigger names in ecommerce. If you use drop shipping, it is also worth choosing a provider who uses an Order Management System such as Access MintSoft, as this allows you to White Label your goods to make them appear to be directly shipped from your store. Focusing on these little details mean that the customer experiences continuity and it strengthens your brand.

2. Always open to your customers When choosing to venture into online shopping platforms, it’s wise to consider making it possible for orders to be fulfilled 24/7. This doesn’t mean you need to sit at your laptop at all hours, but it does mean Mintsoft would be a good option to help deal with ecommerce hours of demand. For example, if a customer purchases something your shop is selling through Etsy late one evening, Mintsoft will take care of the paperwork for you, without you having to worry about being in front of your laptop. In a world where consumers are expected to be able to purchase 24 hours a day, it makes sense to use software that helps you provide this service to your customers.

3. Easy inventory management Rather than having to rustle through the back of a shop to check how much you have in stock, Mintsoft can automatically update the stock levels across all marketplaces you are selling from. Not only this, it automatically picks the cheapest shipping option for that item and creates a picking order to send onto the warehouse. That means, no chance of overselling an item and your customer gets a seamless and speedy buying journey – meaning they’re more likely to buy again.

Alongside making your inventory management easier, it also helps you analyse your inventory at the click of a button. You can view straight away if an item is popular, and if it isn’t, and proactively adapt to the demand to increase your online footfall or web traffic. The reporting tools also work with marketplace by giving you live snapshots of each platform, meaning that you know where your profit is being made and use resources and inventory more effectively.

4. Multiple marketplaces = global audience The most obvious benefit of selling online is that you can sell through unlimited marketplaces. The audience is there, but they won’t all shop on the likes of Amazon or eBay. By having Mintsoft in place to make it easy to sell across an array of marketplaces, it’s more likely you’ll reach the potential wider audience. If you operate multiple brands within your business, Mintsoft also makes this process simple and help you keep a track of each brand.

Automation is Key Access Mintsoft has been designed to help you automate selling online. This does not mean your business becomes faceless – it means the opposite. To give your store and overall brand the best chance in the ecommerce market, it is essential to choose tools that can handle the time-consuming admin for you, so you can focus on giving the best service to your customers. There’s no need for it to be difficult to manage multiple marketplaces, and that’s why Access MintSoft is designed to be easy. Developed with ecommerce in mind – it means that it’s quick to get going, and simple to use. If you want to find out more about Access MintSoft and how it can take the headache out of online selling, visit our website:

Contact us to find out more.

Contributor: Mintsoft



In-house fulfilment: the DIY approach

Retailers that are in the early stages often start with in-house fulfilment, reducing their outgoing costs and making a profit while understanding the demand for their products.

Here’s everything you need to know about inhouse fulfilment.

What do you need for in-house fulfilment?

What is in-house fulfilment?

There are many different aspects of operations that you must think about when running fulfilment in-house. These include:

This is the process of carrying out your own fulfilment, without the need for any external dropshipper or logistics partner. Sometimes referred to as the self-fulfilment model, this can range in size from one-person operations to larger scale investments. Essentially, it sees the retailer manage manufacturing, inventory storage and warehousing in the same place. When an order is placed, the retailer picks, packs and ships it to the customer.

What happens when retail operations grow? Some retailers will choose to outsource their fulfilment when they reach a certain size, however in-house fulfilment is still possible, even if it reaches an overwhelming level of demand. In this case, it becomes necessary to build a suitable fulfilment infrastructure. If your business begins to send large volumes of orders, negotiating rates with delivery services such as FedEx and DHL can help you to keep costs down and gain a competitive advantage.

Contributor: Holly Worthington



- Suitable warehouse space - Warehouse equipment - Warehouse staff - Choosing suitable software - Insurance for workers and inventory

Advantages of in-house fulfilment - In control of stock, picking, packing and shipping -

For small retailers that do not require staff, this can be cost effective as you only need to pay for shipping

- Relatively straightforward process

Disadvantages of in-house fulfilment - Need to gain an initial understanding of what is required - Time consuming to pick, pack and send orders yourself - Can be expensive to pay for warehousing, equipment, staff, software, insurance etc. -

It requires management as it grows and additional people become involved in your in-house fulfilment

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Diversifying your Amazon fulfilment strategy

For supply chain officers, now is not only about surviving the lockdowns and restrictions, it’s about taking the necessary steps now to be prepared for the biggest retail opportunities of the year – like Prime Day. 73% of Amazon sellers make up to half of their total sales for the year at events such as Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday. According to Forbes and Coresight Research, brands and third-party sellers that participated in Prime Day 2019, generated about a third of the estimated $6 billion in sales.

Contributor: Rory O’ Connor, Founder and CEO of Scurri



Although Amazon has held back on releasing details on the new Prime Day date, the fact that they are now allowing more sellers to resume shipping non-essential items to Amazon warehouses, means they are now coping better with demand. Given that markets have started to lift some of the restrictions in place with regards to self-isolation etc., we can assume that things will only improve as the weeks go on and that the sales event will go ahead in Q3 as now planned. Still, retailers should be prepared. Pundits have said that if the event is to go ahead, it may happen in August at the latest, as the company will not want to risk any disruption to seasonal sales. Sellers will now have more time to coordinate than in years previous with their supply chains to build additional inventory – but what does this process look like? Firstly, the need for retailers to switch to Fulfillment by Merchant as a result of COVID-19, has highlighted the importance of fulfillment strategy for retailers. Many sellers (60% in the USA, 45% in the UK) rely on

Amazon as both a marketplace and as their exclusive fulfillment solution (Fulfillment By Amazon). Switching to FBM (Fulfillment by Merchant) can seem like a daunting task in terms of having to partner with a third-party logistics company to store inventory as well as the task of carrier selection, but being more independent, has its own set of benefits and there are many solutions that automate this challenge for you.

First let’s look at what’s involved in the process: Inventory: If you were shipping inventory directly from your manufacturer to Amazon, you will now need to store your inventory somewhere other than the manufacturer. When selecting a fulfillment center, it’s important to consider those outside urban areas which are typically cheaper. Carrier selection: Choosing carriers is slightly more complicated and requires a lot of homework with regards to shipping costs. Which carrier to choose obviously depends on the region to where you are

shipping, but also on the specific product you will be shipping and obviously the more varied your product range and geographies, the more complicated this can become. When choosing a logistics partner, a major consideration should be selecting one that is integrated with as many carriers as possible (global, regional and local). This allows retailers to free up technical resources and eliminate the friction and ongoing expense of carrier integrations. Scurri’s software connects and automates the entire ecommerce process, allowing retailers to select the most effective delivery option for each package and provides labelling and tracking from dispatch to delivery.

What are the benefits of making the switch to managing your own logistics process? Once retailers have successfully navigated their first Prime Day, many may consider making the switch permanently in view of these many benefits it can have and an uncertain future as a result of the pandemic.

These include a greater sense of control over the business, potentially higher margins (FBA is expensive), as well as the opportunity to build an independent brand is more feasible. Of course, ultimately, which option you chose depends on several factors (size of your business, any growth potential and the product categories that you sell). Amazon offers a handy calculator which allows you to better understand the option that suits your organization. Another major consideration for retailers at present is not just how to fulfill orders, but what to list in the first place. To understand the products that will sell best, it’s important for retailers to first look at all the available data since the onset of the crisis and consumer behavior once the restrictions are lifted. Several European countries, including France, Spain and Italy are on the brink of lessening restrictions. Sweden, the only European market not to impose self-isolation is another important one to analyse. Looking at this data over the coming days and weeks as people continue to emerge


from lockdown, should go some way to informing retailers about the kinds of products that they should be shipping for Prime Day. If there is one lesson we have all learned from COVID-19, it’s the volatility and unpredictability it creates. Retailers should always have a contingency plan. Relying solely on Amazon could see retailers expose themselves to potential risk. Retailers should work to ensure as diverse a strategy as possible – in every regard. Retailers should be thinking about expanding beyond the Amazon marketplace to try selling on smaller, regional marketplaces and sites. Delivery time is key right now and will be as long as delays endure – which could be some time. More than ever, consumers are eyeing up the sites that will get their products to them the fastest. Therefore, retailers should also consider sites that have local fulfillment capabilities if possible.









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“Many brands have found ways to accommodate social distancing in their warehouse operations without limiting their efficiency.”

It’s been a difficult and unprecedented time for businesses and customers alike. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, retailers had to introduce new social distancing and safety rules in the workplace, which led to a significant drop in productivity and efficiency levels for many businesses. As a result, consumers who were previously accustomed to next-day or even same-day deliveries now had to wait several days to receive their goods.

But the tide is turning. Many brands have found ways to accommodate social distancing in their warehouse operations without limiting their efficiency, and major retailers that had previously paused next-day delivery options — like ASOS — are back to running a nearly normal service. If you want to remain competitive, it’s crucial you find ways to adapt your supply chain and warehousing operations to suit this “new normal”, so you can continue to meet customer expectations while also keeping staff safe. In this article, Kelly Friel, from industrial tool and PPE supplier Zoro, shares some key advice for implementing social distancing and safety measures in your retail warehouse, while also ensuring efficiency.

Offer PPE and hygiene stations Personal protective equipment (PPE) has become one of the most effective weapons retailers and warehouse owners have in the fight against COVID-19. The government’s official guidance puts great emphasis on using PPE to create a safer workspace so, if you haven’t already, you need to ensure that you have a consistent and sufficient supply of PPE products, particularly facemasks, visors, gloves, and antibacterial cleansers. Staff should be issued with these at the start of their shift, and should receive



thorough training on how to use them correctly. Another important aspect of staff hygiene is frequent hand washing. By installing additional sinks and sanitising stations close to the areas where staff spend the majority of their time, you can help ensure that operatives maintain a high standard of hygiene, without the need to spend time walking to and from your toilet facilities. It will also help to allow staff time for regular hand-washing breaks, so they aren’t tempted to skip this important step during a busy shift.

Find additional space Adding more floor space will make it more feasible for staff to maintain a safe two-metre distance at all times during shifts. So, you could consider adding additional space to your warehouse using a mezzanine floor, or perhaps by using industrial warehouse tents to extend your existing premises. This way, you can spread your stock across a wider area, allowing staff to stay safely spaced. Such an approach can be particularly effective if staff stand at a single workstation for the entire duration of their shift, but you don’t currently have enough room to allow two metres between stations. Naturally, whether or not this is going to be feasible will depend on the size of your existing facilities and your

current financial situation. But, if it’s available to you, then this option will not only help you to remain competitive during the current health crisis, but will also ensure that your business is fully prepared should the virus return in the future.

Implement a one-way picking system and redistribute stock If adding more space isn’t possible, then you could look at your current floorplans and try to find a way to implement an optimised one-way system through your warehouse. This would allow staff to walk the full length of the warehouse without needing to pass one another, picking items as they go. After reaching the processing or packing location, they can then return to the start of the system to begin another cycle. This means that staff will not need to cross back on themselves, allowing them to maintain a safe 2-metre distance at all times. However, this tactic does rely on the co-operation of staff in order to be successful, so the route will need to be made very clear, and employees must be thoroughly trained on how to use the new system. You’ll also need to make sure any best-selling items are spread across the entire length of the one-way system, or staff may be forced to spend a long time in a

particular area, which could cause queues and bottlenecks that would make social distancing difficult.

Consider implementing robotic solutions Social distancing rules only apply to human warehouse operatives, so one possible solution is to invest in collaborative robots or autonomous mobile robots. By placing these strategically, you can effectively ensure that staff do not need to come too close to one another during picking. For instance, you could assign one picking operative to a safely socially distanced zone, and then use AMRs or mobile robots to transport goods to a packing area. This allows the staff member to remain safely within their “bubble” for the duration of the shift, without reducing efficiency.

