For far too long in retail, the backroom has been viewed merely as a storage closet for the store floor. But with the rise of omnichannel retailing and the increasing pressure to shorten shipping times, retailers can no longer ignore that area, according to "Retail Backrooms: A Revolution in Roles and Business Value," a recent report by the consulting firm Tompkins Inc.
Retailers are coming to recognize that they can take advantage of their brick-and-mortar stores to fulfill the promise of same-day or next-day shipping (or pickup) for online orders. As a result, the backroom needs to transform into a "mini distribution center," where orders can be picked, packed, and shipped. In some cases, according to the Tompkins paper, retailers are even using the backrooms of their "superstores" to serve as a cross-docking point: Large deliveries are made to the back of a superstore and then are broken down and shipped out to smaller retail stores.
Such a change will require companies to think about their backrooms and store operations in completely different ways. Here are just a few of the Tompkins paper's suggestions for incorporating the backroom into an omnichannel strategy: