If you are a supply chain wonk (and if you're reading this, you either are or you have some very odd pleasure-reading habits), you didn't have to go to this year's National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual "Big Show" in New York to know that retail logistics is absolutely white-hot right now.
Similarly, you didn't have to travel to the 2019 Retail Industry Leaders Association's (RILA) annual Retail Supply Chain Conference in Orlando, Florida, to know that some of the most amazing advances in logistics are coming from retailers that are scrambling to remain relevant (and, oh yeah, profitable) in a rapidly changing marketplace.
No, you didn't have to attend either event, but both events confirmed conclusively what we already knew: The buzz today is all about the retail supply chain.
At NRF's Big Show, logistics and supply chain solutions took the spotlight in what is, after all, not a logistics-specific show. Retailers today realize that without the help of enabling supply chain and logistics tools and technology, the game is lost. Exhibits featuring technology-driven supply chain and logistics solutions were what the NRF show attendees wanted to see. Or perhaps we should say, needed to see.
They needed to see them because many retailers have far more questions than answers. Perhaps not surprisingly given the economic climate, a lot of those questions center on how they can get the most bang for their technology buck.
NRF Big Show speaker Ara Gopal, senior director of consumer products and retail at connected business platform provider Anaplan, argued that when retailers invest in digital upgrades, they tend to focus on areas like customer engagement and marketing. But they might benefit from taking a broader view, he said. "Technology can have a powerful impact on improving the accuracy of forecasts and enabling integrated business planning across all lines of a retailer's business," he noted.
The challenge for retailers in 2019, then, won't be deciding whether or not to digitize their operations. That question is already settled. The challenge will be deciding where and in what to invest.
To help readers navigate these challenges, CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly and our sister publication DC Velocity will be expanding our coverage of the retail supply chain in the next six months. In June, we'll be publishing our State of Retail Supply Chain 2019 special, all-digital edition featuring our coverage of the latest developments, innovations, and breakthroughs that have impacted the global retail supply chain.
We will also be teaming up with researchers from Auburn University on four online articles addressing key issues facing the retail supply chain: labor availability, disruptive technology, supply chain digitization, and developing future leaders. These articles will form the basis of a series of e-newsletters, so be sure to check your inbox!