These are incredibly challenging times for retailers but, by being agile and creative in your approach, you should be able to find ways to keep staff safe at work while also meeting customer expectations. Remember to keep checking the government advice hub for the latest updates. Please note: This guide is not exhaustive, and is only intended to provide an introduction to the topic, so please refer to the latest government guidance on COVID-19 and workplace safety measures for more information.

While they’re not exactly a cheap or quick fix, AMRs and other robotic solutions can have a very beneficial effect on overall productivity, and are already being used by warehousing giants such as Amazon and Ocado. In addition, they will help you to futureproof your workforce in case of future pandemics or lockdowns, so you may want to look into this as an option.

Contributor: Kelly Friel, from industrial tool and PPE supplier Zoro



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How can automation support social distancing?

The evolution of the warehouse continues to be influenced heavily by Internet of Things (IoT), helping to streamline fulfilment processes and simplify more complex requirements. As the need for more varied and faster delivery grows, the number of smart warehouses in the UK is expected to skyrocket.

Contributor: Kardex Remstar



Over the course of the past few months COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. With “stay at home” orders effectively placing everyone in a sort of quarantine, we’ve all had to adapt to accommodate some major changes in the way we live our “normal” everyday lives. It’s certainly been difficult to navigate. While a large part of the population has been working from home, there are also plenty of people who work for an essential business, such as manufacturing or distribution facilities, and have still had to go to their place of work every day. Operations or facilities managers have been faced with the task of assessing their current processes, reducing employee contact and interaction and adjusting to the changing guidelines. We’ve heard this term “social distancing” for months now, and it seems like it’s here to stay. It’s a simple concept – maintain a 6ft or 2 meter distance between you and the people around you. But in a manufacturing or distribution facility, we’re talking about 10, 20, 30… up to hundreds of people, who must do

their job in a designated work zone and maintain social distance. Adjusting a facility to accommodate these changes can be quite the undertaking. The spread of this virus impacted our communities fast and it’s important to be prepared for this ongoing threat in case we see a second wave in the future. Automated Storage and Retrieval solutions (ASRS) are being seriously considered as they are designed on the goods-to-person principle. ASRS brings stored parts to an operator with the touch of a button, allowing the operator to remain in one area to pick parts instead of spending time walking up and down aisles searching for parts. Not only do these systems provide workers more distance from one another, they increase productivity by eliminating the time spent walking up and down aisles to search for stored items. Automation keeps workers safely within their assigned workstation, less fatigued and more productive. Installing an automated storage and retrieval system can in some circumstances

even reduce labour requirements by as much as 66%, enabling current workers to be reassigned to new tasks (such as cleaning and sanitising) while easing hiring pressures and labour expenses. In addition, goods-to-person picking systems can also speed up item picking for a boost in throughput, yielding higher rates of product

picked or moved through the facility within a given period of time. This allows an operation to extend order cut-off times, so more orders can be filled within a day, or to pick up to 400% more items with the same number of workers during the same amount of time. With the UK government continuing to recommend social distancing to

prevent the spread of COVID-19, automated storage and retrieval solutions can support social distancing in the warehouse. Kardex has created a white paper reviewing how implementing automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) can help support social distancing in the warehouse. To download the white paper, click here.

“Installing an automated storage and retrieval system can reduce labour requirements by as much as 66%.�



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Convenience shopping relies on intelligent fulfilment Alongside better order and inventory management, retailers are also turning to the builtin intelligence of these new distributed order management systems to make smarter fulfilment decisions that balance the needs of retail businesses and their customers.

Distributed order management platforms can deliver insights into how long, and at what cost, items can be shipped from one location to another – whether that’s a warehouse, store, pick-up point or house. The most powerful solutions are also able to identify what options are the most cost-effective and efficient for delivery, and then automatically fulfil orders based on the best efficiency and speed ratio. This is an important point because efficiently balancing product availability against delivery timelines and demand/capacity constraints can enable retailers to offer enhancements or reduced delivery costs to loyalty programme members. In doing so, they also gain the ability to split inventory within an order to apply the most effective shipping options. Because customer service staff now have real-time visibility of stock, they can make fast decisions on how to quickly get orders to the customers.

