CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
July 23, 2019
Forward Thinking

Survey: retailers lose more revenue from inaccurate inventory than theft

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Retail robot vendor Bossa Nova says automation and robotics are better solution than employee cycle counts.

Retailers have an inventory headache and it's not from shoplifting. Inaccurate inventories are to blame for more lost revenue than theft, according to the results of a recent survey from supply chain data service provider Bossa Nova Robotics.

Nearly all the survey respondents (99 percent) said they have some kind of constant inventory problem, with 87 percent pegging it as a top source of lost revenue; far more than the 13 percent who fingered theft as the top revenue source, San Francisco-based Bossa Nova said.

The email survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 100 corporate retail professionals with a title of director or greater, at companies with $500 million or more in annual revenue (excluding clothing and department stores) during December 2018.

One cause of the problem is inaccurate inventory forecasting, reported by 73 percent of the corporate retail professionals surveyed as being a constant issue that forces retailers to end up with too much or too little supply to meet demand. Another trigger is retailers' inability to track inventory through the supply chain, resulting in lost potential sales, 65 percent said.

Even though they face this specific challenge, retailers agree that throwing labor at the problem is not the best solution. Two-thirds of retailers (67 percent) feel that analyzing inventory on store shelves is not an effective use of employees' time, while more than half (55 percent) said their workers spent their time on basic chores like filling out-of-stock holes on shelves and pulling items forward on shelves.

However, the survey did reveal that automation may be part of the possible cure, according to Bossa Nova, which is a vendor of shop-floor robots used for data capture in the retail and omnichannel shopping spheres.Introducing robots to stores would improve employee productivity, according to 76 percent of retailers, while improving inventory accuracy, 74 percent said.

"Inventory accuracy is a never-ending challenge for retailers," Martin Hitch, Bossa Nova co-founder and chief business officer, said in a release. "Our data is ground truth for the store and enables retailers to transform store operations, influencing everything from the flow of goods, to the product replenishment process and ultimately, to the customer shopping experience."

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