Contributor: Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce



On a broader business level, contemporary distributed order management systems close the capability gaps and financial burdens

of turning brick-and-mortar stores into assets that cross digital/ physical boundaries. From faster, more convenient delivery options to initiating ship-from-store options and fulfilment innovations, these solutions enable retailers to maximise convenience in a way that meets consumer needs, without compromising on efficiency and profitability. While convenience has always been part of the retail lexicon, we’re now seeing the re-emergence of consumer-led convenience, where retailers innovate to bring consumers an in-person experience; the ultimate blend of online and inperson shopping.


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In support of its commitment, Tarlu offers tailored price plans to help all its clients develop in a competitive climate. It doesn’t matter whether you presently have one sale a week or a thousand, we are all about the journey ahead!

Always Improving Gaining buy-in from the major retailers is a tremendous achievement for clients but with it comes a wealth of delivery requirements. To the benefit of its customers, Tarlu has successfully streamlined delivery processes into major retailers such as; Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Holland and Barrett, TK Max, Amazon, SPACENK, Fenwicks and Goldsmiths. Trusted by multinationals such as TATA and Pepsico our standards are already high but Tarlu is always looking to go that one step further‌

Preparing supply chains for a new retail landscape post COVID-19 The coronavirus has radically and abruptly changed the way we work and live our lives. How will this alter consumer behaviour and attitudes? And what will this mean for retail and the supply chains that support it?



There will still be consumers, retailers and supply chains after coronavirus (AC). But that is not to say that it will be ‘business as usual’, and indeed there are many who would say that could be a good thing – a chance to reset, and correct some of the less attractive features of the recent, globalised, high consumption retail economy. Those hopes may not be fulfilled, but nonetheless much will have changed, in global and national economies, and in the desires and behaviours of individual consumers. While the directions of change are open for speculation, change itself

is certain, and retailers need to look beyond the current hiatus to consider how their supply chains can achieve the necessary resilience, flexibility and agility to deliver on consumer needs in the brave new world that emerges. We may not have a crystal ball, but there are some trends and features that are near certainties. Interestingly, many of these are not solely the result of the current crisis – in many cases they are amplifications and accelerations of trends that were already on the horizon.

Finding the new normal As physics students know, ‘perturb’ any system and it will at first oscillate wildly, even chaotically. Over time the oscillations will decay towards a steady state, which may not be the same as the original state. It may take months, even years, for the shape of the new retail economy to become clear, and firms that reap early profits from an initial return to ‘normality’ may not necessarily be best positioned for success in the longer term. They will discover that true resilience isn’t about bouncing

back to business as before; it is about bouncing forward to grasp new opportunities in new conditions. Governments have of necessity taken control, and to some extent ownership, of large parts of their economies – they may prove reluctant to loosen their grasp. The liberal laissez faire free market philosophy may to some extent be replaced by state support for domestic manufacture in key sectors; the reintroduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, and domestic preference in public procurement. For retailers


there may be new market distortions: for example, effective subsidy for physical High Streets, and new pressures and burdens on online retail, creating disincentives towards adopting new technologies, techniques and business models. On the other hand, government may learn some useful things: for example, the current loosening of Competition law to allow food retailers to share physical assets, workforces and demand data may suggest that there are ways of encouraging supply chain collaboration that are economically beneficial, serve the Green agenda,


and do not constitute a conspiracy to disadvantage the consumer. A further macro-economic uncertainty post-crisis is the effect on international transport. It is conceivable, for example, that travel and tourism may remain at depressed levels for an extended period. This could seriously limit the availability of premium ‘belly freight’ air transport, reducing the attractiveness of longdistance supply chains. Meanwhile, until the new world economy settles down, exchange rates and commodity prices could be volatile, creating extra challenges for sourcing policies.

Tax or spend? Governments will look to revitalise the economy by boosting retail demand. However, that is not straightforward. Vastly increased state borrowings will have to be financed through increased taxation and consumer booms tend to be inflationary. On the other hand, we may find that consumer demand remains depressed. A typical and often long-lived response to a crisis of the current nature is for consumers to become much more cautious in their expenditure. Demand may be suppressed by changing consumer attitudes to ‘buying stuff’, which were already evident and are discussed below. An unknown, but potentially large, number of consumers may be at least temporarily unemployed, with little

disposable income. It may be that many of the ‘just about managing’ will have to make significant reductions in expenditure: they may have spent months on just 80% of basic pay, and have lost opportunities for overtime, or subsidiary incomes in the gig economy. Another, though doubtless smaller group will have retained their full-time income and, having been denied opportunities to spend, may come out of the crisis relatively cash-rich. The availability of consumer credit AC is another unknown; the government could choose to push credit towards industry rather than consumers. It may well be that if the government is seen to have failed workers in the ‘gig’ economy – which includes many casual and part time workers in retail supply chains, from fruit pickers to warehouse staff and delivery drivers – new regulations may be introduced that will impact on retailers’ costs and flexibility. All these factors, individually and in combination, are likely to fluctuate in a fairly random fashion for quite a while before settling down to a new normal.

Conscious consumers Above are some of the macroeconomic factors that could challenge retailers. But retail is, of course, the expression of a myriad of individual consumer decisions. What we were noticing, even before the current

emergency, was the development of a set of behaviours, concerns and wants that have been characterised as ‘the conscious consumer’. We expect these trends not only to continue, but also to be amplified by the crisis, as individual consumers are forced to reconsider their values. Importantly these concerns do not seem to be the reserve of the cashrich, the middle classes or the young, they represent genuine movements across most or all demographics. Consumers’ experiences in the current crisis, and the conclusions they draw, may reinforce these behavioural shifts. These trends will affect what people buy, where their purchases come from, the quantities they buy, and how they shop. Retail supply and fulfilment operations will have to adapt to meet these new consumer requirements. And while some of the issues may seem a little ‘niche’, it is worth bearing in mind that retailing works on margins – quite small percentage changes in a market can have major implications for viability. Online, after all, only accounts for around a fifth of retail trade – yet companies and whole sectors have been challenged, even broken, by much smaller moves to online. The list of issues, beyond price, quality and availability that are increasingly influencing consumer choices is long and familiar, such

“How has coronavirus altered consumer behaviour and attitudes, and what will this mean for the retail and supply chains that support it?”



as: climate change (particularly with regards the carbon impact of transport), plastic packaging waste and pollution. Consumers are also paying more attention to ethical concerns like modern slavery, human rights abuses and animal welfare. In all these instances, the conscious consumer will expect the retailer to be open, honest and knowledgeable – to accept ownership of and responsibility for the entire supply chain. The growing power of social media to come down hard on perceived lapses should not be underestimated. Nor of course should the possibility of using social media to reinforce positive messages about responsible supply chains. The demand for information is part of a wider trend that expects retailing to be a service, not just a transaction, which suggests opportunities for physical retailers. A website can readily carry a far more detailed tech spec, but it may take a real live shop assistant to explain which aspects of it actually matter.

Another trend, much talked about but which may be made a reality by the current crisis, is a reaction against buying ‘disposable’ fashion and other items intended for a short or even single-use life. Although this is partly bound in with environmental, resource, and social concerns, there are also demographic factors: the decline in home ownership, and rise in singleton households – the divorced, the elderly – are not just impacting the market for white and brown goods and home furnishings, but are making the ownership of large amounts of ‘stuff’ generally less attractive. Retail may become less ‘fashion-driven’, with implications for sourcing, ordering, stockholding and merchandising strategies. Allied with this, we may see demand grow for goods to be repairable rather than replaceable. There may also be developments in the leasing or rental of consumer durables, as an alternative to outright purchase. If they come to pass, these developments could radically alter the


role of retailing in some sectors, and the shape and function of their supply and fulfilment chains. It may be that, for such retailers, the competitive edge, from a logistics point of view, will be found not so much in the initial fulfilment of a consumer purchase, but in the reverse leg of the supply chain – the ability to pull back not just returns, as at present, but leased/ rented goods, used goods in part exchange, and so on, and to refurbish, repurpose, resell or recycle as appropriate.

Changing the retail experience Finally, there is the question of how and where consumers will do their shopping. As noted, online already accounts for 21% of retail spend. In current conditions, many consumers will be using online for the first time and many more will have come to depend on online ordering and home delivery for most or all of their purchases. Provided experiences are generally positive, and the fulfilment network settles into an efficient and reliable state, many of these


consumers may change their mode of shopping permanently. Visits to physical shops are strictly curtailed in the current crisis, and consumers are urged to minimise their grocery shopping trips. That will tend to boost the ‘big weekly shop’ model, which until the crisis was tending to decline in favour of a more ‘little and often’ and convenience store-based approach. Which effect will prevail AC is unknown. It may be, that the crisis promotes a resurgence of the ‘corner shop’. An interesting finding in current consumer research is a desire for retail and shopping to be in some sense ‘community building’ – which may mean local service, local employment, local sourcing, use of local contractors and so on. It’s easy to see how this may stand in stark contrast to the present high food-mile model. It may be that as High Streets pivot towards a more leisure-based economy, the remaining town centre retailers look to vary their hours, perhaps towards a Continental model of not opening until late morning but remaining open into the mid-evening. If retailers and towns wish to promote this model, local rules on parking, deliveries and the like may have to be reconsidered. Technology is not just facilitating online shopping, but also homeworking. If, for many companies and workers, that is successful it may become a permanent feature, with possibly profound effects on where, when and how people shop. Homeworkers can be much more


flexible over online delivery slots. On the other hand, homeworkers might find popping to the local shops an attractive way of taking a screen break and dividing up the working day. This may mean fewer workers shopping or browsing in town centre shops in their lunch breaks, putting further pressure on traditional High Street retail.

be agile planning and prioritisation, balancing cost and risk – particularly as we enter an uncertain period where many businesses will be purely focused on short-term recovery and survival. Importantly, not everything comes with a big price tag, but creative thinking, fleetness of foot and, to some degree, a leap of faith, will be required.

Flexible, agile, responsive Supply Chains

So, what should companies and supply chains be thinking about?

Clearly, the future shape of retail is uncertain – perhaps the only certainty is that change is inevitable. The retailers that survive and prosper will be those with supply, fulfilment and return networks that are flexible, agile and responsive – capable of adapting quickly to changing consumer lifestyles, thinking and demands. But critically, those highly responsive supply chains must be created with the sustainability of the business, and its future profitability, firmly in mind.

Firstly, online. Businesses that have been forced into taking their first online steps, and those that have seen online sales as a marginal ‘nice to have’ need to start taking ecommerce seriously. This doesn’t just mean making the website fit for purpose. It means ramping up the capability to take and to fulfil orders. It means creating the ability to differentiate customer propositions, while offering an omni-channel experience that is consistent right across the brand. And for those seasoned multi-channel retailers and grocers that are seeing higher volumes, and therefore require reactionary capacity increases – the challenge will be in estimating the level of online demand going forward and ensuring that any service expansion is profitable and sustainable.

In order to embrace the change, retail supply chains will need to adapt and move forward into the new norm. But what has this situation taught us about our supply chains? The topics on the agenda will be many and varied. Some will be direct reactions to how the current supply chain has been impacted. Some changes may already be part of a company’s strategic thinking or were planned in, but the current situation may have amplified the need for change, accelerated the timing or re-defined its scope. The key will

Firms also need to rethink their physical estate. Certainly in terms of type and location – High Street, convenience store, retail park – but more fundamentally, how the estate



is used. This is not a new question; the debate over the future of the high street and shops has been rolling for a while. The current situation is merely forcing retailers to accelerate their deliberations and make some changes. This is not to suggest there should be no stores at all, but rather how does the physical retail world meet the digital, how do the advantages of a customer’s physical experience in touching a product and receiving advice from a sales assistant measure up to the convenience of online delivery? For example, should all or perhaps just parts of oversized or redundant stores be repurposed as dark stores for online fulfilment, or as city centre hubs for consolidating


deliveries within low-emission zones? How do stores fit into strategies for local delivery, click and collect and returns? Should town centre stores be pure showrooms and sales/advice centres, with fulfilment from elsewhere? How do stores play a role in the new ‘community’ movement? And ‘pure’ online players may consider, as some already are, whether business would benefit from a physical showroom presence, whether their own or through partnerships. Online or physical retail businesses need to give serious consideration to the returns loop. This is not just about the efficient passage of customer

returns back in to saleable stock, but potentially it could be about the recovery, reprocessing, recycling of used and end-of-life goods and of packaging materials. Alongside the recovery mode of dealing with huge swathes of unsold or unseasonal stock, piled high during the lockdown period, retailers will need to review their sourcing, stocking and inventory policies. How commercially viable is near-sourcing, multiple suppliers, just in time manufacturing and pull ordering? Many ‘fast fashion’ retailers already operate these more agile, short lead time, responsive supply chain models – how can mainstream retailers implement similar principles, and do so profitably? Collaboration and visibility are likely to be key components. All the points made so far have implications for the size, type and location of warehousing and distribution centres, and also for the sorts of relationships retailers will need to have with their competitors, suppliers, and logistics partners. All this of course has to be done while maintaining or improving efficiency and service levels, and maintaining an iron control over costs. This is particularly true online. As many firms are currently discovering, an online offer can be expensive to deliver, particularly when speed is prioritised. The key to sustainability will be balancing customer proposition and cost, and creating efficiency at scale. To achieve this retailers need to look inwards to understand their own processes and costs, and outwards to what their customers really want. Those that succeed in the ‘new normal’ will have invested, not necessarily massively, but wisely, in a number of areas. Automation gives opportunities to improve labour resilience, to grow more cost effectively, and to be able to react faster and more robustly to fluctuations, whether those be spikes

in demand or labour shortages. Importantly, automation is not just needed in the warehouse – much sourcing, procurement, supplier relations, transport and warehouse management, and the links between them, are ripe for automation. Welldeployed technology would free people to focus on the real valueadding decisions. Digitisation at some level will be essential to create transparency and visibility, giving retailers more control and a faster flow of decisions and processes. The result will be a higher level of efficiency and service. This will not just be end-to-end through the supply chain, but also across the retail offer, giving an integrated and detailed view of stock, sales, orders, deliveries, and forecasts over all channels – enabling goods, people and management resource to be reallocated quickly to where they are most needed. It should go without saying that the key to success in all of this is continued investment in people, at all levels. A supply chain is far more than its stock, warehouses, systems and vehicles.

In this together, forever? On their own, retailers may struggle to adapt their supply chains and distribution networks. It is important therefore that some of the positive lessons from the crisis are not forgotten – in particular, the benefits of collaboration. There are many parts of the supply chain that do not really form the basis for competition between brands. As far as Competition Laws allow, collaboration, through for example the shared use of vehicles, warehousing and other assets should be continued and refined. It may turn out that in some areas, such as urban ‘last mile’ delivery, collaboration may even become a necessity.

some of the ‘quick fix’ and ‘Heath Robinson’ solutions that the crisis has stimulated. Some improbable business models have emerged and, while many of these are likely to be unsustainable or unprofitable in normal times, some may have real merit, and with creativity these could be developed to real advantage. Certainly, retail needs to continue actively seeking out innovative ideas for a new normal that will certainly be dynamic, unpredictable, and full of opportunities.

In conclusion In this time of crisis, despite the huge challenges that retailers face, there are likely to be many silver linings that can be turned into opportunities. It will be those enlightened leadership teams that use this time to plan, model and implement new approaches to their supply chain that will create and maintain healthy businesses fit for a post coronavirus future. If some of these topics have resonated with you – whether it’s short term efficiency, translating new customer demands into reality, profitability analysis, space or transport or fulfilment solutions – our team of supply chain experts can help you to talk through in the context of your own business challenges and together understand how best to support your future success.

Finally, adversity brings new opportunities. Retailers and their partners must learn to capitalise on

Contributor: Louisa Hosegood, Bis Henderson Consulting



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